We ‘im­press the lux­ury class’ in all the As­tras.

ALWYN VILJOEN likes see­ing all the traf­fic signs in the new Opell As­tra

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

WHEN Opel’s en­gi­neers started work on the eleventh gen­er­a­tion As­tra, their brief was to make the new As­tra among the most ef­fi­cient, light­est, best con­nected, with ad­vanced safety as well as top driver as­sis­tance tech­nolo­gies. That the As­tra they built went on to be­come this year’s car of Europe proves the en­gi­neers got it right.

Com­pet­ing in this price

Af­ter driv­ing all three en­gines, from the punchy 1-litre En­joy to the 1,6 Turbo, I can only lament that the Euro and our im­port taxes make this fully-im­ported hatch rel­a­tively ex­pen­sive.

But com­pare what even the en­try-level As­tra of­fers for R254 000 against a Polo 1-litre TSI BlueMo­tion or 1,4 TDi Trend­line; a Toy­ota Corolla 1,3 Es­teem or a Ford Fi­esta 1-litre and the value of­fer be­comes clear.

And while these R254k com­peti­tors are all ex­cel­lent cars with their own mer­its, the As­tra adds an extra lure for those whose com­pany al­lowance cov­ers a new car pay­ment — ex­clu­siv­ity.

Those who are will­ing to do the un­usual and in­vest in the As­tra will, as the ad­vert prom­ises, im­press the lux­ury class.

Driv­ing pre­ci­sion

Load­ing the 1,6 As­tra with five peo­ple and then tak­ing it up to Ix­opo showed the en­gine able to han­dle all the in­clines, but it is around the cor­ners that the sus­pen­sion comes into its own.

The usual strutts fea­ture up­front, but in­stead of just a tor­sion beam at the back, there is a Watts link­age, as is the case un­der the Ford Ever­est and Mus­tang.

A Watts link­age pro­vides the dy­namic ad­van­tages of an in­dee­qual pen­dent, multi-link lay­out with­out any of the tra­di­tional de­sign penal­ties: added mass, greater com­plex­ity and in­ef­fi­cient pack­ag­ing. Be­cause the Watts link coun­ters the side forces ex­erted against one wheel in a cor­ner with an equal force on the op­po­site wheel, there is none of the bouncy, wheel-cock­ing as­so­ci­ated with just a tor­sion bar.

Steer­ing

For pe­tite fe­male driv­ers, the steer­ing col­umn fea­tures a 30 mm reach and 25 mm rake ad­just­ment range that en­ables ev­ery driver to find the most com­fort­able steer­ing wheel po­si­tion.

The power steer­ing is elec­tric, not hy­draulic, which helps re­duce fuel con­sump­tion and en­able a few re­fine­ments like Smooth Road Shake (SRS) com­pen­sa­tion. This helps re­duce any steer­ing wheel vi­bra­tion which may be caused by a road wheel im­bal­ance.

A fea­ture I do not like in the As­tra is the Drift Pull Com­pen­sa­tion (DPC), which au­to­mat­i­cally cor­rects any pull or drift ten­dency to keep the ve­hi­cle steer­ing straight ahead. At speed, this sud­den pull in the wheel takes a lot of get­ting used to, as do all other forms of lane de­par­ture as­sist in other mod­els.

En­gines

Of the three turbo-charged en­gines to choose from, us coastal types need look no fur­ther than the all-alu­minium 1-litre turbo.

Driv­ers in the Highveld may be bet­ter served by the 1,4 turbo, while the 1,6 turbo Ecotec en­gine is al­most overkill.

The lit­tle one-litre has three cylin­ders that gen­er­ate 77 kW at 4 500 rpm and 170 Nm from 1 800 rpm. A five-speed man­ual gear­box re­quires a lot of gear changes up the passes, or just cruis­ing in sec­ond in the city.

Opel claims a fuel con­sump­tion of just 4,3 litres/100 km and a top speed of 200 km/h. Know­ing how the Depart­ment of Trans­port can pull up all the de­tails past and present of a car from the av­er­age speed cam­eras on the N3, I chose to try and match the con­sump­tion, rather than the speed, and man­aged to this claim of 23 km per litre of petrol. The new 1,4 litre is not as ef­fort­lessly ef­fi­cient when fit­ted to the au­to­matic gear­box, but it de­liv­ers 110 kW at 5 000 and 230 Nm from 2 000 to 4 000 rpm for the man­ual and 245 Nm in the au­to­matic, mak­ing for ef­fort­less city driv­ing.

Opel claims a zero to 100 km/h run in 8,5 sec­onds, and try­ing to get a run in un­der 10 sec­onds added to my poor con­sump­tion in the 1,4. For coun­try­wide cruis­ing, the 1,6 litre turbo’s 147 kW and 280 Nm with over-boost to 300 Nm will be hard to beat, but the power comes at the price of 6,1 litres per 100 km, when the more fru­gal one-litre goes up the same hills for less, and un­der the le­gal speeds in­di­cated by the lat­est gen­er­a­tion Opel Eye front cam­era.

The Opel Eye

The Opel Eye does not miss a speed sign and con­stantly dis­plays the cur­rent speed limit next to the speedome­ter.

Like lux­ury cars that cost R100 000 or more, the As­tras also come with Lane De­par­ture Warn­ing (LDW) with Lane Keep As­sist (LKA); Fol­low­ing Dis­tance In­di­ca­tion (FDI); For­ward Col­li­sion Alert (FCA) with Low Speed Col­li­sion Mit­i­ga­tion Brak­ing (LSCMB). The In­tel­liLux LED Ma­trix sys­tem is op­tional on the 1,6, and works like the lights on the Mercedes-Benz E-class where dif­fer­ent diodes are switched off for the time it takes a cy­clist or car to pass in or­der not to daz­zle other road users.

The As­tra also has For­ward Col­li­sion Alert that will warn if a ve­hi­cle di­rectly ahead is ap­proach­ing too quickly from speeds over 80 km/h. The sys­tem is an alert only and does not ap­ply brakes.

Af­ter the drive, ad­vanced park as­sist and a rear view cam­era makes park­ing a dod­dle and the new gen­er­a­tion Ad­vanced Park As­sist iden­ti­fies suit­able park­ing spa­ces and au­to­mat­i­cally parks the ve­hi­cle, with­out the driver touch­ing the wheel. The driver just con­trols ac­cel­er­a­tion, de­cel­er­a­tion and gear shift­ing.

Con­nect­ing phones

To con­nect, the new As­tra fea­tures phone pro­jec­tion tech­nol­ogy through Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto us­ing Opel’s nextgen­er­a­tion R4.0 In­tel­liLink in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, link­ing the touch screen in the cen­tre con­sole to your smart­phone.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

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