Tuesday 27 September 2016

The Astra is driving the spearhead of Opel's onslaught of new models

The Astra may be one of 29 new models from Opel but it's their most important, writes Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert&

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

Compact: The new Opel Astra is almost five centimetres shorter than its predecessor yet bigger on the inside
Compact: The new Opel Astra is almost five centimetres shorter than its predecessor yet bigger on the inside

North east of Bratislava near the Slovakian border with Austria is the Little Carpathians mountain range which served as the dramatic backdrop for our test drive of the all new Opel Astra.

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The fifth generation Astra is a key model for Opel and one of a promised 29 new models to launch in the next five years.

From the outside the Astra looks far more aggressive with beautifully sculptured lines. It is also lighter and smaller than its predecessor, yet inside it's cabin is actually bigger. The new car is 49mm shorter and 26mm lower, and up to 200kg lighter.

The keyword for this new Astra range may be economy, but there is nothing sparse about the interior and the improvements are instantly noticeable.

The sophisticated layout is much less cluttered than before thanks in part to a large touch screen that controls a host of key functions.

It is also crammed with new technology, including Opel's OnStar road assistance connectivity - a subscription service which provides a range of real-time services such as emergency response and road-side assistance.

A linked Smart phone app also allows owners to remotely lock or unlock the car, locate it in a car park or call up vehicle data such as tyre pressure.

Space is good throughout, with decent head and legroom - rear passengers get 35mm more space to stretch in than before.

The boot at 370 litres almost matches the 380 litres you'll find in Volkswagen's Golf and far exceeds the 316 offered in the Ford Focus, but it falls short of Peugeot's 308 with 470 litres.

On the road it is a far sharper drive. The all-new platform is a lot stiffer than before and the light weight gives the hatchback a better ride that is markedly smoother and controlled.

A good choice of petrol and diesel engines is available, including Opel's excellent 1.0- litre three-cylinder currently available in both the Corsa and Adam.

At the launch we had an opportunity to drive the 1.4 petrol and the 1.6 diesel and both are impressive in terms of performance and economy.

Due here in October the Astra will be available in S, SC SRi and Elite specifications. The entry-level trim includes Bluetooth, audio streaming, Aux-in and USB ports, air con, Hill Start Assist, and LED daytime running lights. Trade up to SC (€21,495) to add IntelliLink with 7-inch colour touch screen, steering-wheel mounted controls, and 16-inch alloys. The SRi (€24,495) adds the OnStar system, automatic lights/wipers, sports front seats, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, front fogs and 17-inch alloys.

The range-topping Elite (€25,995) adds dual zone climate control, leather heated front and rear seats, six premium speakers, front fogs and 17-inch multi-spoke alloys.

A Sports Tourer estate will join the range in March and there will be a three-door coupe, but there is no confirmation yet on when a replacement to the current saloon or GTC is likely.

Safety features include the new intelligent IntelliLux LED matrix lights which enable driving with glare-free high beams outside urban areas.

There is also a host of driver assistance and comfort systems available in this segment for the first time including the Opel Eye front camera.

Facing strong competition from the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Peugeot 308 as well as a host of others, first impressions suggest that the Astra's stylish good looks and cutting-edge technology will certainly make it stand out from the crowd.

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