With good reason, Opel has long enjoyed a stable place in the Irish market. With a logo that is filed in our national psyche next to memories of Jack Charlton’s halcyon days, the brand has long been associated with that golden era of Ireland when we were proud to be a robust, dependable, and functional people – and arguably no other car captured that spirit more than the Astra.
Fast forward 20 years and the collective identity crises of both Opel and the Irish nation have settled into sync once again. A single glance at the new saloon model is enough to make it clear that here is a new breed of Astra in town.
The latest generation of Opel cars signifies a boost of new energy in the brand, and the new Astra sits stylishly among the fresh-faced fleet.
Without a doubt it is the visual leap from the hatchback that is most immediately noticeable in this model. The saloon version of the Astra boasts a sleek and distinguished aesthetic that flows from the burnished exterior to the subdued interior finish. This iteration seems to be less of a benevolent workhorse and more elegant executive, closer in style though smaller in stature to Opel’s stalwart Insignia.
The test car offered came with the standard 1.6 CDTi engine, which performs incredibly quietly, particularly in comparison to the last generation’s 1.7-litre engine. It’s a smooth ride getting around the city and suburbs, with a fairly economical fuel consumption thanks to the start/stop set up.
Take the car out onto long stretches though, and you can really get a feel for what the Astra is built for. An optional Flex Ride system adds to the enjoyment: sport mode stiffens the shock absorbers, so the car grips more firmly to the road surface, steering support is lessened as it is intended for straight line driving, and acceleration becomes noticeably more responsive – it also switches all the main instrument lighting to red, which, it must be said, does make you feel at least three times as cool.
A tour mode does practically the opposite with the shocks, allowing a more comfortable drive, but even on the standard set up, the Astra is exceptionally comfortable on the motorway.
The interior is classy and understated, with perforated leather facing seats and a clean matte finish on the dash. Housing a seven-inch sat nav unit, the Navi950 system will also stream your music, handle calls, and read your texts aloud. Combined with the climate controls (including heated seats) and radio, the array of buttons is daunting at first look, but you’ll have it down within the day.
There’s ample space in the back seats, and an absolutely massive boot that will no doubt make this car appealing to those looking for a functional family car that offers more style than most.
Overall a solid drive, the new Astra saloon should carve out its own niche in the market. A base price from €19,495 makes it more attractive, but much of the long haul comfortable appeal is tied up in the extras which can bump this model up to around €25,000.