Opel Astra


Debut: 2015
Maker: Opel
Predecessor: Astra (2009)



 Published on 17 Nov 2015
All rights reserved. 


Opel/Vauxhall Astra has always been a key player in European C-segment. It might not be as popular as Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus, nor it is as characterful as some rivals, but it is nonetheless a credible choice for the majority because GM always intends to make it an all-rounder, being affordable, comfortable and decent to drive. On the flip side, this means it does not stand out in any areas.

Well, the last generation did attract eyeballs with its stylish look. However, aside from that it was not especially avant-garde. When the industrial trend turned to enhance efficiency, it became outdated. The old Astra was at least 100 kg heavier than a Volkswagen Golf Mk7. This was because its Delta II platform was designed to underpin larger cars such as Zafira MPV. The Astra itself was also larger than most rivals, but unfortunately its interior was not. Poor efficiency was also found in its outdated range of petrol and diesel 4-cylinder engines. Apparently, improving efficiency has to be the number one job for the development of new Astra.



The D2XX platform that underpins the new Astra is the equivalent of Volkswagen MQB or Peugeot-Citroen EMP2. It is flexible enough to underpin compact sedans (e.g. Chevrolet Cruze), small crossovers, plug-in hybrid (Chevrolet Volt II) or even pure electric cars. Moreover, it is a lot lighter than the old platform. Thanks to the use of high-strength steel and, I suspect, reducing sound insulation, the monocoque chassis of new Astra is 77 kg lighter than the old one. In addition to the savings on powertrains and other components, the whole car is about 130 kg lighter than before. That makes a big difference when you drive the car (more on that later).

The new car is also smaller – 49 mm shorter, 26 mm lower and runs a 23 mm shorter wheelbase, although the latter is still pretty generous at 2662 mm. Despite of the smaller size, it is able to squeeze out another 35 mm of rear legroom thanks to the better packaging. Another efficiency enhancement is aerodynamics, where Cd is lowered from 0.32 to a remarkable 0.285.



Compared with the outgoing car, the new Astra looks sharper and a bit more stylish, although its new corporate grille lacks character. The general proportion is hardly changed, but a crisper crease line at shoulder level and blackened C-pillars are fresh to eyes. It is a reminiscent of the original Ford Focus, especially when being viewed from the rear quarter.

Inside, the new cabin looks a bit more modern and better finished. However, a closer inspection will find the materials are not as classy as Volkswagen or Peugeot's. The cabin has plenty of space for four adults. The rear seats are a lot more spacious than Ford Focus or Peugeot 308.



The new car is also benefited from a new range of (finally) modern engines, no matter petrol or diesel. The new 1.6 CDTi has 3 stages of tune: 110 hp, 136 hp and (in twin-turbo form) 160 hp. The middle one is the pick of the bunch as it is strong, refined and cheap to run. Opel finally has a class-leading engine! The petrol range is pretty good, too. It starts from the 1.0 DI turbo 3-cylinder with 105 hp, which is detuned from the Corsa. If 105 hp is not enough for the larger car, the new all-alloy 1.4 DI turbo should be the best option, because it offers either 125 hp or 150 hp which is perfect for the class. Since the car is light, its performance is remarkable. The 1.4-liter is also smoother and quieter than the arguably more characterful triple. It works with a new 6-speed manual gearbox whose shift quality is positive, although the clutch take-up is mushy.

Keener drivers may have to wait until the introduction of a 200 hp 1.6 SIDI turbo, but I suppose the new Astra will be more comfortable to handle the 1.4 turbo. This is because the D2XX platform no longer accepts HiPer strut suspension. All versions ride on conventional MacPherson struts up front. At the back, the torsion-beam plus Watt’s link arrangement is carried over from the old car. The pair of Watt’s link enhances control of lateral movement thus gives the Astra an edge over average rivals. In addition, the new car’s suspension tuning biases towards the firm side, no matter the selection of springs or bushings.



On the road, you immediately feel the car gets lighter and more agile, not just compared with the old car but also most rivals in the class. The firmer ride brings tighter body control and crisper responses to your steering input. Its new found sportiness must be a big surprise to those familiar with the Astra nameplate. On the downside, the sporty tuning means ride comfort suffers a little on sharp bumps and potholes. There are also more road and suspension noises penetrated into the cabin due to the reduced sound insulation. Those are the tradeoffs for the weight reduction and sporty bias.

Is it as good to drive as Focus, Mazda 3 or Golf? Not yet, though not far away. The Astra’s electrical power steering is not natural and consistent enough to inspire confidence. Moreover, while the car can corner quite swiftly, it does not absorb bumps as cleanly as the multi-link camp rivals. It feels less solid on the road then in the showroom.

However, the new Astra is unquestionably a stronger contender than its predecessor. Its new found agility, strong engines and spacious cabin should place it at a better position to pursue big sales.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Astra 1.0 Turbo
2015
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4370 / 1871 / 1485 mm
2662 mm
Inline-3
999 cc
DOHC 12 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
105 hp
125 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam, Watts link
-
205/55R16
1188 kg
124 mph (c)
10.5 (c)
-
Astra 1.4 Turbo
2015
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4370 / 1871 / 1485 mm
2662 mm
Inline-4
1399 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
150 hp
170 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam, Watts link
-
225/45R17
1203 kg
134 mph (c)
8.0 (c)
-
Astra 1.6 CDTi
2015
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4370 / 1871 / 1485 mm
2662 mm
Inline-4 diesel
1598 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
136 hp
236 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam, Watts link
-
225/45R17
1275 kg
127 mph (c)
9.0 (c) / 8.8*
25.7*




Performance tested by: *Autocar





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