The Opel Astra Sedan 1.4T Essentia AT - Stylish, Refined And Good Value

8/17/2014 4:08:54 AM

Determined to shake its misfortunes after nearly being left orphaned by parent company General Motors, Opel is on a strong product offensive. Besides updates to the Corsa range, the downscaling of the Meriva lineup to just a single value-packed model and the introduction of the limited-edition Corsa OPC Nurburgring, the marque has decided to bring back the four-door Astra after a generation-long hiatus.

Unlike other manufacturers that have launched booted versions of existing hatchback products, in the process rendering them less stylish than their donor cars, Opel seems to have hit the nail on the head with the Astra Sedan. In the metal, it is arguably the prettiest of the current-generation C-segment saloons. The rump blends seamlessly with the car's rounded proportions, with the boot largely continuing the contour of the roof. Our test team was in agreement that the Astra possesses healthy dollops of aesthetic appeal.

In Essentia trim, the 1.4T automatic tested here represents the mid-level specification that looks set to be the most popular. It makes do without the full set of bells and whistles of the range-topper, including a sunroof and park-distance control, but doesn't sacrifice comfort and convenience items.

Like the hatch, Astra sedan is likeable

Like the hatch, Astra sedan is likeable

On the outside, the 1.4T features body-coloured mirror caps and door handles, 17-inch alloy wheels and a chromed oval tailpipe and integrated boot spoiler at the rear.

Inside, it's a similarly classy affair, with dark cloth upholstery covering the front and rear pews. The second row is comfortable enough, but it is just short of sufficient legroom for taller adults. A rather questionable feature, especially considering the sticker price, is manually winding windows at the rear.

The plastics used throughout the cabin are substantial enough to make the Astra feel more premium than it is, adding to the model's perceived quality.

The charcoal-coloured fabric and dark plastics are somewhat enlivened by brushed metallic trim surrounding the gear selector, multifunction steering wheel and door handles, as well as touches of chrome on the instrument panel and facia controls. The only giveaways to the Astra's age are the red lighting of the trip computer and the size of the infotainment display.

Somewhat tricky to use due to the button count, the cabin is nevertheless solid

Somewhat tricky to use due to the button count, the cabin is nevertheless solid

Behind the wheel, it's easy to get comfortable thanks to the tilt-and-telescopic steering column and height-adjustable driver's seat. Some testers bemoaned the multitude of buttons located on the facia that cover the air-conditioning, audio system, traction control, unlocking and locking the vehicle and a separate switch to open the boot. It's particularly difficult for the driver to navigate the audio system once on the go.

Aft of the cabin, the Astra's boot is deep, but because of the curvature of the bodywork and the sloping bootlid, the aperture is rather narrow. This limits what is loadable, but the 384 dm3 is generous enough for most families. If this is not enough for the odd trawl, the rear seatback splits 60:40 and folds to allow up to 1,048 dm3 of utility room.

Whereas the entry-level model is powered by a 1.6 litre normally aspirated motor that develops 85 kW/155 Nm, and the range-topper features a 1.6-litre turbopetrol that boasts 132 kW /230 Nm, this 1.4-litre turbocharged unit sits midway with 103 kW at 4,900 r/min and 200 Nm of torque at 1,850. The motor drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.

This Essentia model features substantial 17-inch alloys

This Essentia model features substantial 17-inch alloys

At low speed and during relaxed driving, the Astra's drivetrain meets most expectations; it provides ample oomph thanks to the turbopetrol's flexibility with little noise or sign of strain.

Quick getaways are a slightly different story, however, as there is a noticeable delay before the horizon blurs. The Astra, as a vehicle aimed at family users, can't be expected to rocket to 100 km/h from rest, but the 11.6-second sprint during testing highlights the long gearing, especially in the lower ratios. It also doesn't help that the Astra weighs in at a hefty 1,449 kg.

Fortunately, once the Astra gets going, the tardiness isn't all that noticeable, especially once out of the speed constraints of residential areas. Unfortunately, the transmission does exhibit a tendency to hang onto gears for too long, particularly when coasting downhill.

Where the Astra makes up for its tardiness is scrooge-like fuel consumption. The 7.92-litre/100 km fuel-index figure was beaten on our fuel-route loop; the Opel sipped just 6.8 litres/100 km.

This Essentia model features substantial 17-inch alloys

The boot is surprisingly well integrated into the hatchback Astra's lines

The Astra's NVH suppression is impressive and, paired with the soft suspension settings, provides for cosseting journeys in and round town. Dynamically, the Astra has few flaws.

Test Summary

The Astra sedan has made a welcome return. The design is very pleasing to the eyes, fuel economy is excellent, and comfort and refinement close-to class leading.

It can't match the Jetta's overall space utilisation and semi-premium image, but it's arrived just at the right time to stand a very good chance of making an impact in the very talented C-segment.

We can't wait to pit it against the new Corolla when that car arrives in two months...

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