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13 Jul 2011 | Text and Photos by Julian Kho
Influenced by the Insignia, there's no doubt that the Astra is one of the most handsome cars in its class.
So when Opel finally launched the Astra to muscle its way through the hatchback segment, we wondered if it was going to succeed. Available in two variants, the Opel Astra holds a turbocharger underneath its bonnet and a brand new chassis within. The lower specced 1.4-litre turbo engine replaces the naturally aspirated 1.8-litre predecessor with a similar power output and a higher torque figure while the higher-end 1.6-litre powerplant is developed for Opel's fan base focusing on dynamic driving.
With our COE's Cat B at a high $56,300 (as of 19th May 2011), the downsizing of the displacement does make sense, allowing the marque to keep up with fellow powerful German competitors such as the Volkswagen Golf and the Audi A1. And with its first-in-its-segment FlexFix, Opel's innovative bike-carrier, integrated behind the rear bumper, the once uncertain brand may have found an edge to grab the hearts of the health-conscious Singaporeans.
The car may look like another ordinary hatch on photos but in real life, the new Opel Astra is a head turner. Although the German marque has been known for its outdated designs that keep evolving from previous generations, the Insignia was a fabulous turn of events and the Astra is no exception. The car gets a makeover upfront that really lifts its looks by a couple of notches.
The exterior styling is very matured and likeable. The slightly tapered bonnet with muscular curves, angular fog lamps and the huge smiling air intake give the impression that the car has a sporty side to it. But it has to be the side profile that scores the most points. The raked roofline exudes a strong coupe-like silhouette, giving it a visual excitement while the scalloped side blades enhance the Astra's sleek and clean looks.
It is no less distinctive on the rear. The rounded butt now features bigger and wider tail lights that eat into the boot space, creating a more dynamic stance. The only thing, however, that separates this hatch from the rest of the other plain Jane hatches is the afore mentioned FlexFix. Lift a cache at the edge of the boot area and the rear number plate slides out like a drawer, enabling the driver to secure two bicycles in a fuss-free manner.
For the reason that Opel hasn't been providing cars that can blow people away since its Insignia, the Astra is a relatively big leap for the German marque. The styling is a lot fresher and bolder than its instantly recognisable German peers.