We drove the Opel Astra 1.0 T 105 HP: stellar driving pleasure…

as6s20Our test car came in fiery “Power Red” color, and fittingly so. Because it drives like a “pur-sang”, clings to the road and steers with such precision, that it awakens in you all the pleasures of car driving, which you thought were forever lost in our everyday cars. Well, this Astra proves you wrong. It brings a smile on your face, whenever you slide behind the wheel, and start up its smooth and throbby three cylinder thoroughbred engine. Because driving adventure will be yours to taste for every inch you move with this Astra.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Styling with panache…

Not only the punchy red livery of “our” Astra was pleasing, the fluent lines and the proportions of this Astra are “just right” and the car looks excellent from any angle. The same can be said for the instrument clusters, dashboard and the whole cabin for that matter. It translates the right ambiente for this Opel, and indeed the dark grey “Formula Jet Black” upholstery matched very harmoniously with the glossy piano black surfaces on the dash, underlined by just the right amount of brushed aluminum and chromed accent lines.

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Instrumentation is also businesslike and sporty with nice round dials and red indicator needles. In the centre one finds of course the obligatory touch screen, with a wealth of easy to use infotainment, of which more later in this report.

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 Excellent driving comfort

The Opel engineers truly know something about how one has to sit properly behind the wheel. Soon one finds a seating position which is absolutely ideal, with hands and feet reaching the steering wheel, knobs and pedals just as they should, with elbows resting nicely at just the right height and angles, with the proper amount of back and leg support.

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The seats – our test car was equipped with optional ergonomic sports seats – hold one firmly in place without feeling too narrow or cramped, and one word of praise is fitting here for the excellent position of the gearlever, which is ideally within reach. Also the superb ergonomic feel of the gearlever knob itself and its exact throws need to be mentioned. It makes gearchanging a true delight.

Thoroughbred, delightful engine.

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But the pleasure does not stop here. Just turn the key (this Astra was refreshingly “classic” in this respect) and this state of the art three cylinder fires smoothly into life. Vibrationless and silent it is, which just a sporting throb to reveal its cylinder configuration, never being obtrusive.

Forget here what we said about the hesitant pick up of our modern day “lean” petrol engines, the annoying flat spot when starting away in first gear with small throttle openings is just not there. Truly delightful! Your driving skills in driving away smoothly are not marred here and indeed, it is a pure joy to move this Astra smoothly through crawling, congested traffic, with just that clean, immediate unhesitant pick up even from the lowest revs, as soon as you put the throttle a bit deeper.

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The pleasant exhaust note is another extra which completes this rosy picture. The excellent pulling power of this 1 liter ECOTEC engine does the rest. Indeed, its torque is quite impressive, being 170 Nm over a rather wide rev band between 1800 and 4250 rpm. There is therefore hardly any need to rev up this engine, although it is great fun to do so, to get brisk performance.

As we said, using the gearbox is no punishment either, and it is rather a delight to flick this Astra through its gears with just that fine, sporting throb and staccato from the engine, picking up beautifully crisp after each gearchange, like a pur sang automobile should.

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Thermal efficiency of this new generation three cylinder is of the highest order, and this reflects manifestly in the consumption figures. We averaged with decidedly sporting driving a good 6,1 liters/100 km, and staying in the “eco” range of the well to read, centrally placed consumption indicator was child’s play. The manufacturer quotes 4,4 liters on average, based on “all season” tyres, with CO2 emissions being 102 g/km.

Performance of this 77 kW/105 HP Astra is all what you can expect, with an acceleration time from 0 to 100 in 11,2 seconds and a top speed of 200 kmh. Which says enough about the aerodynamic qualities of the bodywork!

This Opel is in the good German tradition also a true “Autobahnmeister” and feels completely in its element on fast motorways, displaying unerring stability at very high speeds.

 A suspension made for drivers…

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But the Astra is not only a master on the motorway straights, its true element is curvy roads. Indeed, it corners with eager precision and finesse, making you (almost) the better driver you always wanted to be…

The car stays also nicely flat, with hardly any noticeable body roll, even when cornering with abandon. Combine this with the eager and utterly responsive engine, the well geared 5 speed gearbox, and you understand that it is very entertaining to drive from A to B in this Astra…in the Dynamic equipment level we drove, there is a special “sports” switch, triggering a more direct response to steering wheel movements and letting the engine react even with more alertness on throttle movements. Quite frankly, the Astra breathes already masterful sportiness in standard mode…but in sports mode, some brilliant sporting driving experiences are yours to enjoy!

 

All this sportiness is not at the expense of comfort, and the Astra swallows our nasty Belgian potholes quite well. This Opel is therefore a comfortable companion on your long journeys, and driving long distances in this Astra is hardly tiring at all. Suffice to mention finally that the new Astra was designed with a clean slate, and this latest version is up to 200 kg lighter than its predecessor, with the focus on agility and dynamic handling.

 …Enjoying state of the art infotainment

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The new Astra generation is available with Opel Onstar, the personal connectivity and helpline service which is available all 365 days of the year. Furthermore, there is IntelliLink, which brings the world of the smartphone to the car through Apple CarPlay and Android. The radio Navi IntelliLink 900 which was installed in our test car comes with an 8 inch touchscreen, and there was also a CD and Mp3 player installed. Our test car sported also the “Dynamic” equipment level, and this included the two sport seats in front, fog lamps and amongst others the “Sports” mode, which we discussed earlier.

There is also a host of driving aids, amongst others Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Alert, Integrated Brake Assist and last but not least Autonomous Emergency

Braking, which brakes the car to standstill at speeds below 40 kmh.

 First in class: IntelliLux LED matrix lighting

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The Astra boasts full LED lighting, and this consists of 8 LED segments on each side of the car, which adapt the length, intensity and the direction of the light beams, therefore enabling you to drive along dark roads with full light intensity without blinding opposite traffic.

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 Conclusion

This Astra truly impresses. In terms of looks, both inside and out, build quality and finish, ergonomics, ease of use and last but not least driving pleasure if not outright sportiness. It is also frugal and roomy, having every talent to become a friend of the family…for those stellar trips!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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