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New Astra OPC insane and intoxicating


HAVING a famous parent must be one of the worst curses known to humanity. Your impressive achievements will never matter, as you’ll always be referred to as the offspring of someone famous.

It’s the same deal with any hot Opel hatch. It will always be referred to as the offspring of the original Superboss - a car so advanced it can still show modern hot hatches a thing or two about practical performance motoring.

The Superboss will always have a special place in my heart, as it was the car in which I had my first accident. We were returning from our annual vacation in the dead of night and my father drove into a cow. No one (except a large chunk of prime beef) was hurt. The only thing my father has left of that car is the GSI badge from the front grille.

I was extremely excited at the prospect of driving the successor of the famed Superboss. I was hoping for an updated version of all the fun times my father had in his car more than 20 years ago. Well, maybe not the driving-into-a-cow part…

Driving into a cow at full speed in the new OPC would not be a fun experience. The 2.0-litre turbo engine develops 206kW and 400Nm of torque. Opel claims a 0-100km/h acceleration time of six seconds and a top speed of 250km/h. This thing will turn a fully grown cow into nothing more than a red effervescent cloud at the side of the road.

In OPC mode, it is a scalding hot hatch. The manual gearbox, although tricky to operate smoothly at times, allows you to get the best out of the turbo powertrain. The soundtrack is equally impressive, as the car discharges an intoxicating whistling sound higher up in the rev range. It’s the kind of car that begs you to drive it hard all the time.

This is loads of fun, but performance like this comes at a price. 
The price you have to pay for that delicious whistling sound is fuel consumption. In our hands, the OPC was an insatiable beast that devoured a quarter of its tank on a single 30km commute.

You wouldn’t want to dial it to 11 every day, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Astra is a comfortable car with a spacious interior. Quality is very good and the amount of kit is perfectly acceptable for the segment. It’s also impressive on the safety front, having scored the full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests.  

Overall, it’s a very good car and a stunning hot hatch, but does it live up to the legendary status of its great granddaddy? As far performance goes, I have to answer yes. You simply can’t argue with that 206kW/400Nm engine. It has a big appetite for fuel, but I can’t think of a better use for a tank of unleaded.

Where it fails to live up to its forefather is accessibility. Retailing at R425 000, it’s not cheap. A base Ford Focus ST is more than R100 000 cheaper, just as fast and easier to live with thanks to two extra doors. I suspect the new Volkswagen Golf GTI, due in South Africa shortly, will also offer better value.

If you absolutely have to have an Opel, then I suppose it makes sense. There are fans out there that will pay the premium to own one of these things and they’ll love it no matter what I write. It’s a great car, but the R100 000 cheaper Ford Focus ST is a better deal.

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