We test Europe’s Car of the Year - the new Opel Astra - on and off the track

2016-08-03 06:00
New Opel Astra has an athletic and agile look. Photos: Supplied

New Opel Astra has an athletic and agile look. Photos: Supplied

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THE first time I experienced the new Opel Astra was on the Aldo Scribante race track in Port Elizabeth with former South African motorsport racing champion Tschops Sipuka behind the wheel.

This was part of an advance driving workshop by General Motors South Africa’s (GMSA) Women’s Council for female employees and female media members where Tschops gave advice on safe braking distances, tyre care and defensive driving.

So, to put it mildly, the performance this hatchback is able to deliver was experienced first hand – and it’s not often that one gets to experience the test models on a racing track, with an expert driver behind the wheel.

I then also got the opportunity to test the new Astra, which is the 2016 European Car of the Year, on the mom’s taxi route for a week for this week’s Express on Wheels. The test vehicle was the 1.4 T Sport with automatic transmission which retails at R374 000.

The new Opel Astra, which was launched in SA in April, is available in a choice of three engines, manual and automatic gearboxes, and boasts class leading advanced driver assistance and safety systems.

Opel says they have designed and engineered the new Astra, which is a little bit smaller from the outside than its predecessor, around four principles: efficiency, design, connectivity, and advance driver assistance and safety technology.


The new Astra is more compact than before being 5cm shorter and a little bit lower in roofheight. Some aerodynamic improvements have been made to create a more athletic and agile look.


Despite its smaller outer dimensions, the clever designers at Opel have managed to increase the interior space of the new Opel Astra. They have created more front headroom and rear legroom – and while the boot is a bit smaller than that of its predecessor – it is still more than adequate for a hatchback family car.

One of the highlights of the new Astra is the fact that is it equipped with Opel’s award-winning IntelliLink system. The system comprises a touch screen with satellite navigation and an advanced infotainment interface. It offers Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, audio streaming, aux and USB ports.

Sports models are equipped with electrically adjusted, heated front and rear leather seats.


The new Astra is offered with a choice of three state-of-the-art light and efficient turbo charged petrol engines – the 1.0 turbo, 1.4 turbo, and 1.6 turbo ECOTEC engines. As far as gearboxes go, it is available in five- and six-speed manual gearboxes, as well as a six-speed automatic transmission (for models with the 1.4 turbocharged engine).

The automatic gearbox of the test model offered smooth transitions, but it does take away from the “sporty” drive that one would associate with a model with the name “Sport” in it.

But, in my opinion, the automatic transmission still beats a sporty drive hands down, on the mom’s taxi route – and the car looks sporty - that’s good enough for me as I hardly ever have the opportunity between speedbumps and traffic circles to test the vehicle’s 0 – 100km hours acceleration capabilities.

The engine is, however, very willing and lively when you do open it up on the highway.

It handles wonderfully and feels surefooted. Experiencing it around the corners of Aldo Scribante with Tschops behind the wheel, I can attest to its great roadholding capabilities when cornering – as there were times that I felt I was going to fall out of the door from the front passenger seat side – yet - the car remained on track and unflustered.

Thanks to the Astra’s range of three turbocharged and direct injection ECOTEC engines, and the use of features like Start/Stop across the range, fuel efficiency is also quite impressive.

The fuel consumption for the models in the range is stated between 4.3 litres/100 km and 6.1 litres per 100 km depending on the engine.


One of the reasons why the Astra is wearing the Europe Car of the year crown is its high tech equipment, not only for infotainment and performance but also for safety.

The new Astra is available with the latest generation Opel Eye front camera whose functions include monitoring the IntelliLux LED Matrix System, Traffic Sign Assist (TSA); Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with Lane Keep Assist (LKA); Following Distance Indication (FDI); Forward Collision Alert (FCA) with Low Speed Collision Mitigation Braking (LSCMB).

Safety features include Active Emergency Braking which uses various inputs (such as camera sensor, brake pressure, vehicle speed) to calculate the probability of a frontal collision. Before the active emergency braking applies, the driver is warned by the forward collision alert.

The New Astra is also available with Advanced Park Assist, with ultrasonic front and rear sensors and Rear View Camera. The new generation Advanced Park Assist identifies suitable parking spaces and automatically parks the vehicle, without the driver touching the wheel. The driver just controls acceleration, deceleration and gear shifting.

IntelliLux LED matrix lighting, is also a first in this segment for safer night time driving.

Standard safety features include ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) and Traction Control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Cornering Brake Control, Torque Vectoring by Brakes (ensures more agility and that the understeer tendency of the car is reduced and the car stays more neutral, even at a higher curve speed), Cornering Torque Control, Electronic Drag Torque Control, Brake Assist System (supports the driver in emergency braking situations by ensuring full master cylinder brake pressure is applied), Hydraulic Brake Assist Fade and Brake Disc Cleaning (which periodically removes contamination by applying very light pressure to the pads so they contact the discs without generating any noticeable brake torque.

Prices (as in April, 2016):

1.0T Essentia: R254 000

1.0T Enjoy: R284 300

1.4T Enjoy Manual: R328 000

1.4T Enjoy Auto: R338 000

1.4T Sport Man: R354 000

1.4T Sport Auto: R374 000

1.6T Sport Man: R387 000

1.6T Sport PLUS Man: R407 000

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