Opel Astra in with a shout
The Astra is a seminal model for Opel, apart from the Corsa, each generation of Astra showcases what the Opel brand is all about. The first Astras were known as great cars, however throughout the years the Astra has become somewhat bland. The previous generation was better but still lacked the finesse and desirability of the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Audis A3 and the BMW 1 Series. When we recently had an opportunity to drive the new Astra, which is current European Car of the Year and an SA Car of the Year finalist, we were suitably impressed.
New Astra indeed
The first thing that struck us about the car was how attractive it looks. The design language reflects a new-found maturity, the Astra looks grown up and more sophisticated than the Corsa and Adam, which have gone for a more youthful appearance.
The same can be said about the interior. The facia is thoroughly modern as is the layout. The quality and general ambience that the interior exudes is very Germanic, simple, clean and easy to use. The infotainment system is the Opel IntelliLink unit however it appears improved on this model, with a fantastic resolution and features such as app compatibility, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
The Astra is available with an incredible number of features for a C-segment hatchback. Features available include; heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, cruise control, LED front headlamps, cruise control, PCD front and rear, reverse camera, sat nav, blind sport warning, lane keep assist, keyless entry and the list goes on.
It has some shove
This new Astra was one of our surprise drives for the year, not because of how good it is – we already surmised that from colleagues and media reports – but because the powertrain range is impressive. All engines, from the 1.0 litre turbo petrol through to the 1.6 litre turbo with 147kW/280Nm, provide impressive performance. There are also both manual and automatic versions to choose from.
Chassis and handling
The Astra has a sweet chassis, for someone who is not looking for the harsh ride associated with a hot hatch and wants something that is still sporty enough to provide some driver feedback; the Astra is the best compromise. The damping and ride quality is on point too, because it feels like a complete product.
The Astra is quite a practical car too, with a 370 litre boot that can be extended to 1210 litres with the rear seats folded flat. This latest Astra is most certainly deserving of its place among the finalists in the 2017 South African Car of the Year competition.