Joel Helmes road tests and reviews the 2012 Opel Astra Sport.
A decade ago the Astra was a stand-out model for Holden. Australian buyers were attracted to the hatchbacks good looks, European feel and reasonable pricing.
Despite this success the Astra name suddenly disappeared in 2009.
However, after a three year absence the Astra is back and is now part of a three model line-up being offered by Opel - GM’s European division.
So how does it stack up? Well if the 2012 Opel Astra Sport is anything to go by Opel has some catching up to do.
The Astra range (which is built in the UK) includes three and five door hatch variants and a wagon, prices start from $23,990 and run up to $35,990.
The Astra Sport will set you back $35,490, my test vehicle was also fitted with the optional $2000 Premium Lighting Pack.
The five door hatch has a 1.6 litre turbo charged petrol engine under the bonnet and a six speed sports automatic transmission.
The engine delivers a healthy 132kW and 230Nm and the claimed fuel consumption is a combined 7.3 litres.
I managed 10.5 L/100 in city driving (predominantly in normal mode), that’s pretty thirsty for a five door hatch.
The Astra has plenty of get-up-and-go but the six-speed auto is a major let-down.
A good auto transmission is one you don’t notice because it delivers smooth changes and is in the right gear at the right time.
The transmission in the Astra however gives clunky changes during both acceleration and deceleration, provides jerky power delivery and takes an eternity to find the right ratio.
These issues, and some serious turbo lag, are exacerbated when you switch the Astra into sport mode – the end result is an unpleasant driving experience.
Engine noise inside the cabin and a harsh ride on poor quality road surfaces also adds to the disappointment.
On the upside however the Astra handles the corners pretty well, steering is sharp and the brakes get a pass mark.
Unfortunately there are a few issues to report inside the cabin as well.
The most notable issue is the centre control panel which is ridiculously complicated.
Here you will find 42 buttons and four knobs in a lay-out that’s simply too complicated and from a driver distraction perspective could be described as borderline irresponsible.
On a more positive note the Opel boasts GM’s sensational multi-function control screen, the only issue is that in the Opel it isn’t touch-screen and also there’s no rear-reversing camera!
Another complaint comes from the driver’s seat where the steering wheel, even in the highest upward adjustment, obscures the top half of the temperature and fuel gauges.
Massive sweeping “A” pillars also block a fair amount of forward visibility while the European influenced trip computer screen is unnecessarily busy.
Around the cabin there’s also a fair bit of hard plastic, storage areas are disappointingly small and the Opel doesn’t feature push button start/stop.
On a more positive note the leather seats are excellent; I particularly liked the seat-base extenders on the front seats which give additional thigh support to taller drivers.
Feature lighting on the doors and centre console, attractive speedometer and tachometer and attractive polished black and silver highlight panels help bring up the feel.
Leg room is reasonable and boot space is pretty good for a hatch.
On the safety front the Opel Astra can’t be faulted delivering a 5-Star ANCAP rating.
Summing it up the Opel Astra Sport was a disappointment.
Do yourself a favour and jump into a Holden Cruze SRi-V instead, it uses less fuel, is Australian built, drives much better and will save you thousands!
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 1.6 litre turbo petrol delivering 132kW and 230Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic or six-speed manual
Safety: Five stars
Origin: United Kingdom