2013 OPEL ASTRA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Hot hatch
Price: $42,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.1l/100km | tested: 11.3l/100km
But Opel would like to you to conjure the letters O-P-C when you next think of a potent hatch with plenty of grunt and enough road-holding grip to challenge common sense.
It’s in a neck-and-neck battle with the RenaultSport Megane. Like the Renault, a reckless application of throttle to the 'Opel Performance Centre' Astra will jam you back into your seat.
But more than that, the OPC, again like the Renault, goes exactly where it's pointed and hauls down on command just as eagerly.
How well then does the Astra OPC handle everything from the workday commute to a fling down the Great Ocean Road?
Quality: While it seems well-built and is handsome enough to look at, the interior doesn't quite come up to the mark.
Sure, there’s nothing particularly wrong, but the hard surfaces between the doors and the dash don’t quite match, and the button-heavy centre console lose a few points.
The borrowed bits from the Cruze (steering wheel buttons, column stalks, centre console screen) also drag the tone down a little too.
But, those seats! They're beauties; finished in soft Nappa leather they bring the interior presentation right back to where it should be.
Comfort: Speaking of seats - these belong in a car costing at least another $20,000.
While the fore-aft adjustment is manual, there’s height and depth electric lumbar adjust, pneumatic bolsters for base and backrest, and even the squab length can be altered. Utterly brilliant!
They’re mounted even lower than the seats in the Astra GTC, putting you in a more race-like legs-forward stance - a side effect of that is your elbow may collide with the centre console on gear shifts.
Oh, there’s a back seat too. It wears the same leather trim, offers just enough leg and headroom to take passengers for shorter trips, and - well, just make sure you call “shotgun” if there’s any chance you might miss out on a front row ticket.
Equipment: There’s not much missing from the OPC; it comes loaded with cruise control and speed limiter, auto lights and wipers, leather trim, steering wheel and gear knob, trip computer with G-force meter and lap timer, remote keyless entry and satellite navigation.
There's also front and rear park sensors, seven speaker CD player with USB and aux-in, Bluetooth phone connectivity (but no audio streaming) 19-inch alloy wheels, and an aggressive bodykit.
Options are limited to 20-inch wheels ($1000) and Active Xenon lights ($2000), both of which were fitted to our tester and both seem worth having. There’s a premium paint option too ($695) or you can stick with Power Red and not cop a surcharge.
Storage: Astra OPC provides 380 litres behind the rear seats, but includes a high load lip to get over. Drop the split folding rear row and that space grows to 1165 litres, in case you were wondering there’s enough room to fit an adults bike in there, wheels on.
Elsewhere there’s plenty of lidded storage space, as well as long door-pockets with bottle holders.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: This is a sensational drive. Many asked, “Is it quick?” the answer: “206Kw...” brought whistles of disbelief from those who asked.
Few expect such a compact rocket to have so much urge, but with 206kW at 5300 rpm and 400Nm from 2400rpm until 4800rpm, blistering urgency is an absolute given.
But all that power would count for nothing if it wasn’t convincingly fed to the tarmac, and Opel’s HyPerStrut front-end does that job magnificently. On dry roads there’s only the smallest hint of tug at the wheel, and you have to launch hard to feel it.
Wide rubber helps too, and 245mm at each corner means the Astra sticks to corners like a cat to carpet. Try as we might to shake the rear end loose through tight bends, all we got was grip and plenty of it.
Come in too hot and there’s a touch of oversteer, but otherwise the Astra OPC points wherever the wheels are pointed.
If it isn’t a Sunday arvo mountain assault you’re after, down low the Astra maintains the civility of its lesser brethren. The clutch is surprisingly light, and the gearshift slides easily through its gate.
If anything we’d ask for a stronger synchromesh into second gear. Launch hard, and if you haven’t quite got a perfect rev-match you’ll encounter the sickening groan of a gearbox that refuses to slide into the next cog.
