The new Opel Astra hopes to revive interest in its segment. The humble family car has lost out in recent years to taller and more fashionable SUV-inspired variants. Chunky styling was all the rage and genuine off road ability not a consideration for the masses. Now, as car makers are trying to make their vehicles more fuel efficient and aerodynamic, we are seeing more car-like SUV-crossovers coming on stream. These crossovers are still quite expensive and new car prices are only going to keep rising. The sixth generation Astra is built on the same underpinnings as Opel’s Grandland SUV but cost considerably less… could the new Astra convert buyers for their SUVs?
The draw of most urban SUVs is their higher driving position that affords greater all-round visibility to the driver and this helps deliver a feeling of safety and confidence to the driver. If you lack driving confidence, stepping down from an SUV to a lower car is going to be an issue. The Astra, even with a height adjustable driver’s seat cannot compete in terms of offering a SUV-like commanding driving position – but in every other sense it can make a great case for itself!
The next generation of the five-seater is built on a new tried and tested chassis shared with a number of its Stellantis Group siblings. The car comes as a five-door hatchback or estate. The hatchback is wider (+51mm), lower (-44mm) and slightly longer (+4mm @ 4,374mm) than the car it replaces. New Astra’s design is quite daring on the outside, thoroughly overhauled on the inside, comes with the latest safety and driving aids and a wide range of fuelling options (initially petrol, diesel with more powerful hybrids and an Astra-e EV on the way in 2023). The exterior catches the eye thanks to striking front end that has a premium look. There is a new grille and sharp looking light clusters that deliver a modern and technical appearance under the design banner ‘Opel Vizor’. The car looks squat on the road and this is helped by our ‘Elite’ test car having a contrasting black roof (standard on SRi & Elite grades). The flanks, viewed side-on, are unremarkable while the rear, like so many new cars, proudly displays the models name in individual lettering. The Astra badge is the latch opener. So yes the new Astra looks the part and even the estate version looks great too.
The cabin is hauled right up to date with the star attraction being the new dash and its digital displays incorporated into a neat ‘Pure Panel’ widescreen housing. A HUD (head up display) is optional and a premium feature that helps raise the Astra’s interior above quite a few household name rivals. Astra has two USB ‘C’ connectors up front and phone friendly cubbies. Smart phone connectivity is as you’d expect good too! The driver gets a cockpit like seating position and as you’d expect from a German car maker its ‘AGR’ (Aktion Gesunder Rücken) approved seats are excellent and supportive. The boot is relatively small but with the seats folded can hold up to 1,339 litres.
Astra has a hots of available safety and driving aids. ‘Intelli’ is an Opel word you’ll see in brochures as it describes impressive ‘driving assistance’ packages. Intelli-Drive 1.0 integrates: Lane Positioning Assist that corrects the steering to stay between the lanes, Lane Change Assist, which alerts you to another quickly approaching vehicle – from behind or driving in your blind spot, plus Rear Cross Traffic Alert that warns you of anything approaching while reversing (inc. cyclists or pedestrians) from up to 40 meters away. ‘Intelli-Drive 2.0’ Opel says is its most advanced and intuitive assistance technologies working together to make the new Astra the safest and most relaxing driving experience its ever built. Features include: Curve Speed Adaptation that calculates and adapts Astra’s acceleration during high-speed bends, Advanced Intelligent Speed Adaptation monitors road signs and offers to slow down or speed up accordingly – it can factor in weather conditions too! Semi-Automated Lane Change (SALC) also features.
On the road Astra delivers a confident drive. Thanks to a relatively low centre of gravity the Astra corners really well compared to an SUV. Its aerodynamic profile also helps deliver a far quieter cabin than a comparable SUV and this again makes longer drives less taxing. Our diesel test car featured a well-geared six-speed manual gearbox. Opel intends to offer the Astra as an eight-speed automatic-only in the near future. Astra’s sister car the Peugeot 308 is automatic only (EAT-8). The manual works fine but detracts from driving ease of use. The gear-shift is fine but the driving experience can be a little ‘lumpy at low urban speeds. The electronic handbrake (parking brake) on a couple of occasions refuse to automatically release when moving off – automatic is the only way to go if you like ease of use. During a week with the 1.5 litre turbodiesel, 130hp, front wheel drive car we returned excellent fuel consumption figures of circa 4.1L/100km (69mpg). Rural user and high mileage buyers will have no complaints at the pumps. From a full tank of diesel we covered just over 1,000km in testing – without the fuel warning light coming on – and had 130km displayed left in the tank! The petrol powered Astra has a turbocharged 1.2 litre (110hp) three cylinder unit engine.
Opel has declared a target of 2028 to only produce new cars powered by electricity. The new Astra is built at Opel’s HQ in Rüsselsheim, Germany. Ireland will have three grades: SC, SRi and Elite. Pricing starts at €27,995 (SC hatch on 16 inch alloys). The Opel Astra is an impressive, up-to-date car that delivers nearly all of the qualities driver’s today want bar an SUV’s ride height… but remember an Astra costs a whole heap of cash less than a comparable SUV.