HATCH PACK

The As­tra is a po­tent ri­val for the Golf

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - PETER BARN­WELL peter.barn­well@cars­guide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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

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