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European Car of the Year... Opel Astra - Driving Euro COTY

25.04.2016

What do I think of the new Opel Astra, after driving it?

Sharpened shape

Pictures do not do the new Astra any justice. I say that, because at first, looking at pictures on the Internet, I couldn’t make up my mind about the car and didn’t think it to be very attractive. However, when I saw the Astra I immediately changed my mind - it is a beautiful car! The rear end, especially, with those hatchet-shaped taillights, stand out from the rest. Overall, everything flows well by means of bumper edges, which flow into crease lines, which connect with lights.

Spec levels

I drove the 1.0 Turbo Enjoy, which is a mid-spec model. Up front, the cabin has a pleasant openness to it and I appreciate the leg and shoulder space as well as the minimalist centre console layout. Few buttons make for a very neat and stylish cockpit. Around you, soft plastics abound above knee height and the fabric used for the seats in the Enjoy model feel durable.

At the rear, shoulder and legroom is ample, even with front seats pushed back all the way. Something I didn’t like, inside the Astra, was the shiny knob on the gear lever. A wedding band would scratch it until you cannot tell reverse from fifth. Also, the roof slopes downward, sharply, at the rear, making entry and exit difficult for rear-seat passengers.

This is not so much an “Astra problem,” but the result of the latest design trends in hatches across the board. For a mid-spec model the 1.0 Turbo Enjoy is very well equipped and standard spec highlights include cruise control, rain sensing wipers, front and rear park assist and a 4.0 Intellilink infotainment system with seven-inch touch screen.

Sporty drive

The SA Astra range consists of three engines, which include a 1.0-litre, 1.4-litre and a 1.6-litre. The car, supplied by Provincial Motors, came with Opel's 85kW/170Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder plant.

I’ve also driven this particular engine in the Adam and Corsa and it always impresses with its gutsy performance and fuel efficiency. In town, it puts spark into your daily commute and on the open road, it has little effort maintaining the national speed limit. The Astra's suspension is well setup to handle our bumpy roads.

Verdict

Is the new Astra worthy of its European COTY crown? I say, yes! It is the best execution of the C-segment hatch on the market at the moment, in my opinion.

It makes the German benchmark and SA market leader look aged. Engine choices are spot-on and spec levels are very generous. Between the Adam, Corsa and Mokka, the Astra is the star of the new range of Opels and definitely worth looking at when going out to buy a hatch in this category.

C-segment cars have become pricey but here is a car worth paying for. This model, the 1.0 Turbo Enjoy is priced at R284 300 and comes with a five-year/120 000km warranty and a five-year/90 000km service plan.

Article written by Val van der Walt
25.04.2016
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