Opel Astra 1.6Turbo
Good – Looks, engine & loads of kit (Value for dolla)
Bad – Notchy, vague gearshift, vague pedal feel and low quality interior finish
I learnt to drive in a 1996 Opel Astra 1.6 sedan. It had a rear suspension that made a Cadillac feel sporty, notchy gearshifts and some very lazy pedal feel. That said, it was my first car, and I loved the freedom! Strangely enough there’s a lot of DNA that seems to have made it over from that 1996 model into this 2010 incarnate.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a vast improvement, starting with the great engine. The SPORT badge means it’s got a… surprise… sporty engine! A 1.6litre turbo engine developing 132kW @5,500RPM and 230NM of torque from around 2,200RPM. The engine has got heaps of pull, more than enough for city driving and easily cruises along or overtakes with the overboost function that raises the torque to 250NM. Sounds riveting don’t it? Well you’ll pay for that performance at the pumps, as I got nowhere near the claimed 6.8l/100km.
Probably the largest surprise is how many people I watched have a good look at this car. It’s no Lamborghini Aventador, but I guess because there are so few of them on the road, this Red Astra turned some heads. New curvaceous lines and unique styling makes this a very good looking car in my opinion. The rear dips down to give it sleek look from the side, and from the front and back, it’s definitely not the ginger kid at school. The 1.6T Sport comes with some kiff 18inch rims and definitely looks the “sport” part.
So far Opel has impressed on two fronts they haven’t before. One, a lovely turbo engine, and two, a unique sporty look that stands out of the crowd of hatchbacks out there. Unfortunately you don’t get to drive this car from the outside, so you’ll be left staring at the interior. This is a radical improvement from Opel interiors of old, with a fresh trendy look. The interior is quite easy to get accustomed to, with a fairly logical layout to most features, and features it has. This Sport model features leather trim, heated seats, auto lights and rain sensor, dual zone climate control, steering-wheel mounted controls and a host of safety equipment. There’s also Bluetooth, and voice activation for the phone. Say what Kit?! That’s pretty impressive for a car of this price. Sadly it’s let down with what looks like, but does not feel like quality trim.
Low quality plastics are the order of the day, and at night this shiny plastic is beautifully bathed in red mood lighting from all over, just like a MOTEL sign. Lovely. Thankfully, seating is more comfortable than anything a MOTEL has to offer, with a good balance of comfort and support in the front seats.
What brings back memories to the ‘ol chariot of ’96, is the notchy gearshifts and vague pedal feel. It’s probably due to this press car being through its fair share of journos but the pedals and the gearshift just felt loose like an Oxford street hooker. It’s something you’d never feel on a Golf, and something that didn’t feel German at all. What did feel very German is the great ride and handling. A great mix between a firm, yet comfortable suspension, however when you really push her into the corners the front does scramble for traction.
Overall, I’m genuinely impressed with the amount of kit they’ve managed to squeeze into the car at the price, but they seemed to have sacrificed interior quality materials for some nifty tech bits. I’m sad to say that this is the only “German” car that doesn’t feel German in most of what it does. It competes very well against its eastern counterparts but definitely misses the mark against the Golf in terms of quality German feel.
Pricing for this model – R284,680