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Car reviews - Opel - Astra - range

Launch Story

Opel logo1 Aug 2012

By RON HAMMERTON

A FAMILIAR name has returned to the Australian motor market in the shape of the Astra small car, but this time wearing its true colours – an Opel badge.

Dropped from the Holden range in 2009 when the Australian manufacturer introduced the Chevrolet-based Cruze small car, the imported Astra – now in its sixth generation – makes a comeback as one of three Opel models to initiate proceedings Down Under for General Motors’ European marque.

This time, rather than being pitched as a mainstream small car, the Astra will adopt a slightly superior stance when it goes into showrooms in September, leaning on its European origins to challenge similarly sourced small cars such as the Volkswagen Golf, Peugeot 308, Citroen C4, Ford Focus and Renault Megane and Fluence.

It will launch here in September in three body styles – five-door hatchback, Sports Tourer wagon and GTC three-door sports hatch – with a choice of three four-cylinder turbocharged engines, in 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel guises.

All up, Astra will be offered in 17 variants initially.

The volume-selling five-door hatch will come in three equipment levels – Astra, Astra Select and Astra Sport – while the automatic-only Sports Tourer will debut in two, Astra and Astra Select.

The Astra GTC will come in standard and Sports variants (see separate story).

The Astra being relaunched here is one generation on from the last Holden car to bear that name, having been launched in Europe in late 2009 and now in the middle of its model cycle.

The Astra is related to the Holden Cruze, being built on the same GM small-car platform – but with a superior suspension package – and sharing its 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine that will provide the motivation for the entry Astra this time around.

The most affordable Astra – priced at $23,990 (plus on-road costs) – is $1050 cheaper than the most affordable 1.4-litre Cruze.

European rivals have cheaper models than the base Astra, including the VW Golf, which starts at $21,990 for the 1.2-litre 77TSI five-door hatch, and the Peugeot 308 1.4-litre five-door Access hatch at $22,990.

However, Opel says the performance and spec levels of its Astra models have been carefully designed to take the battle up to the entrenched players in the market at each price level.

The base Astra five-door and Sports Tourer variants are each offered with GM’s lightly tubocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that turns out 103kW and 200Nm of torque – around 13kW more than its most logical Golf competitor, the 90kW 90TSI Trendline hatch.

The Astra hatch is priced at $23,990 for the six-speed manual, while the Golf has a pricetag $1000 higher.

The Opel hatch stops the clocks on the 0-100km/h dash in 9.9 seconds, while the Golf is a smidgeon quicker, at 9.5 seconds.

However, the Opel has the advantage at the petrol pump, recording a combined fuel cycle result of 5.9 litres per 100km – half a litre better than the Golf.

The Opel hatch can be had with a six-speed automatic for a $2000 premium, at $25,990,

The 2.0-litre diesel option is a $4000 premium over the petrol, starting with the manual transmission five-door hatch at $27,990.

The diesel hatch is also available with a six-speed automatic alternative, at $29,990 – or as an Astra Sports Tourer diesel for $31,990.

The turbo-diesel engine produces 121kW of power and 350Nm of torque to push the manual-equipped Astra from zero to 100km/h in 9.0 seconds, while the automatic models do it in 9.2 seconds – the same time as VW’s $34,490 Golf 103TDI with its seven-speed auto.

While the diesel Astra manual – with idle-stop fuel-saving technology – can achieve a claimed 4.7L/100km combined fuel economy, the auto version (5.9L/100km) is less frugal than the auto-only Golf 103TDI by 0.3L/100km.

The Astra range steps up to Select, which gets the bigger petrol engine – the 132kW/230Nm 1.6-litre turbo-four – alongside the alternative 121kW/350Nm turbo-diesel, in five-door hatch and Sports Tourer body styles.

The 1.6-litre engine punches the Astra to 100km/h in 8.5 seconds with the hatch-only six-speed manual transmission, and 9.0 seconds in the auto-equipped hatch and Sports Tourer.

This is slower than the equivalent Golf 118TSI (8.0 seconds for the manual and 7.4 seconds for the auto), even though the Astra packs a bigger engine with more power.

The Golf’s fuel economy is better, too, with the Astra recording 7.0L/100km for the manual (Golf 6.5L/100km) and 7.3L/100km for the auto (Golf 6.2L/100km).

The range-topping Sport level is available only in the hatches – five-door and three-door GTC – and comes only with the 132kW 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine.

The five-door manual version is $33,490, with the automatic Sport topping the range at $35,490.

The standard Astra rides on Opel’s HyPerStrut front sports suspension and Watts-link rear suspension, and uses rack-mounted electric power assistance for the steering.

The base Astra gets 16-inch alloy wheels (with a space-saver spare), halogen auto headlights, front and rear foglamps, sports front seats with cloth trim, 60/40 split-fold rear seats, LED ambient lighting, manual air-conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, and seven-speaker audio with MP3, USB and iPod connectivity.

The Select range adds 17-inch alloys, sequential shift on the automatic, electric parking brake, hill-start assist, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, upgraded cloth/leatherette trim, upgraded console with dual cupholders and storage, and a few trim details such as a chrome insert in the exterior doorhandles.

The Sport level gains 18-inch alloy wheels, lowered sports suspension – which can be upgraded with an adaptive chassis control system – rear roof spoiler, rear glass antenna, sports seats with leather trim, sports steering wheel, premium audio speakers, sat-nav with seven-inch information screen and unique interior detailing.

Five upgrade packs are available at various levels to add features such as premium seats and Opel’s forward lighting system.

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