Long-term test (Update 1): Opel Astra 1,4T Sport AT
In last month’s long-term update, I bemoaned the lack of compliance in the newly crowned South African Car of the Year Astra’s ride, especially compared with the cushioned Kia Cerato we tested at the time.
There is another side to its dynamic repertoire, though. Yes, the Astra Sport, on its 18-inch wheels wrapped in low-profile tyres, rides too firmly for my liking, thudding into road compressions and jarring slightly over riffles and ridges. But there’s a flipside: excellent body control.
The nearly 4,4-metre-long body stays commendably flat in corners and deals with road scars in a single, swift movement to restore composure. A Volkswagen Golf 7, comparatively, feels looser limbed.
The Opel’s firm ride has unearthed a few creaks and rattles in the neatly finished cabin, but they’re remaining few in number and low in volume. And that’s really my only major grievance with a cockpit that provides surprisingly generous accommodation for four adults (the class-leading 683 mm of rear legroom certainly plays its part), comfortable seating – I like the option to lengthen the cushions at the front – and logical dispersion of controls across the facia. The boot has also always been commodious enough for my needs. Apple CarPlay is a pleasure to use, while the collision-avoidance system has saved my bacon on more than one distracted occasion.
The latter is but a small part of a standard-specification list that would span the length of this page were I to list it in full. I therefore have no doubt the Astra’s minder from next month, Nikesh, will enjoy it as much as I have. Let’s hope my replacement for the Opel (see overleaf) can mirror its first-rate performance.
After 4 months
Current mileage: 6 144
Average fuel consumption: 8,54 L/100 km
We like: spacious cabin; standard spec
We don’t like: ride comfort of Sport model
Long-term test (Introduction): Opel Astra 1,4T Sport AT
“Decline a VW [Golf] test drive and you’ll be happy with what the Astra has to offer, both in terms of refinement and comfort.” This line from the June 2016 comparative test between the 2015 European Car of the Year-winning Astra and its formidable rival, the victor in that competition the previous year, would prove particularly apposite seven months later when the Opel arrived at the CAR offices to commence this year-long test. You see, little more than 12 months ago, I returned a Golf 1,4 TSI Comfortline DSG – also the subject of that June match-up – to Volkswagen after spending a year in its company. And I loved that car. It’s one of the most rounded products in our market, in any segment.
The Astra’s arrival, therefore, was perfectly timed to allow me to reassess it in the context of the Golf over a much longer period than the original test, and to establish whether we judged it fairly in that contest by placing it behind the VW in the final reckoning.
This particular car is a 1,4T Sport AT, one rung up from the Enjoy test vehicle. It costs R381 500 and is loaded to the gills with specification (how does heating on all four seats and the steering wheel grab you, or dual USB ports aft, leather trim, climate control, auto lights and wipers, PDC coupled with a rear-view camera and a suite of safety features including lane-change assist, collision-mitigation braking and side blind-zone alert?).
Under the sophisticatedly drawn skin beats a 110 kW/245 N.m 1,4-litre turbopetrol coupled to a six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. It’s a smooth mill that provides punchy performance (tested 0-100 km/h in 8,46 seconds) and frugal consumption habits. After a mixture of city and highway driving in its first few weeks at CAR, the Astra used just 8,19 L/100 km.
Positives so far include a logical, clear infotainment system with one of the best applications of Apple CarPlay I’ve seen, comfortable seats that are part-electrically adjustable, and excellent overall refinement.
Annoyances extend only to a ride that’s somewhat firm on the Sport’s 18-inch wheels wrapped in 40-profile tyres. Lowering the pressures has helped, but hasn’t banished the problem.
I like C-segment hatchbacks. If done well, like the Golf and this Astra, their captivating combination of sophistication, practicality and comfort, coupled with low running costs, is the perfect foil to larger, heavier and more expensive compact SUVs, And, so far, the Astra looks set to join the Golf as one of the most persuasive reasons yet to sidestep the fashionable path in opting for an SUV.
After 1 month
Current mileage: 881
Average fuel consumption: 8,19 L/100 km
We like: large cabin, infotainment system
We don’t like: firm ride on 18-inch wheels