2021 Opel Astra
– Nicely trimmed inside
– Top-rung cabin tech as standard
– No-hassle driving experience
– Priced at higher end of segment
– Some rivals offer more space
– Some highway road/wind noise
Opel is back with a quiet bang to the UAE. The brand formerly sold by General Motors (GM) to Peugeot (PSA) is now a part of the Stellantis conglomerate that now includes the Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) group. So the 2021 Astra we are driving may very well be the last Opel that’s still based on a GM platform under the skin.
The Astra is a smart-looking compact hatchback, nothing flashy, but attempting to be a bit playful with the optional black-painted top and 18-inch wheels. The dark overall paintjob on our test car gives the car a stealthy look.
The interior is well-trimmed, with a padded dash and upper door trim, but going the extra mile with stitched-leatherette centre-console lining, a chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel, piano black plastics and well-bolstered leather-alcantara seats with extendable thigh support. Lower panels are hard plastics, but that’s normal for this segment.
Cabin space is good, with generous rear legroom and overall headroom. There are bottle-holders and pockets on all doors as well as cover-less cup-holders up front, but there are no cup-holders in the centre armrest for rear passengers. The boot is of a good size, with bag hooks and tie-down rings along the sides, but the overall volume is a bit less than some rivals, and the floor isn’t fully flat when the rear seats are folded down.
Features in our well-specced test car include an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation. Dating back to Opel’s GM era, you’ll instantly recognise the interface if you’re coming from a Chevy or a GMC. It’s a good enough system with intuitive icons and buttons, and decently responsive to touch inputs.
Other features include a good sound system, 2 USB ports up front, rear camera, keyless entry, parking sensors, LED headlights and tails, sunroof, power-folding mirrors, and all auto up-down power windows. Smart key and start-button options are also standard on 2021 models.
The dual-zone auto a/c takes a while to get going, but is very cold after that initial start-up (at least on a warm Dubai winter afternoon). However, there are no rear vents.
Standard safety features include a full set of airbags and active safety tech such as lane departure warning and prevention, blind-spot monitoring and ESP, among other essentials.
Powered by a 1.4-litre turbo 4-cylinder making 140 hp at 5000 rpm and 200 Nm of torque in the 1850-4900 rpm range, the Astra isn’t particularly quick, but it is more than enough for city streets and cruises along fine on highways.
The turbo motor offers generally linear power delivery, forgoing that strong initial kick that defines turbo cars. We managed a 0-100 kph run of 10.5 seconds.
Combined with the 6-speed automatic’s tall gearing and start-stop, we eked out fuel economy of 10.3 litres/100 km (9.7 km/litre) in mixed driving styles. It’s officially rated at 6.4 km/litre.
It’s a very nice daily driver, with nicely-weighted controls and responsive steering erring on the lighter side, making city manoeuvres a breeze.
The ride is generally comfortable on most roads. There is some noise and harshness from the lower-profile 225/40 tyres wrapping the 18-inch wheels, but not particularly excessive. However, the wind and road noise becomes fairly noticeable at 120 kph.
The handling is pretty good, largely stable with limited body roll and no lumpiness on quick direction changes. The tyres offer good grip and the brakes work well with linear pedal feel.
The Opel Astra is a pretty good car, offering European driving dynamics with a touch of American tech thanks to its mixed roots. It’s trimmed nicely and comes loaded with features, so it’s on the pricier side for this segment. Opel may be aiming for a semi-premium niche with this one.
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Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
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