Car reviews - Opel - Astra - Sports Tourer
Design, dynamic capabilities, interior comfort, diesel performance and economy, refinement, wagon practicality
Room for improvement
Gruff engine at idle, overly complicated audio/multimedia interface, dated cabin ambience
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23 Jan 2015
Price and Equipment
FOR a Euro-branded wagon, the British-built Astra wagon is priced competitively against the Volkswagen Golf.
The test vehicle here is the top-line $35,990 Tourer Select CDTi turbo-diesel automatic with optional Navi Pack ($1250) and Leather Sports Seats Pack ($2500), bringing the total before on-road costs to just under $40K.
Included are convenience items including climate-control air-con and powered windows, mirrors and remote door locks, as well as foglights, LED ambient interior lighting and automatic lights and wipers.
Being a Select variant, you also get 17-inch alloys, a sequential shift plane for the auto gearbox, an electronic parking brake with hill-start assist, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, a better console between the heated front seats, and fancier chrome trim.
But make sure you haggle hard because Hyundai’s slick new Euro-made i30 Tourer Elite is touching down from under $32K with much the same kitchen-sink spec.
Even so, the Astra wagon is worth the effort, and remember also that equipping most SUVs to the bells-and-whistles spec of our Select will have their prices nudging $50K or even more.
GERMANS are clearly behind the Astra’s harmonious interior presentation.
Our test car featured a Luxury Pack that brings attractive stitched black leather for the door trim and brilliantly supportive ‘sports’ seats (heated up front for even greater comfort), understated glossy trim, an effective sat-nav system, and an electronic handbrake release.
Don’t look down, though, because cheapo drab plastic abounds almost everywhere else, scaling back the premium goodness somewhat, and undermining the Select Diesel’s $40K pricing.
Frankly, the look and layout of the dashboard almost mirrors that of the closely related Holden Cruze, with a more upscale finish, but why are the multimedia controls so complex?
The retina-searing red display window between the analogue instrument dials is also complicated and compounds it with ugly graphics. At least it features a digital speedo and sat-nav directional info.
Moving on, the Astra’s proletarian position in life is underlined by the spacious back seat area, which is roomy enough for most small families’ needs and provides even taller folks with ample leg and headroom. It features map pockets, overhead grab-handles and a couple of cupholders, but it is again awash in a sea of mid-range GL-like trim and there are no rear face vents.
Opel has been building small wagons since the early 1960s, and it shows the moment you lift the tailgate.
The low and wide load area expands from 500 litres to 1000 litre with the back seats folded.
The sculpted rear cushions tip forward so the spring-loaded split backrests can drop electrically at a push of a button to sit flush, revealing a floor long enough for a pair of (slim) 175cm vagabonds to kip.
A ski port, side pockets, bag hooks and tie-down hoops boost versatility.
The Tourer’s party trick is a quality luggage blind that pops up (with a single tap) on separate tracks to increase the cargo aperture as well as retract fully, so owners need not forever be detaching it.
Finally, the luggage floor concertinas open, so you don’t have to remove every piece of cargo to access the secret compartments or space-saver spare located underneath.
Engine and Transmission
AN UNFORTUNATE by-product of General Motors’ much-publicised Chapter 11 Bankruptcy of 2009 was a hold on drivetrain development, so the Astra is saddled with some ageing – though by no means ineffective – drivetrain tech.
For example, the common-rail CDTi diesel sounds quite rackety when cold or sitting in traffic, though once warmed up or on the move it settles into a present but fairly inoffensive background thrum.
More importantly, with a handy 121kW of power and 350Nm of torque, the old stager – after an initial start-off hesitation – pulls like a packhorse, hurtling forward on a wave well beyond the speed limit.
At speed, the Opel does a fine job masking the engine racket, but perhaps only because of the road thrum endemic in almost all German cars on our roads. In any case, the Astra CDTi goes from slug to slingshot once it’s in the torque sweet-spot.
The six-speed auto does an acceptable job selecting the ratios, but is slow reacting to jabs of the accelerator.
Economy is clearly an Astra forte as we managed a respectable 7.2L/100km on average.
Ride and Handling
WORDS that spring to mind when talking dynamics are flat and linear. No matter how exuberantly the driver hurls the thing into corners, the Astra keeps its composure and grips for dear life. And remember, we’re talking about a wagon here.
Possessing eager if not especially communicative steering, the Opel is right at home around town, with light yet measured responses and a tight turning circle.
It is very forgiving in even hairy situations. Be it smooth, rough or gravel roads – little seems to faze the Tourer.
On loose surfaces, the electronic stability control system allows for a bit of rear-end breakaway fun, but will still herd everything back into line with a gentle touch. There is superlative chassis engineering going on underneath, more so than in the Astra’s more pedestrian Cruze cousin.
Riding on 225 50 R17 rubber, some of the larger speed humps around town found the limit of the suspension travel, but overall the Opel’s taut yet supple tuning is a lesson for others to learn.
Safety and Servicing
OPEL’S warranty period is for three years or 100,000 kilometres.
Its ‘Opel Service Plus’ plan is included, covering the first three years or 45,000km, and should cost no more than $299 per scheduled service.
OPEL’S half-century of experience making small wagons has culminated in a world-class Astra carryall of exceptional versatility and dynamic capability, words that rarely apply to the current crop of compact SUVs.
Despite a hefty price tag in range-topping Select CDTi guise, the German wagon is cheaper than most equivalent crossovers, so we seriously recommend cross-shopping an Astra wagon against SUVs such as CX-5, RAV4, X-Trail, ix35, Forester, Kuga and Sportage before making a decision.
1. Peugeot 308 Touring 2.0 HDi: , From $34,990 plus on-roads, Soon to be replaced, the 308 offers smooth performance, a roomy cabin with unique (and recommended) third-row seating, and high equipment levels, but overall is off the Astra’s pace.
2. Volkswagen Golf Wagon 103TDI DSG: , From $36,490 plus on-roads, Based on the 2003 Mk5 Golf, this is really a Mexican-made old-shape Jetta wagon, with a gutsy diesel, fine dynamics, a comfy cabin, and plenty of space. But the newer Opel is a more complete package.
3. Holden JG Cruze CD Sportwagon:, From $29,270 plus on-roads, Cheaper and larger than the related Astra, the Korean-made Cruze wagon lacks its German cousin’s sophisticated chassis, but is still big on value. Hyundai’s upcoming i30 Tourer also looks promising.
MAKE/MODEL: Opel PJ Astra Tourer Select CDTi
, ENGINE: 1956cc 4-cyl DOHC diesel
, LAYOUT: FWD, transverse
, POWER: 121kW @ 4000rpm
, TORQUE: 350Nm @ 1750-2500rpm
, TRANSMISSION: 6-speed auto
, 0-100km: 9.8 seconds
, TOP SPEED: 212km/h
, FUEL: 5.9L/100km
, CO2: 156g/km
, DIMENSIONS: 4698/2013/1535/2685mm
, WEIGHT: 1575kg (tare)
, SUSPENSION f/r: Struts/torsion beam with Watts Link
, STEERING: Electric rack-and-pinion
, BRAKES f/r: Discs/discs
, PRICE: From $35,990 plus on-roads
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