I just spent a week with Car-Life’s first test car, an Opel Astra 1.6 Turbo. Here goes my first attempt at a car review. Bear in mind, this is my first ever test car and I am not a World Car of Siberia for Turbo Engines judge or anything. I’m just a dude who likes cars. Here goes…
Whenever I hear about a new car launching, I always try think about who might buy such a car. A mom, a student, a petrol head, a farmer. The Astra is not quite a hot hatch as it only has a 130kW, and it isn’t quite a family hatch with the extra punch from the turbo. So not for the young man who wants to go like the clappers and not for a dad to drive to work. This car, I think, is for a young professional who can’t afford a GTi or 3-Series but still wants something better than a run-of-the-mill hatch.
Now, this car is very thirsty for a 1.6 with the computer saying I achieved an average of 11.7l/100km/l. Added to this, the car was determined that it had lost its phone attachment as it kept telling me ‘No Phone Available” every time I went near the radio. The electric window switch was positioned behind the drivers door handle so I opened the back window every time I wanted to park the car. The worst thing about the car though was the electric handbrake.
The idea is fantastic: you don’t need the strength of a rugby prop to pull the handbrake up enough on steep hills and it auto releases when you want to pull off in traffic, preventing you from rolling back and into the car behind.
Sadly, this does not happen. If you look at the accelerator while standing still it will disengage the handbrake causing you to roll. If you don’t pull it up for long enough it won’t engage and you will roll. If you turn the car off and put it in neutral you will roll. If it is Tuesday and you are sitting on William Nichol you will roll. Its stupid. What was wrong with a normal lever operated handbrake?
I don’t want you to get the idea that this car is bad though, because it is fantastic. My best mate and I took it on the secret Car-Life road and it absolutely flies (the fact that we did drive like idiots is what dented the fuel economy). The engines great, the ride is very comfortable yet still sport, the gearbox is smooth, there’s lots of space and lots of equipment. It feels like a quality product.
Driving on the freeway with the cruise control set at 110km/h, and the engine ticking over at 2800rpm, it is spookily quiet. Yet when you need to overtake, the turbo kicks in and soon your speed is climbing with no real fuss from the engine.
Come off of the highway and not much changes. The clutch is light, the steering full of feedback and the ride smooth while in traffic.
Then, one turns off of the traffic filled main road and onto the secret Car-Life test road. Full of bends, dips and crescents and lovely views, this is where a car like this belongs.
Its engine does not make a great deal of noise but does generate a very pleasant push when you floor it. The ride changes slightly from cruiser smooth to smooth, yet harder for the bends. Others have told me there is no change and it is more to do with where you’re driving, but that is an aside.
So as you build your speed up, with the engine in its power band and drive past the apex of a corner and suddenly jerk the wheel into the corner. The nose simply darts in and you keep blasting along.
The bends are where this car makes sense as to why you would buy it over a Golf 1.4TSI or a Focus. It is far more of a sporty drive than a family mans day car. The grip is fantastic, the engine great and it gives a fantastic feeling when you blast along.
So what do I think of the Astra? Well, it is equipped really well and feels really well put together. The ride and engine are fantastic. The price is good, and it does look good. If you can ignore the stupid radio and get used to the handbrake, it is fantastic in every way.
It feels like a quality product. Astra’s of old still had a sort of cheap feel to them somehow. This one feels more like an A3 than a Golf rival. Its more grown up, but with a flair of rockstar with that engine. For family hatches at the moment, it is by far and away the best.
AT A GLANCE
|0-100 km/h||8,67 secs|
|100-0 km/h||2,80 secs|
|Top speed||221 km/h|
|CAR fuel index||8,16 litres/100 km|
|Taxable CO2 rating||159 g/km|
|Crash rating||5 stars|
|EuroNCAP crash test conducted in 2009|
|Airbags||dual front, side, curtain|
|Air-con||dual-zone climate control|
|Central locking||remote on key fob|
|Driver seat adjust||manual, incl height|
|Folding rear seat||60:40|
|Mirror dim (int)||auto|
|Steering audio controls||std|
Test car courtesy of GMSA
Stats from CAR Magazine