New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Opel's new Astra arrives

2010-09-30 10:09

Sergio Davids

LATEST ASTRA: Timid styling matched with a superb driving experience.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer OPEL
Model ASTRA 1.6l T Sport
Engine 1.6l turbocharged petrol
Power 132 kW @ 5500 rpm
Torque 230 Nm @ 2 200 - 5 400 rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual
Fuel Tank 56l
Fuel Consumption 6.8l combined cycle (claimed)
Steering Power steering
Airbags Dual front and side
Tyres 18" five-spoke alloy wheels
Front Suspension MacPherson strut
Rear Suspension Watt’s Link
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan Five year/90 000km
Warranty Five year/120 000km
Price R280 300

Opel has enjoyed a strong following in South Africa over a few decades. Most motorists will probably be able to tell you a tale or two recalling fond memories driving around in a Superboss. I remember fun family trips in my dad’s old Kadett, packed to the rafters with luggage.

In recent years, though, Opel has had to help out beleaguered GMSA and this meant giving up its volume-selling Opel Corsa Utility to be rebadged as the Chevrolet Utility. It seemed the only remnant of the Opel badge remained in the Corsa hatchback.

Now that GM seems to be financially revitalised Opel can focus on boosting the brand with the all-important new Astra. It's an important model for the German brand that's been evolving since the 1936 Kadett.

The latest Astra raises the bar (if only slightly) in the highly competitive compact hatchback market and has reached SA earlier than the projected release date of 2011. The new Opel Astra enters the SA market with four models featuring two petrol engine derivatives – 1.4 T Enjoy, 1.4 T Enjoy Plus, 1.6 ssentia and the 1.6 T Sport.

Pricing for the hatchback starts at R218 900 for the 1.4 and R280 300 for the range-topping 1.6 Sport Turbo.

The new Astra isn’t styled as as assertively as its forebears; in fact its design is rather tame. Closer inspection, though, clearly shows the design changes while overall styling remains distinctly Astra.

Apart from the wraparound headlights, the front of the car is rather aveage, though the rear and profile give quite a sporty look.

TAME DESIGN: The styling may be timid but the Astra comes across very sporty in red.

Overall, it comes across rather sporty in red but pedestrian in rental-car white or silver. Shame, because its looks don’t do anything for the ride... and that’s where the Astra truly shines.

New engine

Opel has replaced the previous 1.8 engine with a 1.4 turbo that delivers 200Nm of torque at 4900rpm. Compared to the power delivery of the previous 1.8l engine (103kW) the new engine delivers 14% more torque with a claimed  fuel consumption of 5.9 litres/100km. The new 1.4l turbo launches from 0 -100km/h in 9.7sec.

The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission in the 1.4T Enjoy and 1.4T Enjoy Plus models.

Driving it is really fun as you soon find out that not only can it deliver a drive full of character but the amazing levels of grip will see you flying around corners without fear. It’s deceivingly quick and, with smooth gear changes and road- hugging handling, the 1.4l turbo is a very attractive package.

The 1.6l naturally asspirated engine proudces 85kW at 6000 rpm and has a maximum torque figure of 155Nm at 4000 rpm. The engine is mated to a five speed manual transmission.

Topping the range is the grin-inducing 1.6l turbo in the Astra 1.6T Sport. This engine delivers 132kW at 5500rpm and maximum torque of 230Nm from 2200-5400rpm. The 1.6l is mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The 1.6T Sport combines all the characteristics of the base 1.4 then ups the ante with greater power and even better handling.

Activating the sport mode stiffens the suspension and alters driving dynamics to give a great driving experience.

The new Astra's wheelbase is 71mm longer than that of its predecessor; it's also wider to accommodate a front track that has grown by 56mm. The rear is 70mm wider.

Any Opel fan will be well pleased with the new Astra, tossing it through bends and cruising comfortably at high speed. It has that instant lovable quality that made previous generations such a hit.

TURBO MODELS: Models are differianted by silver or black highlights

Minimising fender benders

Opel engineers have come up with an effective, though simple, bumper design to minimise damage from low-speed collisions.

In a typical fender-bender the front bumper of a car slides under rather than hits the rear bumper of the car it collides with.

To prevent this the Astra’s bumper beams have been raised and the rear bumpers lowered.

It makes sense; when a car stops suddenly its nose drops and its rear rises.

Along with adding shock-absorbing materials made of relatively inexpensive aluminium this could save you some costly repairs.


Despite my earlier reservations about the exterior styling I was quite impressed by the interior.

Soft leather, back-lit controls and a plethora of stowage spaces combine to convey a sense of great style with practicality in mind.

In the top of the range 1.6T Sport the two-tone trim combinations are a great addition - as is the sportier steering wheel.

GREAT INTERIOR: Controls are intuitively placed and the interior has a quality feel


The Astra has enjoyed a strong following in Europe but still faces stiff competition from the likes of Volkswagen's Golf 6, Toyota's Auris X and Honda’s Civic hatchback.

If you're not bothered by its timid styling, the Astra is a great package and a fun, practical hatchback.

The new Opel Astra is covered by a five-year or 120 000km warranty with roadside assistance and a five-year or 90 000km service plan. Service intervals are 15 000km.

For more information, visit the Opel Astra model website.


1.6 Essentia R218 000
1.4T Enjoy R236 900
1.4T Enjoy Plus R263 400
1.6T Sport R280 300


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