Refinement: Should a hot hatch, built with the aim of conquering track days, be concerned with refinement? Probably not, but the Astra OPC has that covered too.
From start up, there’s an obviously sporting timbre to the exhaust note, but the engine doesn’t rock any harder on its mounts, and although the noise rises and falls with the accelerator, its harmless enough.
Until 4000rpm or so - then the noise builds to a wild crescendo of - well, whooshing. It’s like someone’s let a Hoover off the chain in the boot. All the while the engine, induction and road noise side of things stays rather calm.
Suspension: The HyPerStrut front end is responsible for keeping all the front-wheel-drive power delivery gremlins at bay, but there’s also FlexRide dampers (you may know it as Magnetic Ride Control in HSVs).
These can be stiffened at the push of a button. At the same time, the steering weight and throttle mapping changes, through three stages.
Importantly, those dampers allow the fitment of monster 20-inch rims, without sacrificing ride comfort. It's a very very good system, and a proper performance setup.
Braking: Up front, 355mm cross-drilled and vented front rotors are clamped by four-piston Brembo calipers, with 315mm cross-drilled solid rotors and sliding-caliper brakes at the rear.
Without being too aggressive or jerky, the OPC brakes can wash off speed with great efficiency. The pedal doesn’t give complete feedback - but its lively enough underfoot and feels right for the weight of the car.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars (based on Astra GTC)
Safety features: Six airbags are joined by electronic stability control with traction control, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, front seatbelt pretensioners and an electronic park brake with hill hold.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, 100,000km warranty, as well as Opel Assist Plus offering roadside assist with options for transportation and accommodation.
Service costs: Under Opel’s Service Plus program, scheduled servicing costs for the Astra OPC are capped at $349 per service for the first three years or 45,000km of ownership.
Service intervals are set for every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Scirocco R ($47,990) - Volkswagen gives the Scirocco a kind of ‘image leader’ billing, particularly seeing as the more practical AWD Golf R is also on offer. Consider this the 'sex sells' model - it just so happens to pack a fair sporting punch too.
Sadly, it lacks a little oomph thanks to a detune for longevity in Australia’s harsh hotter climate.
It’s also looking a little dated on the inside, costs most in this company and isn't quite as proficient at getting its power down. (see Scirocco reviews)
Renault Megane RS 265 Cup ($42,640) - This is a machine that, although burdened with the name of a grocery getter, is really a purpose built, chicane-destroying masterpiece.
Things like leather trim are absent, and there’s a few less ways to adjust the front buckets, but show it a winding road and all will be forgiven.
Slightly down on power and torque, but tuned to do more low in the rev range, the Megane RS265 is both muscular and precise. (see Megane reviews)
Ford Focus ST ($38,290) - On a budget and haunted by pesky considerations like rear seat practicality? Try the Focus ST.
Not far off the pace of the Astra or Megane, but with five-doors and enough change left in the budget for a few mods, should you require.
A boot and rear seat that are easy to access and built to be used help as well - not to mention a modern interior, plus (if it matters) more fuel efficient to boot. (see Focus reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Could we live with an Astra OPC in the garage?
Undeniably, yes! Where you’d normally expect a hottie like this to crash through potholes and jar your spine at every expansion joint, the Astra OPC simply doesn’t - it rides as well as a base model Astra.
It also packs more fruit than a Renault Megane RS 265, (which may appeal to some). It holds the road more securely than Volkswagen’s Scirocco R and it has a bloodlust that’s not quite there in a Focus ST.
This is a well rounded and very affordable package - turn a blind eye (or a deaf ear) to the exhaust-rush at high revs and there’s no way you could be disappointed with the Astra OPC’s thoroughly engineered breadth of ability.
We love it; a test drive is sure to impress.
- Astra OPC - six-speed manual - $42,990
- 20-inch alloy wheels - $1000
- Premium Paint - $695
- Premium Lighting Pack - $2000
Note: prices are RRP and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.