Donning the OPC_Line Body Kit, the exterior is aerodynamic, fluid and sleek. Exuding a sportier charm, I prefer the looks of the Astra hatchback to that of the sedan. Forward illumination is provided by an IntelliLux LED Matrix Lighting System which features both adaptive-forward lighting and automatic headlamp dynamic control augmented by auxiliary fog-lamps, LED DRL’s and cornering lights.

The cabin offers the distinct solitude that separates the outside world from the world within – sound insulation cancels-out both road noise and tyre rumble. Hallmarks of German perfectionism, the cabin is polished, robust and minimalist. In-car-entertainment includes a premium 6-speaker sound system, 20cm IntelliLink Infotainment Touchscreen, with Bluetooth, GPS-navigation, and a voice-command integrated multifunction steering wheel. Ergonomics are of the highest standard, the AGR-Certified front-seats offer a range of optimal seating positions – 4-Way Lumbar support and lateral bolsters help reduce driver fatigue. To cater for the Winter months, the steering wheel, as well as both the front and rear seats are heated – a complement to the cabin’s emphasis on comfort, quality, protection and space. Ranked as one of the safest vehicles in the world. The Opel Astra passed the Euro NCAP safety test with distinctions, and was awarded 5-Stars for adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, pedestrian protection and safety assist. Premium safety features include,  following distance-forward collision alert with low-speed collision mitigation braking, traffic sign recognition and blind-spot monitoring-lane keep assist: I could not imagine my family and I in a safer vehicle than the Opel Astra.

Flat-out through a series of tight turns and opening radii – the chassis/suspension elicits a predictable feedback with ample reserves of mid-range torque; lateral acceleration and corner exit speed is analogous of an all-wheel-drive sportscar than that of a front-wheel drive hatch-back. It steers with alacrity and brakes with tenacity – left-foot trail-braking feels more like an art than it does a task. The 147kw, 1.6 turbocharged engine, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission together produce 280nm of torque. On a combined fuel-cycle, the powertrain delivers an impressive 7l/100km but only 95-Octane petrol please! Denoting of the Astra’s low-centre of gravity and balanced weight-distribution is a homogenous fit to the Bridgestone Turanza 225/40/R18’s prolific levels of grip. Which only reveals the Astra’s European flair for slippery surfaces and wet weather driving conditions. The Opel Astra Turbo Sport is the epitomy of versatility: in-flux as a mom’s taxi, a fuel-efficient city runabout, a comfortable tourer, or an executive fast-paced hatchback. Seamless gear-changes are suggestive of the Astra’s brilliant transmission – quickened by the sport mode function; you would expect Opel to add paddle-shift to the options list – but you can always opt for a sunroof.

I have no gripes about the Opel Astra Sport 1.6T – “oh wait…I do have one,” but it is with Opel. At R508 000! Opel have priced the Astra at the half-a-million Rand psychological price-point – considering that both the Audi A3 35TFSI S-Line and the 40TFSI Sportback are cheaper. Which also explains the overall indisposition towards the Astra, yet it competes with the best of what the premium vehicle segment has to offer, and is therefore worthy of greater accolade. However, drive the Opel Astra 1.6T Sport Auto! And it will all make sense – including the price tag.

Written by Dean Joseph