It’s plain to see that the new Opel Astra is not only roomier and more user-friendly, but much nicer to drive as well.
OPEL’S Astra has to be one of the most underrated hatchbacks in the Golf segment. Despite being handsomely styled and possessing tidy handling manners, it hardly appears on buyers’ radars.
This was especially true for the last-gen Astra. Its only weak points are a befuddling cockpit, which has too many buttons, and a relatively compact interior, despite it being larger than the Mk 6 Volkswagen Golf.
The all-new Astra, however, is no longer plagued by these issues.
It is even more attractive than its predecessor, with evolved “Blade” styling that features crispier lines and the illusion of a floating roof, thanks to the blacked-out C-pillars. Its rear end is rather fetching, too.
Like the older model, the current one is still larger than its main rival, the Mk 7 Volkswagen Golf. But this time, Opel has ensured that interior room is actually decent.
The wider backseat and lower floor protrusion means three average-sized adults can sit abreast without rubbing shoulders as often as before.
There’s also a touch more legroom (35mm to be exact), thanks to the slimmer design of the front seats.
Up front, you’ll find that the cockpit has been simplified, with a greatly reduced number of buttons and controls. The instrument cluster, with its white backlighting, looks classier than before, while the IntelliLink infotainment system, with its pretty graphics, is pretty intuitive as well.
"The Astra’s nose is obliging, and there’s more grip than expected from the rear."
Helping secure occupants are several safety features, which include Side Blind Spot Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist. The last function can actually perform steering corrections to keep the Astra from veering out of its lane.
Which is just as well, since you’ll constantly be tempted to switch lanes and overtake slower traffic, thanks to the car’s new turbocharged 1.4-litre inline-4.
Said engine is good for 150bhp and 245Nm, or 10bhp and 45Nm more than the older turbocharged 1.4-litre lump. More importantly, the engine has a slightly wider powerband, which is good news for keen drivers.
And because the latest Astra is at least 120kg lighter than the previous one, it now finishes the century sprint in 9 seconds – a second quicker than before.
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Apart from its quicker acceleration, the new powerplant is also quieter, and only turns hoarse when revved past 5000rpm. The previous 1.4-litre engine sounds gruffas it passes 3000rpm.
Handling, however, is the Astra’s forte. Opel doesn’t shout about this, but its cars display plenty of poise around bends.
Enter a corner too hot and even if understeer sets in, it does so in a gradual manner. Driven more moderately, you’ll find that the car’s nose is obliging and there’s more grip than expected from the rear.
Another of the Astra’s strong suits is its steering. The helm is precise, and there’s a nice balance to its weight as well. When combined with the wellsorted chassis, it makes drivers adopt a more enthusiastic driving style.
If you think that the Astra’s nimbleness comes at the expense of ride comfort, you’ll be glad that your assumption is wrong. Compared to the old model, the new one actually offers a quieter and more pliant ride.
Opel finally has a serious contender in the Golf segment. It is so competent that it was voted “Car of the Year 2016” by a panel of European motoring journalists.
All Opel has to do to win over potential buyers is convince them to get behind the wheel of this hatchback and discover its abilities, which really are plain to see.