german cars

No Turbo? No Fun!

2014 Opel Astra 1.6 / 115 Active

It has been a while since I drove a new car in this class without turbo. A noisy engine that has to be revved hard, modest performance and heavy on the fuel, – brings me back to the nineties.

I have taken the Astra for a test trip to La Cite in Carcassonne, France. A place kept intact from European Middle Age. No Wonder it is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Look-and-Feel3
Astra looks good in white – Summit White. 17” alloy wheels with 10 double spokes. Leather steering wheel and fog lights are the only extras. The Astra looks and feels like a true German car, both from the outside and behind the wheel. It feels safe and solid. But nothing inside makes me think of a premium car. I really dislike the two gloomy orange displays. They are cheap. No armrest between the front seats, and the contourless seats doesn’t leave any good impressions, either. I also hate the jumble of buttons on the dashboard middle console.

Driving3
The engine does feel a bit outdated when you drive it, but on paper it looks okay. The ECOTEC engine provides 115 horsepower and features VVT Technology (Variable Valve Openings). This is the entry-level motorisation. I strongly recommend to choose the new turbocharged 1.4-liter petrol engines at either 120 or 140 hp instead.

The problem with the test car’s engine is that it doesn’t have any punch unless you drive it hard, – or at least get the feeling that you are pushing it to the limit. The engine is noisy, and a lot of that noise enters into the cabin. I shift up to the fifth gear already at 60 km/h (40 mph) because of the noise. When I get to 80 (50) I get an urge to shift up, – but I can’t because there are no more gears.

With this engine you get the best torque around 4000 rpm. By that time the noise is real intrusive. But reality is still not so bad. At 3000 rpm in top gear, the speedometer shows respectfully 109 km/h (68 mph). On the motorway, in about 120 km/h (75 mph) and above, I get a better impression, however. The car feels very safe at motorway speeds – and it gives actually some driving pleasure. I think the Germans never would make a car that didn’t feel right on the Autobahn.

Aside from the engine, the car is good to drive. Suspension, steering and brakes are as I expect in a German car: Safe and responsive, – but not as responsive as the best in the class.

Comfort3
The seats in the test car are not as good as Opel’s sport seats, but not bad. They are one step up from the entry-level seats, because they seem to have some extra padding, and they seem very durable. The air conditioning with dual zone function worked fine.

Space5
The Astra has quite a long wheelbase for its class. That is the reason why the cabin feels spacious, and offers plenty of legroom. The trunk however is average for the class. It has a double floor that can be folded in, or possibly taken out completely.

Safety5
The A-pillars look quite dominant, but they do not reduce visibility. At least not for me. I think they might feel dominant for drivers who like a low seat position. Astra’s A-pillars give me a good feeling of sitting in a steel cage.

All relevant safety equipment are in place. For more active safety, it is possible to order adaptive lights and adaptive cruise Control as extra features.

Economy3
Basically, Astra is quite economical to own. Expect lower resale value than bestsellers like Volkswagen and Toyota. The fuel consumption on this car was pretty high compared to the 140 hp turbocharged engine tested previously. You can roughly calculate 50% higher consumption.

positive1
• Plenty of legroom
• Feels safe on the motorway

negative1
• Engine is noisy and not very powerful
• High fuel consumption
• Bad taste information displays
• Too many buttons on the dashboard’s center console

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