General Motors SA has introduced styling and specification changes across the Opel Astra Hatch range.They affect exterior styling, interior trim and technical specifications in line with local preferences. Along with these changes comes "an aggressive new pricing structure that builds on an already excellent value proposition".Malcolm Gauld, GM SA's vice-president for vehicle sales and service, saaid: "With the introduction of the Opel Astra for the 2013 model year we have adopted a number of external and internal styling changes that refresh the inherent continental styling appeal of the Astra"Customer expectations are a dynamic area of the market that we monitor to ensure that we are always able to offer an excellent value proposition. The changes to the Astra line-up reflect changing customer preferences.”'MARKET REQUIREMENT'In the current economic climate, Opel says, there's been a shift away from “nice-to-have but seldom used" in favour of "cost saving without sacrificing functionality or comfort"."To satisfy this market requirement," Gould added, "we have reviewed the specification/pricing across the Astra Hatch range and. with Opel Germany, arrived at a formula that enables us to reduce the cost of the Astra and increase its competitiveness in the popular 'C’ segment."This is on top of the fact that we did not apply any price increase to the Astra during 2012 when most of its competitors saw price increases of one percent and more."External styling changes include a revised grille with the Opel insignia now centred, top to bottom, in a wing-shaped chrome embellishment together with a re-designed front bumper with a more pronounced lower grille. The new frontal styling is completed with an update for the fog lights and turn indicators.At the rear the new car is defined by chromed detailing, a revised bumper and new licence-plate holder. The exterior styling package is completed with revised styling for the alloy wheel rims across the range.Interior styling changes include contemporary trim materials and mouldings.The Astra 1.6 Essentia retains its specification in keeping with competitive offerings in its price range but without cruise control, rear power windows or curtain airbags. The revised price of this model has reduced from R235 200 to R231 000, or 1.8%.AUTO WIPERS, LIGHTSNew in the line-up is the Astra 1.4T Essentia Plus with essentially the same specification as the Essentia but with rear power windows, cruise control and curtain airbags. The 1.6 engine is replaced by a 1.4 turbo capable of 103kW/200Nm, the latter from 1850-4900rpm, and good for 202km/h and 0-100 in 9.8sec with its six-speed mAll this, Opel claims, on 5.9 litres/100km and 138g/km. Price: R248 000 (and replaces the Astra 1.4T Enjoy Plus).The Astra 1.4T Enjoy specification now includes auto wipers, anti-dazzle rear-view mirror and auto headlights. Price: R257 000.The Astra 1.6T Sport continues in the range with no specification changes but with a price reduction from R301 900 to R298 500, or 1.1%. At 132kW, it has one of the most powerful production engines in its capacity class, with a top speed of 221km/h and 0-100 in 8.5sec throufh a six-speed manual transmission.Combined cycle fuel economy is claimed as 6.8 litres/100km and CO2 emissions as 159g/km.Major specification items:Astra 1.6 Essentia• Power mirrors, heated and in body colour• Daytime running lamps• Power front windows• Remote power door locks• Anti-lock braking system (ABS) with EBD• ESP Plus (Electronic Stability Programme)• Centre console with 2 cup holders and open storage space• Front and side airbags for driver and front passenger• Pedal release system• 17 inch alloy wheelsAstra 1.4T Essentia PlusSpecifications as per 1.6 Essentia but with following added:• 1.4 turbo engine• Electric windows at the rear• Cruise control• Curtain side airbagsAstra 1.4T EnjoyItems added at this level include:• Front fog lamps• Radio CD with graphic info display• USB port and Bluetooth connectivity for radio/CD• Leather covered steering wheel• Rain sensing windscreen wipers• Anti-dazzle rear-view mirror• Auto headlight control• Seat pockets on back of front seatsAstra 1.6T SportItems at this level include:• 1.6 turbo engine• Sports chassis• Premium grade leather trim• Translucent instrument accent lighting• Dual-zone electronic climate control• Centre console with 2 cup holders and covered storage• Adjustable armrest (front)• Electronic parking brake• Hill Start Assist• Rear Park Assist• On-board computer• 12 volt power outlet in rear of centre console• 18" alloy rims The Opel Astra is covered by a five-year or 120 000km warranty with roadside assistance for the warranty period. It is also covered by a five-year or 90 000km service plan.