Cape Town - Opel’s new Astra, the first car developed on GM’s lightweight new D2XX platform, is being touted as a paradigm shift for the company.
The new Astra will be launched in South Africa later in April 2016. Wheels24 will attend the local launch of Opel's next-gen Astra, lookout for our driving impressions.
Ahead of the launch, the guys at TopCar tested the new 1.6T Sport, featured in the May 2016 issue.
Read the full article in the latest issue of Top Car, on sale now.
Specs: Opel Astra 1.6T Sport
Price: R387 000 (R20k extra for LED lighting)
Engine: 1598cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged,
Power: 147kW@5500rpm, 280Nm@1650-5000rpm.
Transmission: six-speed manual manual, front wheel drive
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam with Watts linkage rear
Performance: 7.8sec 0-100km/h, 245km/h top speed, 5.9 litres/100km, 139g/km
Here’s a brief preview from TopCar’s first drive of the flagship 1.6T Sport which you can read in the May 2016 issue, on shelves now:
Initial impressions are of a far more premium interior, not just visually appealing but a step up in terms of quality. Materials are better than the segment average though not quite up with the VW Golf yet. The ergonomics are decent too.
Opel’s stated aim of technology democratisation means a wealth of potentially confusing new tech is included, even in base model guise, but it is gratifyingly easy to access and use, thanks in most part to a simple touchscreen infotainment portal.
That goes for GM’s self-parking kit, spooky LED Matrix headlights with constant high beam that turn off individual sections of the 16-segment unit so’s not to blind oncoming traffic, and the (optional on Sport models) IntelliLink Navi 900 infotainment system itself (the lesser R 4.0 IntelliLink is standard).
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The latter syncs with a smartphone to access messaging, music and maps (Apple Carplay is up and running but there are issues with the Android Auto sync in South Africa). In all cases the ergonomics of use are logical; buttons and app icons are where they should be. Opel’s LED Matrix system is activated on the stalk by means of a small button and is initially a little unnerving to trust. But a few kilometres is all that’s needed to realise that oncoming traffic is not having a cadenza, even though you’re not lowering your beams. Leading drivers ahead are confused too – their view ahead is excellent, yet they’ve not been dazzled from behind. 18-way adjustable seats play their part in keeping things comfortable.
Absorption of road irregularities is first class, and the planted, lithe character of the chassis puts one in mind of the BMW 1 Series.
On the move, Opel’s lithe new Astra and is up for the challenge.
The power delivery from the 1.6-litre turbo is well thought out, coming on in a fluid push rather than a peaky spike, the wide torque band (1650-5000rpm) making gear change timing less crucial, and it’s entertaining as well as satisfying to change down long before a bend and slowly pile on the power, exiting in a wash of momentum, confident that there will be no turbo flat spot on entry, no breathlessness on exit.
The 1.6T Sport’s steering better weighted than any recent Opel. It’s heavy and very direct, with only small corrections necessary as speed mounts up and corner entries tighten.
The result is better lines through each new corner, greater confidence and a wider smile. There’s excellent in-gear acceleration; little point in changing down beyond 100km/h, even from sixth, the access to a shove of turbocharged grunt as simple as planting a foot. Hard on the brakes and they deliver, with good feel and bite, the significantly lightened chassis making life a lot easier. Down through the gearbox and another obvious improvement; cogs change with speed and precision, clutch and gate so much better than the previous generation. The throw could be shorter, but no matter, the action is entertaining and the ’box is hands down the most authoritative from GM in years, banishing previous limp efforts to the history books.
The Astra’s reconfigured MacPherson strut/torsion beam produces the goods. The Astra works hard – there is some scrabble and fight – but little to suggest a Cretaceous date with death in a valley far below.
The star of each manoeuvre is the steering, solid and confident in a way that even the previous OPC could not manage, especially under duress. There is a degree of roll, but then this Sport – the flagship model for the foreseeable future – treads a line between ultimate performance and everyday usability. Given that, it is a good setup, chassis and structural rigidity greatly improved with a degree of compliance dialed in care of the light, semi-independent suspension.
In the city the little 1.0T triple will be more sensible, and should, on paper at least, give the similar-engined Ford Focus a run for its money. The 1.4T Enjoy will likely be the volume seller, well-priced at around R330 000, with a competitive arsenal of standard kit to see off the likes of Volkswagen’s Golf and Ford’s Focus. But whatever model, the platform is sound, and the car is deserving of its current European Car of the Year title.
Indeed, Opel have succeeded in making an Astra that’s as entertaining as it is sensible, and as good to drive as it is practical.
1.0 T Essentia - R254 000
1.0 T Enjoy - R284 300
1.4T Enjoy - R328 000
1.4T Enjoy auto - R338 000
1.4T Sport- R354 000
1.4T Sport auto - R374 000
1.6T Sport - R387 000
1.6T Sport (LED lights) - R407 000