New Opel Astra is a real shining 'Star'
Opel Astra – International launch
With the dark emission clouds still hovering over the ‘Golf’ course, there’s a new game in town.
This week, as Volkswagen announced its plans to refit thousands of its vehicles following the diesel emissions scandal, a new ‘Onstar’ was being born not so far away in Germany across in the Opel factory.
The Volkswagen Golf has had the lion’s share of the family compact car category for the last number of years, but the new Opel Astra might just be the one to take over its crown.
The company says the Astra is practically all new apart from a few screws left over from the outgoing model, and it comes with the latest economical engines, technology and safety features.
On the international launch in Bratislava this week, I got behind the wheel of it and, I have to admit, I was blown away by it.
Apart from its new stylish looks with ‘floating’ roofline and honeycomb-like grille, the highlight for me was the interior design and the company’s new ‘Onstar’ communications system.
Thankfully, Opel has decided to ditch the button-factory dash that made the interior such an eyesore, for a neat and easy-to-use touchscreen.
The new Astra will also be the first Opel model that will be available with OnStar communications system from launch.
OnStar is what the company refers to as your motoring ‘Guardian Angel’ during everyday journeys. It is basically a call centre in Germany that caters for your every need – on your short trip to work, or long-haul journey across Europe.
With the touch of a button you can contact emergency services, get roadside assistance, and even give GPS coordinates and they will download your destination straight to your sat nav for you or ask them to find the nearest garage or restaurant for you.
Early next year, it will also come with high-speed Wi-Fi connection for up to seven devices, so there should be no more need to hear those words: “are we there yet?”
The IntelliLink infotainment systems can also connect smartphones to the car via Apple carplay and Android auto.
The Astra will also feature the company’s new ‘Ergonomic’ seats, which took five years to develop. The seats are slim but firm, giving excellent back support, and can be adjusted in 18 different positions for that perfect lumbar support.
The seats in my text model featured a massage function too, and could be both heated for those cold winter morning, or cooled during the summer months to prevent you backside being scalded on the leather.
The range-topping model also gets heated seats in the rear, which is a superb addition for a compact family car.
The new Astra also features IntelliLux LED ‘Matrix’ lights.
It enables the driver to leave the high-beams on outside urban areas, and the lights automatically readjust if they spot an oncoming car, or come in to a street- light area.
On the engine front, the Astra will be available with a one-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol, which I found a little under-powered. It is perfect for the Adam or Karl – but not the Astra.
There’s a new 1.4-litre turbo petrol that should not be overlooked ahead of the diesel. It’s a four-cylinder, 150bhp engine which costs just €200 a year in road tax.
The core sales, however, will probably come from the 1.6-litre CDTi diesel in 110 and 136bhp that cost €180 a year in road tax.
Prices for the new Opel Astra start at €19,995, and there will be four trims when it arrives in Ireland later this month.
The entry-level (S model) starts from €19,995 and includes Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, audio streaming, Aux-in and USB ports, air conditioning, remote control central locking, comfort front seats, hill-start assist plus LED daytime running lights.
Move up to the SC model (€21,495) and you can add new-generation IntelliLink system with seven-inch colour touch screen plus steering-wheel mounted controls with 16-inch alloy wheels.
Opt for the SRi model (€24,495) and you can include the Opel OnStar system we have talked about, rain-sensitive wipers, automatic lighting with tunnel detection, sports-style front seats.
A driver-assistance pack is also included featuring: lane-departure warning with lane assist, traffic-sign recognition, following distance indicator, forward-collision alert with autonomous emergency braking, front fog lights, plus 17-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels .
Dig deep for the range-topping Elite model (€ 25,995) and you get Opel OnStar system, electronic dual-zone climate control, rain-sensitive windscreen wipers, automatic lighting control with tunnel detection, leather heated front and rear seats (including ergonomic sports-style front seats), six premium speakers, front fog lights, plus 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels.
Believe me, this Astra definitely has what it takes to give the VW Golf a run for its money.