A sportier-clad version of the flagship Opel Astra, replete with a 6-speed auto transmission mated with a 1.6-litre turbopetrol engine, was recently launched in South Africa. Can generous spec and a purposeful body kit, which distinguishes the newcomer from the rest of the range, justify the 1.6T Sport OPC-line's premium price tag?
We Like: Punchy engine, good ride/handling balance, many standard features, practicality
We Don’t Like: OPC-Line kit could be more striking, pricey – given its moderate performance.
- Price: R508 000
- Engine: 1.6-litre turbopetrol
- Power: 147 kW
- Torque: 280 Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Fuel Consumption: 6.1 L/100 km
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What is it?
Can you spot the differences between this Astra Sport OPC-Line and the standard Astra?
The Opel Astra is, in our opinion, a good looking car, but if we are honest, this particular 1.6T Sport OPC-Line looks less than imposing (we blame the appliance-white exterior finish) – you could be forgiven for thinking that it looks just like a run-of-mill Astra. The devil, however, is in the detail and, upon closer inspection, you are more likely to notice the newcomer's new-look OPC bumper treatment with chrome detailing, colour-coded door handles, a chrome beltline and -exhaust tips, plus the 18-inch alloy wheels. As for special sporty details on the inside, the cabin is adorned with alloy sport pedals, a sports steering wheel, dark-tinted rear and side glass and lastly, a South African favourite, an (optional) tilt and slide sunroof.
How it fares in terms of…
Engine performance and efficiency
Delivering more punch and reasonable fuel consumption, the Astra is a solid all-around performer.
While the letters OPC (the abbreviation for Opel Performance Centre) will undoubtedly remind you of the previous-generation Astra OPC, which had an unruly 206 kW/400 Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged motor wedged in its engine bay, this is not an Astra OPC by any stretch of the imagination.
In fact, apart from the few cosmetic details mentioned above, this is just another Astra 1.6T Sport, albeit with a 6-speed automatic transmission, as opposed to the manual 'box, with which it was launched in 2016. The OPC-Line is, however, far from being impotent – with peak outputs of 147 kW and 280 Nm developed by its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, the test unit delivered strong pace off the line with good mid-range acceleration too. Opel claims a zero-to-100 kph time of 7.8 seconds, but it’s not nearly hot enough to run something like a Volkswagen Golf GTI close, for example.
It does have enough shove to execute brisk overtaking manoeuvres on the highway and, while we found the auto transmission offered reasonably good shifting performance, it’s not as sharp, snappy or even as smooth as the DSG employed in the GTI. With the Sport button engaged, you will notice a marginal improvement in throttle response, but there’s nothing really to get very excited about. Engine refinement is admirable, however.
Opel claims a fuel consumption figure of 6.1 L/100 km for this derivative and we saw returns of around 8.0 L/100 km, which were satisfactory.
So, although the 1.6T Sport OPC-Line's powertrain refinement and efficiency are commendable, its performance is spirited – as opposed to eager. Although the Astra flagship derivative is no slouch, it doesn't offer enough grunt to be particularly thrilling to drive.
Ride and handling
Ride and handling is one of the Astra's strongest attributes.
For what it lacks in outright pace (or a sonorous engine note), the 1.6T Sport OPC-Line excels in the ride and handling department. Its ride quality straddles the line between firm/sporty and pliant/comfort-oriented. The steering is on the lighter side and nicely-weighted with sufficient feedback and, to its further credit, the Astra feels particularly adept at cornering; it takes changes of direction in its stride without exhibiting excessive body roll. It’s composed and surefooted when you need it to be and it’s more than comfortable enough to drive daily and undertake longer out-of-town trips.
Interior execution and features
A smattering of standard kit makes adds significant value to the overall package. Those leather sports seats are very comfortable too...
We’ve always praised the Astra for its above-average interior build quality and the cabin's quality look and feel. We do have a gripe with the black piano trim, which attracts dust and fingerprints, but apart from that, the interior is smart and comes generously equipped with standard features.
