BY BRIAN BYRNE
IT’S a small thing, but small things can make significant differences. In the sixth-generation Opel Astra, the designers got a real musician to record the welcome and goodbye chimes, indicator sounds, and seat-belt warnings rather than using impersonal electronic beeps.
Did I notice? Probably not. Did it make a difference in my overall perception of the car. Probably yes. Because my review Astra had a sense of feel-good about it, likely made up of a wide range of features which together made a subtle whole.
Externally there’s a clean and sharp look about the latest Astra. And, though now a first cousin to the Peugeot 308 following the German brand’s acquisition by what is now the Stellantis Group, you have the feel that the German styling crew had a pretty free hand to keep the Astra as definitely one of their own. They made it look edgy compared to the French car’s comfortable curves. It works.
The shared platform brought a longer wheelbase and more room inside the new Astra. The ambience inside echoes the edginess of the exterior, with sharp lines and slices in the dashboard and trim. My SRI middle grade added slashes of colour that were contrastingly attractive. A pair of 10-inch screens (wonder why the industry sticks with inches for these things and for wheels, in a metric age?) are striking, and sensible in the information they provide and how one manages them. A mix of button and toggle switches beneath the centre screen are both practical and easy to learn. The main driver info is kept to just what’s required, so one can concentrate on driving instead of fiddling with fancy choices of views.
There was good support in my seat, and a good driving position easily found. Overall part of that feel-good ambience through the whole car.
My review Astra was a diesel. And kind of strange for that, given the numbers of electric and electrified cars I’ve been driving this year.
Opel is confident that there is still a place for diesel for those who do a lot of long distances. There is a plug-in hybrid version on the way, and from next year there’s going to be an all-electric version.
The starting engine at the moment is a 110hp 1.2 petrol. Meantime, I set out with some 1,200km of diesel range, and found it hard to make the fuel needle shift much during my time with the car. The 1.5 unit is the latest version of a familiar Ford-PSA engine design, and is well soundproofed. The 6-speed manual matches it perfectly, though my money would go for the 8-speed auto.
The overall sharp look of the car also translated into a sharp driving experience. Some of that may come psychologically due to that feel-good sense I’ve mentioned so many times already, but my diesel Astra really was a nice drive.
Debuting last year at an appropriate 30 years after the first generation Astra replaced the long-serving Kadett model, this latest Astra is a car that will carry the ‘blitz’ logo comfortably into whatever is the future of compact family motoring in Europe.
What I liked: It’s still an Opel ethos.
Price: From €27,995; review car €33,995 plus delivery.