Astra-nomical | 

Opel’s latest version of their Astra has to be one of the cars of the year

“Some say diesel is dead. They are wrong. Others say manual is dead. They would also be wrong”

The new Astra in cobalt

Daragh KeanySunday World

Last week I told you how Opel had missed the mark with their updated Grandland. It was out of unmatched expectancy rather than actually being a really poor car. It just kind of ambled along into my life and then unremarkably ambled out again. It was, as I said, grand.

So, with that in mind I want you to feast your eyes on the all new Astra. I’m not even going to tease it our here and build up to a big finish. Spoiler alert: this is an amazing car. I love everything about it.

Okay, so that’s not entirely true. There are random dashes of red panelling inside that look like they are a mistake. If they matched the exterior paint job I would be here lauding them, but they are red. And my car was blue. Which made them slightly jarring.

But they are small and insignificant, so I am able to look passed them. Now for the fun stuff.

This is a gorgeous, exciting, safe, economical and inexpensive car that should certainly be a contender for car of the year in November.

Some say diesel is dead. They are wrong. Others say manual is dead. They would also be wrong.

This Astra comes in man forms but my test car for the week was the 1.5 diesel 6-speed manual in the SRI trim. To own it would cost you just €33,995 but you can actually own a brand new Astra from as little as €27,995. Yes, you read that right.

It was also in a jaw-dropping cobalt blue and it took me 1200km across Ireland as I drive it from Dublin to Dingle to Rosslare and back to Dublin again.

Throw in a few urban commutes and summer camp drop offs and I can categorically say, hand on heart, it got the full comprehensive test. From motorways to boreens and everything in between was no bother to this surprisingly impressive beast.

A full tank boasts over 1000km on the tank and I realistically got 850-900 out of it which is above any car I’ve driven this year.

It also comes in automatic, but I loved this manual transmission so much. It adored to be tested at every gear change when you wanted a bit of excitement. Yet it was easy to drive when you wanted a stress-free journey across the country the day after a pal’s wedding.

Anyway, enough of the fawning. You want to know what you actually get in this car. Don’t you?

The new styling means Opel has introduced black lower side window mouldings, sport style front and rear bumpers, a lovely Black Pack which includes a black Opel logo, a high gloss black Astra rear badge and black roof to match the 17” Kadett black alloy wheels.

Opel has also given the new Astra their Vizor nose, which was introduced in the Mokka and seems to have been heralded as the new norm. It didn’t work perfectly on the Grandland but it definitely works here.

In my SRI trim I got a heated, perforated leather, 3-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel with power-assisted steering and wheel-mounted audio, phone and cruise controls.

There are heated front-row sports AGR seats which add to the experience. They are far from racing seats but they are slightly more moulded than your average hatchback car on the market.

There is a lovely little 10” colour touchscreen with the complementary 10” digital driver instrument cluster behind the wheel. There is the now-normal wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto [plus there is Opel Connect capabilities for those who wish to subscribe.

Safety wise it is all there too…the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), an Electronic Braking Distribution (EBFD), forward collision alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, traffic-sign recognition, hill start assist and keyless entry.

Other features that were very welcome throughout my epic road trip were the electronic climate control: dual zone, solar absorbing front, rear side and tailgate windows, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, centre rear seat armrest and load-through facility, front and rear parking sensors and a rear view (360 degree panoramic) camera.

This is the sixth-generation Astra and in my opinion by far the best. It is pitted against some huge names in the automotive industry. When you are in the market for an Astra you are also in the market for a Golf, a Focus and a Corolla.

There is another player in town and it is the Astra’s stable mate the Peugeot 308, which like this here has had a much-needed and highly-appraised 2022 overhaul. Two utterly brilliant cars that will rock the more established models listed above.

I am a bit of a weirdo when it comes to cars. My love of numbers and lists has me automatically ranking cars in my head (I’m not a freak that actually writes out my lists) and I have found my new favourite Opel.

For years it was the Mokka e (specifically in Mamba green) but now the Astra has leapfrogged it into top spot (aim for electric yellow or cobalt blue). And I also have to stick a giant asterisk in here and state that I haven’t been behind the wheel of the new Manta EV.

Will it be top spot in the sales rankings at the end of the year? It may well be. Will it be top spot in the juror’s rankings at the Irish Car of the Year…well, that’s an unpredictable cauldron of egos and opinions with dozens of new cars in the mix.

But I guarantee you one thing…none of us jurors will be able to rule it out straight away.

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