The Astra is a potent rival for the Golf
Opel pits the Astra against Asian and European rivals — the turbo diesel with leather trim is in with a good chance
OPEL, the German arm of General Motors that once made the Astra for Holden, opened its doors on September 1 and has not to date greatly troubled the scorer.
The story is a bit like Audi’s early life in Australia, in fact, but look at Audi now.
If the economy stays warm and buyer confidence buoyant, Opel has a chance.
If its products reflect German quality and offer value above a voracious pack of Japanese and Korean rivals, it will do well. Judging by the Astra, success is certainly possible.
The Astra Select CDTi is the mid-level turbo diesel hatch that costs $33,990 with automatic transmission and adds $2500 for what are possibly the car industry’s most comfortable leather-trimmed, heated seats.
The seat option is very expensive, especially considering all the work has gone into moulding the front two— the rear seat merely feels like a reskin.
Standard on the Select are 17-inch alloy wheels, satnav, electric park brake, dual-zone climatic aircon, front and rear park sensors, seven-speaker audio with iPod/USB connectivity and Bluetooth with voice control. Good news for doubters is the $299 once-a-year capped price service for the three-year warranty period.
Externally, the Astra mirrors German functionality and efficient styling. It’s more rounded in its shape than the rival Golf but that at least gives Astra its identity.
The Australian Astra is the latest from the factory, introduced in Europe as a facelift in June. Aggressively slanted headlights look distinctive from the front but its best aspect is the boat-tail rear with its bowed window. There’s room for four adults inside but rear legroom is a bit short. Boot space is class average, slightly more than Mazda3.
Cabin design is attractive, well finished with soft-feel plastics and tight panel gaps, and simple to navigate. Even the myriad centre-console switches are logically arranged and sized to fit human fingers.
The turbo diesel is relatively new to Astra. Based on a 2009-launched engine, it has power upgrades (now 121kW/ 350Nm) and stop-start fuelsaving for a claimed 5.9L/100km. On my primary suburban test it achieved 7.2L.
There’s not a lot of skimping with chassis gear. The Astra has a six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode, electric steering and an additional Watts link in the rear suspension to maintain ride comfort and enhance handling. The ergonomic seats, expense notwithstanding, are superb.
Astra is a five-star crash-rated car with six airbags, electronic stability and traction control, active head restraints, pedal release system in the event of a collision, heated side mirrors, auto headlights and wipers, and front and rear parking sensors. The spare is a space-saver.
There’s no masking the fact this is a diesel. The engine makes itself known at idle and audibly grumbles when pushed at low revs. But it’s near silent
at mid-range speeds when cruising or coasting and it can be a fun engine— it has a delightful surge of torque when called on in the vicinity of 2500rpm.
The 1.6-litre turbo petrol is a better and $3000 cheaper alternative. The auto suits it
Skin in the game: The Astra is taking on established rivals but the leather trim is a stand-out