dates : 22nd August 2004
26th August 2004
Ėedged. Thatís the new face that the Opel Astra will be
showing to South Africa when it arrives here sometime in
And what a change it will be from the two previous generations
of Opelís family-sized hatchback.
The new car has shed its mid-life tweedy approach, and as Opel
says, Astra is now all about "taut surfaces, crisp lines,
technically-crafted details and distinctive graphic
When you work your way past the jargon, the car has a
wide-stance, a front view with a touch of aggro and a taller
roofline that slopes towards the rear.
Large air intakes, clear lens light covers with projector-type
lamps and distinct wheel arch flares give the car a real hint
And from the side view, the kicked-back rear-window pillar, or
C-pillar, is traditional Opel.
The overall look is clean and crisp, although Opel couldnít
resist going big on the bright metal treatment - on the
grille, and on trim defining a styling line between the two
The new car is wider, longer and taller than the out-going
model and it has been selling well since its European
introduction in March this year. And itís likely to create a
big buzz here amongst Opel fans too.
In Europe the new Astra is available with a total of five
petrol and three diesel engines. But initially the car will be
launched here in petrol versions.
The engine range is still to be confirmed, but itís likely
to consist of a 1,6-litre, 1,8-litre and a two-litre line-up,
all being transversely-mounted four-cylinder units.
This last-mentioned engine is turbocharged. Car Torque was
lucky enough to sample the new Astra in Europe a few months
ago and we can confirm that the new two-litre engine is an
It has a zesty power delivery and crisp exhaust note
reminiscent of the Opel performance models that gained the car
such a cult following in the 1980s.
Rated at 125 kiloWatts, it produces its power low down in the
rev range, with its torque peak of 250 Newton metres delivered
between just under 2000 and 4000 rpm.
Performance claimed for then two-litre is zero to 100 in 8,9
seconds, a top speed of 217 km/h and an overall fuel
consumption of 9,1 litres/100 km.
In fact there is an even more potent version in Europe, using
the OPC 147 kilowatt engine that runs to 232 km/h with a 7,9
second 0-100 time.
Transmissions are likely to be five-speed manual for the
1,6-litre and 1,8-litre models, and a six-speed manual for the
two-litre turbo. All models will, as usual, be
The increase in size has brought real benefits to the cabin of
the Astra. Shoulder room in the front and rear has been
increased, as well as rear legroom. And despite the sloping
roofline rear headroom is also more generous.
Opel has opted for a conservative but clean interior design
with very few gimmicks. The contrasting dashboard colours are
tasteful, plastics used are probably of the highest quality
Opel has offered so far, and the centre console features large
Overseas models are offered with an optional navigation system
which is not likely to be available here on the initial launch
models, but the steering wheel will include remote controls
for audio and trip information.
Opel has been achieving very high rigidity ratings in its
recent body designs and the Astra is no exception.
This has benefits in a superior ride and also in the
all-important field of safety.
Compared with the previous Astra, Opel claim an increase in
flex resistance of 52 per cent with the new model. And at the
steering wheel mounting point, vibration has been cut by 34
Much use has been made of aluminum and high-strength steel in
the new car. This has had benefits in crash protection too.
In a frontal crash, the impact energy is absorbed along three
load paths designed into the structure. In the upper path, the
energy is diverted from the front through the wheel strut
mountings to the windscreen, or "A" pillars.
The central load path makes use of side members which extend
all the way to the "B" pillars and the side sills.
And the third load path consists of the very strong suspension
sub-frame, bolstered by strong triangular fillets. This
dissipates energy further back into the underbody of the car.
A similar system is sued for rear impacts, the energy being
dissipated along channels, or load paths formed in the body
As for side impacts, the "B" or central door pillars
are made of high-strength steel, while special reinforcement
has also been added to the doors, the seat cross-members on
the floorpan, and the central tunnel.
At the front, aluminum cross members are used, bolted to crash
boxes made of high-strength steel, and similar treatment is
given to the rear of the car.
Large volume front airbags are used, as well as side airbags
and roof airbags. These bags extend through the length of the
cabin on both sides.
Like many manufacturers, Opel also has a severity system in
place for airbag deployment, so that only the appropriate
airbags are deployed in various types of impacts.
There is also occupancy detection for airbags, and ISOFIX
child seat mountings.
In addition, active head restraints are provided for all five
passengers. In the event of a rear-end shunt, these move
forward slightly to minimize the risk of whiplash.
And for the driver, a pedal release system releases pressure
on the pedals in the event of a severe impact, minimizing leg
But itís in the ride and driving characteristics that
perhaps the biggest advance has been made on the new Astra.
The rigid body shell has enabled good suspension geometry to
be used which minimizes body roll but does not impact on ride
The overseas models also offer Opelís new Continuous Damping
Control, systems of this type previously having only been
offered on high-powered luxury and sports cars.
This system uses solenoid valves to control the dampers, or
shock absorbers, to continuously adjust the ride
characteristics to the road surface.
There is also a sporty system called IDS PLUS, standing for
Interactive Driving System.
Using this, the driver can switch to a firmer, sportier
setting, and there is also an Understeer Control Logic
function which automatically closes the throttle and if needed
brakes one or both front wheels alternatively.
When traction is regained on the outside front wheel, brake
pressure is reduced on this wheel and increased on the inner
rear wheel until the car is back on course.
An idea that will gain favour in South Africa is a trailer
stability programme. This system monitors trailer yawing, or
swaying. If a certain limit is reached, the car is
automatically slowed as the throttle is closed and the brakes
applied, until the swaying ceases.
Itís not known how many of these systems will be introduced
on the new Astra, but quite apart from the all the options, itís
the smoothness of the controls, the good feedback through the
electro-hydraulic power steering and the crisp exhaust note
that is going to impress.
And the styling. Once again there is an Opel with a very
clear-cut identity and that has been missing for a long time
Car Torque is