Everyone loves a comeback. It’s the arche typal feelgood film plot. A former favourite halts a slow decline with a return-from-the-dead performance that tugs the heart strings and fills us with that most precious of commodities … hope.
Cue the violins. In automotive terms, no brand has written that script better than Opel. Practically out for the count in 2009 when owner General Motors was in serious nancial trouble, it appeared Opel would either be sold or closed down. Now, however, to a Wagnerian soundtrack under the respected baton of Dr Karl-Thomas Neumann, this venerable brand has stormed back into contention with a slew of excellent new models led by its new hero and reigning European Car Of The Year (ECOTY) champion, the Astra.
No-one is more pleased than the team here at CAR. Like many South Africans, to us Opels bring back fond memories of paint-swapping Group N track duels and droolworthy monikers like “Boss” and “Superboss”. Warm, fuzzy feelings aside, Opel’s vehicles face strong opposition in each of their segments and, especially in these tough economic climes, this new chorus must hit all the high notes to succeed.
And none more so than the Astra. We drove it in Slovakia last year and were left impressed, but the acid test would always be how it fares against its archenemy and 2013 ECOTY winner, the Volkswagen Golf. Not only have we set up that test, but we also added the 2014 ECOTY winner, the Peugeot 308, to the mix in this benchmark C-segmenthatchback comparative test. It’s a close call, with the winner declared only once the big lady in the horned helmet had nished singing. Turn to page 60 for the full score.
Before you listen to that little aria, though, you’ll notice we’ve redesigned this esteemed publication. I believe in freshening up a magazine every few years and we’ve sought to give CAR a more sophisticated, contemporary appearance. Let us know what you think.