AMMAN — The latest iteration of Opel’s family hatchback model line, the latest Astra is the fourth such Opel to use the Astra nameplate, since it was adopted from Opel’s British twin Vauxhall to replace the long-running German Kadett designation.
Designed to be a more up-market product with even greater world appeal in this current incarnation, the new Astra gains an elegant yet discrete body style and scores well in terms of structural rigidity, ride refinement and benign handling, but with its price tag faces stiff competition from its similar yet more competitively-priced Chevrolet Cruze saloon cousin, which shares the same Delta II platform, but lacks the same German brand name kudos.
Positioned as a more premium product in terms of perception than the Cruze, the Astra features a more restrained and less extrovert design with somewhat coupe-like roofline to its five-door hatchback body.
With a wider and lower shape than its predecessor, the new Astra looks both more swooping and more fluidly and tightly designed, while its fascia is charismatic and slightly moody, with browed headlights, thin grille, diamond shaped foglights and a more muscular and better integrated bumper.
Smooth, elegant and a touch conservative, the Astra enjoys a European styling sensibility, which features a more elongated and raked roofline that is flanked by more muscular haunches.
Curvy and minimalist in terms of adornment, the Astra has a sophisticated look reflected by sharp rear light design, smart tailgate spoiler and L-shaped body moulding on its flanks reminiscent of its larger and more up-market Opel Insignia stablemate.
Designed with four glass panels a side, the Astra could benefit from an extra couple of centimetres of door width, while its A-pillar’s divergent smaller pillar slightly obstructs front-left turning-in views, but the trade off is a noticeably stiff body, which pays dividends in terms of noise, vibration and harshness isolation, ride comfort, handling composure and expected improved crash safety, owing to a more rigid cabin.
Generously proportioned inside, the Astra features good front driver and passenger space, decent rear accommodations and boot space, which goes from 370 litres to a vast 1235 litres with the rear seats folded down. Featuring reach and rake adjustable steering, the Astra accommodates different sizes well but its driver’s seat could do with more side bolstering. Visibility was good bar the front left view on turn-ins, while its clear classy dials, sober dashboard layout and dash padding impressed. However, one felt that the instrument cowl needed the same padding as the dash and that the stereo audio controls needed to be more intuitive.
At JD21,500 on-the-road, the 1.6-litre model tested featured a 6-speed automatic gearbox, traction control, A/C and electric front windows and 205/60R16 tires on steel wheels, but lacked front or rear armrests and featured a plastic steering wheel.
Currently not in stock with the exact package tested, the Opel dealership does however have Astra 1.6 automatics with a higher trim package currently available for JD25,000. The higher trim package most notably includes a much nicer leather contoured sports steering wheel with steering control buttons in place of the hard plastic wheel tested, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, sunroof and front and rear parking sensors.
Smooth and stable
Built on a stiff frame with MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension, and using restrained 205/60R16 tyres, the Opel Astra provided a very comfortable ride whether in town or on the highway. With typically Germanic attention to providing highway directional stability and settled and planted ride, the Astra is in its element being driven at sustained legal highway speeds over long distances.
While its steering has a strong emphasis on straight line damping and a sense of reassurance, it is, however, light and easy in town driving, where the Astra’s compact packaging also make it manoeuvrable and easy to park.
With more comfort oriented tires and stiff frame, the Astra also copes well to cracks in the road and insulates the cabin from the jarring reverberations. Driven through fast and smoothly paved though tightly curving routs the Astra remained composed but body lean was noticeable, while a tendency to under-steer if pushed hard was easily corrected by backing off the throttle.
Easy to bring back into line, the Astra’s handling was benign and reassuring, even with traction controls off, while through tighter and less perfect snaking roads the Astra also maintained composure and comfort. On such roads, one felt that the Astra could use a quicker steering ratio and little more feedback, but it nonetheless did well when hustled along, with under-steer very manageable and rear grip reassuringly firm.
Making every horse count
Offered with a wide range of powerful and economical turbo-diesels for Europe and with 1.4-litre and 2-litre turbocharged petrol engines for some markets, the Astra, however, comes to Jordan with only one, 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, familiar version.
The third to entry level engine, the 1.6 produces 115ps at 6000rpm and 169.65 kg/metre torque at 4000rpm, and returns a 13.3-second 0-100km/h time, 182km/h top speed, 7.1-litre per 100km combined fuel efficiency and 167g/km CO2 combined emissions ratings.
Scantly more economical than the 1.6 turbo version but well behind on performance, the 1.6 naturally aspirated also falls behind the 1.4 turbo in performance and efficiency ratings, but is probably chosen for Jordan to better suit available fuel quality and for its lower price.
A smooth operating engine under moderate use, the Astra’s 1.6 is also convincing when driving on an even keel, where it feels responsive.
However, pushed hard for maximum performance, the Astra’s 1.6 sounds strained at high revs and struggles with its approximate 1.4-tonne weight when on steep inclines or at high speed. Driven hard through steep hill climbs and winding roads, the Astra’s engine needed more oomph to match its chassis talents, but in daily driving situations, the 1.6 engine was an adequate companion.
Of particular interest was the Astra’s 6-speed automatic gearbox, which when operated through its lever-actuated sequential manual mode was impressive for its ability to respond accurately to two gear downshift inputs at reasonably quick shift times, which allowed one a greater degree of accuracy and control to best exploit its engine’s output.
Engine: 1.6-litre, transverse 4-cylinders
Bore x stroke: 79 x 81.5mm
Compression ratio: 10.8:1
Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
0-100 km/h 13.3-seconds
Maximum speed: 182km/h
Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 115 (113.5) [84.6] @ 6000rpm
Specific power: 71bhp/litre
Torque, lb/ft (Nm) 114 (155) @ 4000rpm
Specific torque: 97Nm/litre
Fuel consumption, urban/extra-urban/combined: 9.8/5.6/7.1 litres/100km
Emissions, combined: 167g/km
Fuel capacity: 56-litres
Width inc./excl. mirrors: 2013/1814mm
Track, front/rear: 1544/1558mm
Overhang, front/rear: 974/760mm
Kerb weight: approximately 1400kg
Luggage capacity, rear seats up/folded: 370/1235-litres
Steering: Variable assistance, rack & pinion
Turning circle: 10.9-metres
Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs 276mm/discs 268mm
Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts/torsion beam
Price, on-the-road: JD21,500 (as tested)