The sports seats are trimmed in Siena leather and offer high levels of comfort and support with good bolstering and height adjustment for both the driver and front passenger. All the seats are heated, as is the multifunction steering wheel, which is always welcome on a cold winter morning.
A comprehensive Navi 900 IntelliLink 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with integrated navigation is fitted and, despite the Astra's relatively advanced age (4 years), the setup incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. USB and auxiliary ports are also provided.
Other notable standard features include Intellilux LED Matrix headlights (with automatic headlamp levelling, dynamic control and adaptive forward lighting), dual-zone climate control, electric windows all round and electric folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear park distance control (including Advanced Park-Assist, if you'd like the Opel to neatly park itself) and a reverse-view camera.
In terms of safety features, no fewer than 6 airbags are fitted as standard as well as ABS with EBD, brake assist, hill start assist, blind spot alert, stability control with traction control and ISOFIX child-seat mounts. The standard Driver Assistance Pack 1 adds forward-collision alert, following distance- and lane-keep assist indicators, low-speed collision mitigation braking, as well as a traffic-sign recognition system.
The Astra is a practical daily runner and rear passengers will enjoy generous legroom.
The Astra feels spacious inside and rear passengers will find legroom to be generous, which improves comfort significantly for adults of average height, especially on those longer journeys. The load bay measures (a claimed) 370 litres, which compares favourably with other offerings in this segment. The rear seats are split in a 40:20:40 configuration and fold completely flat for easy loading of bulkier items.
There are 2 cup holders up front and sufficient space to store bottles in all the doors, as well as a central bin to keep valuable items out of sight.
Price and warranty
The Opel Astra 1.6T Sport OPC-Line is priced at R508 000 (June 2019) and is sold with a 3-year/120 000 km warranty, 5-year/90 000 km service plan, 3-year/120 000 km roadside assistance and a 12-year/unlimited km anti-corrosion warranty.
The Astra 1.6T Sport OPC-Line offers very good value, but, at the price, lacks performance and badge appeal.
As an all-rounder, this Astra 1.6T Sport OPC-Line is difficult to fault in terms of its general performance, an extensive list of standard features and overall practicality. Despite the fact that the market for a C-segment hatchback is treacherous unless you're selling a GTI (or a rival to the GTI), Opel believes the market needs a well-specced, warm compact hatchback. To its credit, few, if any, rival offerings can match the Astra's standard features and, objectively, it offers great value compared with entry-level premium-badged hatchbacks, even if it can't match those cars' brand appeal.
As for the OPC-Line accoutrements, consider it an exercise in snappy packaging, because, from a performance perspective, we don’t think the 1.6T Sport Auto offers quite enough to justify its R508 000 price tag. If it’s driving thrills you are after then it might be worth the additional R60k to step into a GTI or Megane RS 280, or better still, trawl the used car market where you can get better performance bang-for-buck for less.
What's more, if practicality trumps performance in your list of motoring priorities, then perhaps it’d be wiser to opt for the Astra 1.4T Enjoy automatic. It still offers a good spread of features, including Driver Assistance Pack 1, and 110 kW and 245 Nm of torque from its smaller turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, which is roughly 75 to 80% of the outputs offered by the OPC-Line derivative, for a much more affordable price of R389 589.
Ultimately, the 1.6T Sport OPC-Line is a rarity in our market: a German-made car that wants for little, if anything, in the way of standard features. But, given how the Astra nameplate is now a left-field choice, where it once was a market staple (which is not a positive indicator for solid future resale values), perhaps the purchase of the top-spec derivative, from brand new, warrants extra careful consideration. That is not to say that the Opel is a disappointment, quite the contrary; perhaps there are more buyers who want a practical family hatchback (with a modicum of sporty styling and a plethora of interior and safety features), who don't mind if their pricey purchase doesn't perform like a hot hatch, than we think...
Don’t agree with our verdict? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below…