The launch of the latest incarnation of the Opel Astra was back in May of 2016 and I was lucky enough to have cracked an invite. This was my first introduction to the car and it quickly became a favourite thanks to the total package it offered; a very good looking new body style, an abundance of new technologies and a cracking lineup of powerplants and transmissions. The daddy of the range is the Astra 1.6T Sport Plus MT, and I recently had one for a week to get reacquainted with it, and I can happily report that even though the model is a couple of years old now, it still offers more than enough to compete in the hatchback segment. In the circles I run in, people are all about power and speed and racing, and when they find out that the range-topper model is "just" a 1600cc and that there's no OPC version available, they lose interest. The thing is, this Opel Astra holds its own in every category that cars are judged in. The styling rocks, the on board tech is brilliant, the interior is as premium as it gets and yeah, the power comes from a small capacity engine but it most certainly punches above its weight.
So yeah, 1600cc isn't the norm for the big dog of the brand, but this engine is just brilliant, and of course there's boost so that makes everything better. The responsive and efficient powerplant is rated at a very healthy 147kW with torque up at 280Nm ( overboost takes it to 300Nm) and this power is enough to propel the German hatchback to the 100km/h mark in 7-seconds and runs on to a top speed of 235km/h on top. The car is fast, but the way the power is delivered makes it feel even faster, and that's not a bad thing. The torque reaches a max at just 1700rpm and with some really good, close ratios in the 6-speed manual transmission the car has you questioning why people want an OPC version. Ok sure, if there was an OPC, it would have my vote, but this one is more than enough to keep enthusiasts happy. It's pretty good on fuel too, claimed to use just 6.1 litres/100km, but that feeling of boost and the fun acceleration saw my week averaging around 8.2-litres, which still ain't bad. This really is one of my favourite engines though, I keep imagining finding a written off one and transplanting the power making goodies into my Corsa - yuuuuussss!
Inside this Astra things are very good, high-bolstered and heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, a great dash and instrument layout kick things off. Of course there's also Opel's IntelliLink infotainment system that remains one of my favourites to use. I had my USB plugged in as well as my phone connected for streaming and the hands-free function, and the standard sound system was happy to bang out everything I chucked at it, from the latest Eminem to some older Rammstein. One day we'll get Android Auto in SA and then connectivity will be even better, but iPhone users have iPlay available in the Astra and I hate them for that. As said, this thing is tech-packed, and features include the Opel Eye front camera which monitors the IntelliLux LED Matrix System and leads on to features like TSA (Traffic Sign Assistance), LDW (Lane Departure Warning), LKA (Lane Keep Assist), FDI (Following Distance Indication), FCA (Forward Collision Alert) and LSCMB (Low Speed Collision Mitigation Braking). As I did before, I'll let the press release explain the lighting, just know that all cars should have this.
IntelliLux LED Matrix Lighting
"The IntelliLux LED Matrix system consists of 8 LED light sections per headlight, which can be individually activated and in total, constitute the high beam light distribution. These are controlled via the Opel Eye front camera, which registers the preceding and on-coming traffic, as well as recognising ambient light, for example street lighting in urban areas. Driving data, such as steering angle, speed and turn indicator activation, are also added to this input. From this information the system calculates in real time which LED segments must be deactivated in order not to dazzle other road users. Because every LED segment only lights a small section of the road, any area can be darkened dynamically, following precisely the position of the detected vehicle. The area around the darkened section remains optimally lit. The benefit of the system is that there is optimal illumination of the road in every situation, while the headlights stay on high beam around the darkened section. The IntelliLux LED Matrix system also offers other automatically activated functions:
Urban light – Whenever street lighting is recognised, at under 55km/h the system switches to an optimal town headlight setting (similar to dipped beam).
Highway Light – Through specific data analysis the system recognises when the car is underway on a multi-lane highway. From 105km/h the light distribution on the left lane is reduced to exclude glaring, also when the lanes are separated by guardrails.
Country light – From 55km/h the light performance is increased.
Static Curve/Cornering Light – In response to steering wheel activation and other vehicle data, curves are illuminated at speeds between 0 and 70km/h.
Energy Saving Mode – When fitted with the Start/Stop System, IntelliLux LED Matrix system automatically goes into energy-saving mode when the vehicle is standing still.
Parking Light – Selecting reverse activates both side-orientated reflectors and the reversing lights to light the area beside and behind the car."
The Opel Astra Sport is really, really good. It's often overlooked in favour of the more performance-orientated hot hatches but it really warrants a closer look. Head over to the Opel SA website for all the details, there's a lot to take in. There's nothing it doesn't offer, every system and feature that someone could possibly want is part of the deal and it's wrapped up in a good looking body with a quality interior. Also, as far as pricing goes, this offers up a huge package (heh heh heh...) for relatively low money. The Opel Astra Sport MT is available from R458 007 and it comes with a 5-year/120 000km Warranty & Roadside Assistance; 5-year/Unlimited Kilometer Anti-Corrosion Warranty and a 5-year/90 000km Service Plan. I want someone to buy one and get it sorted out like the usual cars I see at events. One of these with a downpipe, proper exhaust, and intake and a lil software will be mad, mad fun! Of course, that's only for ballers who don't need a warranty.