Opel Astra OPC review

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Simply put, the Opel Astra OPC is one of the most uncivilised hot hatches to grace South African roads. There’s no subtlety or civility about it. It was designed to look fast, be fast and dominate the track as well as the road.

Opel Astra OPC aggressive looks and styling

Have you ever seen a more aggressive, unruly hot hatch? It sits lower and wider than its lesser-powered GTC coupe sibling, and thanks to great touches like 20-inch alloy wheels, gaping air intakes and a bright paintjob, it really looks the part. Daytime-running LEDs add to the visual appeal.  As for that colour, the OPC looks like it drove over some Smurfs. It’s certainly eye-catching.

Powerful 2.0-litre engine

So it looks mean, but can it deliver in the performance stakes? How does 206kW and 400Nm from a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder sound?

Mechanically 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines have never really satisfied in terms of noise, but thanks to some clever tweaks to the exhaust and intake the Astra OPC offers a weapons-grade soundtrack. As the revs start to build, the turbocharger starts powering up and the resulting sound can be compared to a fighter jet with full afterburners.

This noise is greatly exaggerated when you fold the back seats down, allowing the exhaust note to reach the cabin. Lift off the gas or blip the throttle on downshift, and you’re treated to some small backfires out the twin pipes. As far as hot hatches go, the Astra OPC is an audio treat. I’ve never encountered such a violent sound upon hard acceleration and Opel is to be commended for being unsubtle in its quest to make a candidate for the ultimate hot hatch.

Performance-orientated driving experience

Those performance figures mean the Astra OPC is no slouch and gets up to the national speed limit in a brisk and loud fashion. While it impressed in overtaking ability and acceleration, I enjoyed how composed it was on a tight and twisty road. Most front-wheel drive hot hatches would understeer themselves into the nearest tree, but the OPC has a brilliant suspension setup called FlexRide and HiPerStrut as well as a mechanical limited slip differential.

Space limitations mean I can’t explain how these systems work but to put it simply, you can put your foot flat in a corner and there’s no loss of grip. It’s frightening how fast the Astra OPC can go around the tightest of bends without any hint of wheel spin or loss of grip.

When you look at the component suppliers for this vehicle you can see Opel only wanted the best in the high-performance business. Brembo brakes, Drexler specially developed the mechanical limited-slip differential and ZF Sachs-tuned suspension settings all mean the OPC is very fast. Let’s not forget the Pirelli-supplied tyres either…

Then there are the three driving modes. Eco mode is self-explanatory, Sport sharpens up the throttle response and makes the suspension a little firmer. OPC mode is best saved for the smoothest of open roads or a race track, as the results are brutal. The dashboard lighting goes from white to red: a sign that things are going to become extreme. The accelerator pedal becomes very responsive and the suspension stiffens to rock hard: a little uncomfortable for the public road, hence my suggestion to head to a race track.

The downside of this performance is that you pay for it at the pumps. The Opel Astra OPC has fuel-saving tech in the form of Start/Stop and an ECO mode, but that won’t see your fuel consumption figure dip below 11L/100km. I tried my best and could only get 11.8L/100km. Do I care? Not a chance. It’s worth it.

Opel Astra OPC cabin and features

The interior is decent, but doesn’t feel luxurious – a problem when you’re spending near R500k for a hot hatch. While the Nappa leather adjustable bucket seats are quite easily the best in class, the intense myriad of buttons is daunting at first glance and it took me some time to figure out which button does what. Then there’s that LCD screen. While it’s adequate for lesser-powered Astras, I feel the flagship OPC deserves something better like a colour screen. Surely the touchscreen infotainment system from sister brand Chevrolet’s Lumina would be more appropriate?

You get a decent amount of kit fitted as standard to the Astra OPC. There’s a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, high-quality audio system, automatic Xenon lights which swivel as you turn, auto wipers, G-force meter, lap timer, rear park distance control as well as a double decker boot. It also features back seats which are usable by adults.

Plenty of boot space comes at a price though, as you don’t get a spare wheel. There is a tyre repair kit in its place.  It’s safe too with six airbags, stability control, brake assist as well as an electronic park brake which offers hill hold assist.

Opel Astra OPC price in South Africa

You can get yourself an Opel Astra OPC for only R453 500.

Opel Astra OPC review conclusion

Many who saw the OPC’s R450k price tag expressed horror and I too was a little disappointed in how much it cost. When you consider other offerings like the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI, the OPC looks silly. Then I had a revelation. Opel couldn’t care less about the GTI and the ST. Those cars offer less in terms of ability and sheer enjoyment, and the Astra OPC is actually aimed at the likes of the new Audi S3, BMW M135i and Volkswagen’s R products. When you consider the R498 000 price tag of the BMW and the R474 500 for the Audi, you have to wonder how much more car you’re getting for the extra money.

Why you should:

One of the most badass cars around, superb handling, stellar power combined with addictive engine note, one for the enthusiasts.

Why you shouldn’t:

Raw power may be too much for day-to-day, thirsty, the front lip scrapes on speedbumps and driveways.

It would be better if:

That dated LCD screen in the centre dashboard. Surely there’s a more modern version lying around in the GM parts bin? Make that fuel tank bigger.

Competitors worth checking out:

Audi S3, BMW M135i, Volkswagen Golf R, Volkswagen Scirocco R, Renault Megane RS265 Trophy

Opel Astra OPC gallery