VIDEO / TESTIt will take until the beginning of next year before the new Opel Astra is in the showroom. Nevertheless, our car editors were already allowed to go on the road with the next generation of Opel’s blockbuster, albeit in disguised (and hand-built) prototypes. What does the next Astra have to offer?
It must be a curious sight for the unsuspecting hikers in the hills near the German city of Rüsselsheim, that procession of brightly colored cars hurtling through the landscape at above-average speeds. Is it the advertising caravan of a local cycling classic? None of that: behind the wheel of the cars are the developers of the new generation Opel Astra, in the company of a few motoring journalists.
In the front car – a larger Insignia – Andreas Holl is at the controls. The friendly but serious German is also known as the ‘chassis guru’ of the new Astra, because as head of Vehicle Dynamics he is responsible for the driving behavior of the next generation. It should be on the market in 2022, but the colorfully stickered copies of today are only 80 percent ready. That is why Opel provides the cars with psychedelic stickers and concealing fake parts, while the (still secret) interior is hidden under black cloths. The Astra of the future is still in development and these expensive, hand-built prototypes are used for better testing.
It soon becomes apparent that Holl is not playing games: his Insignia GSi spears controlled but with an awe-inspiring pace from corner to corner. ,,I advise you to choose your own speed, but just feel what the car is doing’, it sounds defiantly through the walkie-talkie. Roughly finished asphalt thumps under the wheels, the car jumps enthusiastically over bumps and the suspension tuned by Holl has to work hard to keep the exuberantly camouflaged Opel on course. Meanwhile, the sensors are working overtime: the traction control has not yet been optimally adjusted, so that the Astra now and then gets restless braking interventions. The test cars are tortured in a controlled manner, which is quite different from a careful test drive on a closed factory site.
Not finished yet
Why does a car brand let critical journalists drive cars that are far from finished? “Because we are curious about your feedback,” explains development boss Holl. ,,We have been working on this new generation for four years now, here from Rüsselsheim. The car was conceived, developed and will soon be built here, but we would like to know what you think of it. If thanks to this ‘validation drives’ If interesting points emerge, we can still adapt them to the final production version.”
The new Astra comes at a special moment: this will be the first generation of Opel’s compact mid-sized car that was not developed under the banner of the old parent company General Motors (GM). Today, Opel belongs to Stellantis, which also makes Citroën, Peugeot, DS and Fiat. Technically, the upcoming Astra is very similar to the also brand new Peugeot 308, although Andreas Holl quickly becomes defensive in that comparison: ,,This is certainly more than a Peugeot with an Opel logo. For example, from the very first moment we work on our own adjustment of the springs and dampers, for example we use our patented ‘bump stop’ to drive tight but comfortably over thresholds and the Astra gets a different calibration of the power steering.”
Holl and his team are still working on the set-up, which should give the car a ‘typical Opel character’. ,,Take the steering wheel: an Opel has to react immediately as soon as the driver turns the wheel. But ‘immediate’ is different from ‘quick’, we don’t want the car to get too nervous. We are also working on a fairly sleek chassis, but with the right degree of comfort. The Astra should emphatically not drive like a Peugeot: if the two brands were too similar, we would kill ourselves.”
Apart from the details and the set-up of the car, Opel shops to its heart’s content on the shelves of the new parent company. For example, the Astra is on the same floor plate as the 308 and it also gets the same engines. The price list will soon start with a 1.2-liter turbo engine on petrol, which is available with 110 and 130 horsepower on request. In addition, two variants of the plug-in hybrid appear: in that case, the Astra can be partially charged with a plug and drive about 50 kilometers per charge thanks to a battery pack of 12.4 kilowatt hours. This version delivers 180 or 225 horsepower, which is significantly more than the 145 horsepower of the outgoing Astra.
The question of whether there will also be a fully electric variant, Opel has been somewhat nervous to date. But the fact that Peugeot has already set the prospect of such a version of the 308, gives good hopes of an Astra without a combustion engine. Until then, the first impression of the plug-in hybrid is very good: the ample power of the electric motor allows you to accelerate smoothly and quietly, which is good news for driving comfort at low speeds. The current model does not always excel in that, partly because of a somewhat moped engine. The fact that Opel is focusing on luxury and comfort with the upcoming Astra is also apparent from the fact that all models have a laminated windscreen as standard to keep unwanted driving noises out of the cabin.
Another big difference compared to its Peugeot brother: the Astra gets a completely different interior. In the prototypes, Opel is doing its best to keep the final shape a secret, but it is clear that each copy will have two large digital screens that are housed in one wide panel. In the cheaper versions it is made of plastic, the top model gets a glass one – complete with a matted top edge to prevent unwanted sparkles. Partly due to the lack of a ‘roof’, it looks sleek and modern and although Opel has a ‘Autobahn-proof operation’ (i.e. easy to operate at a higher speed), it will take a while before we can definitively assess how pleasant the Astra cockpit can be operated.
It is already certain that the Astra will be more spacious and user-friendly on the inside. For example, the storage space between the front seats is significantly increased thanks to a higher tunnel console, the rear passengers have more room for their legs and the new generation receives (at an additional cost) a height-adjustable luggage compartment floor. Although the trunk of the test cars was still kept out of sight of our cameras, Opel also reveals that the Astra – in addition to five passengers – can take at least 422 liters of luggage. A new station wagon based on the five-door hatchback shown here will also follow later in 2022. In July of this year, the stickers will disappear and Opel will officially unveil the Astra, after which the first test with the production version will appear in the autumn.
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This is the ‘secret’ Opel Astra of 2022 (and that’s how it drives) | Car
Source link This is the ‘secret’ Opel Astra of 2022 (and that’s how it drives) | Car