Opel’s Astra has finally been launched after months of hype. Should the traditional segment leader, VW’s Golf 5 and BMW’s new arrival, the 1 Series, be concerned? We think so...

Opel’s Astra has finally been launched after months of hype. Should the traditional segment leader, VW’s Golf 5 and BMW’s new arrival, the 1 Series, be concerned? We think so...

Already a firm favourite with CARtoday.com readers based on looks and claimed figures alone, it needs to be viewed in the flesh for one to appreciate just how good-looking it is. Look out for the three-door GTC and super-hot OPC versions next year.

The soft lines and rounded edges of the previous model have given way to this sculpted version of the Astra. Appearing purposeful with its mean-looking front end and imposing air intakes, big headlight clusters housing projector lights and indicators complete the look. Top models are fitted with active cornering bi-Xenon headlights.

A crease accentuates the bonnet as it runs down its centre. This theme is continued on the inside with the creased hood over the centre console.

At the rear, the crease runs down the centre of the large tailgate, enhancing its bold stance. A chrome strip is splayed across the rear to meet the taillights. All models are fitted with colour-coded bumpers.

Launched in South Africa this week, the Astra is available with four engine derivatives in three trim levels.

The first is the 1,6-litre Twinport Ecotec 16-valve engine producing 77 kW at 6 000 r/min and 150 N.m of torque at 3 900 r/min. Fitted with a 5-speed manual gearbox, the 1,6 accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 12,3 seconds and has a top end of 185 km/h.

There's also a 1,8-litre Ecotec 16-valve model available with both five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions. It produces 92 kW at 5 600 r/min and torque of 170 N.m at 3 800 r/min. Top speed for the manual version is 198 km/h (188 km/h for the automatic). The zero to 100 km/h dash is covered in 10,8 seconds (11,9 seconds with the automatic ‘box).

Suspension is taken care of by McPherson struts in front. A patented torsion beam with a double-walled U-shaped profile is used at the rear.

Passive and active features include a body shell with deformation zones, the IDS chassis with ESP Plus, Traction Control Plus, Corner Brake Control and ABS with brake assist, front and thorax/pelvis side airbags for the driver and front seat passenger, head curtain airbags, active head restraints in the front, two Isofix child seat mountings at the rear, a pedal release system which automatically releases in the event of a frontal collision and a height and reach adjustable steering column.

The entry-level 1,6 Essentia comes well equipped with airconditioning, a radio/CD/MP3 player, electric windows and remote central locking as standard.

The Enjoy and Sport packages are available on both the 1,6- and 1,8-litre derivatives and offer increased specification levels.

It also comes packed with technology not previously seen on the Astra including the latest electronic stability control programme (ESP Plus), active head restraints for the front occupants and head curtain airbags. Greater interior space is provided thanks to the new Interactive Driving Chassis. Luxury options include cruise control, park distance warning and standard satellite audio controls on most models.

Ergonomical seats offer better support with enhanced contours, longer cushions and higher lateral support. Sport seats are standard in the Sport and upcoming GSi versions.

Measuring 4,25 metres long, 1,75 metres wide, 1,46 metres high, the Astra’s dimensions certainly are very generous. With a 2,61 metre-long wheelbase, it is about 35 mm higher, 44 mm wider and 139 mm longer than the previous Astra.

The 350 litre boot space extends to 1 270 litres with the rear seats folded down. Rear seats come with 60/40 or 40/20/40 splits.

Prices:

1,6 Essentia R160 260

1,6 Enjoy R178 920

1,8 Enjoy auto R193 910

1,6 Sport R188 510

1,8 Sport R193 720