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