FIRST PHOTOS: Opel's sixth-generation Astra
Opel’s not going down without a fight!
Facing an uphill financial battle following General Motors’ announcement back in February that it intends selling its European subsidiary as part of broad ranging restructuring plans, the German car maker put on a brave face today with the unveiling of its new sixth-generation Astra – a car that is as crucial to its future existence as any is its 110 year history.
The new hatchback, which competes head on with the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf in one of Europe’s most toughly fought market segments, departs radically from its seven year old predecessor, picking up elegant new exterior styling cues from the larger Insignia as well as a brand new front wheel drive platform that goes under the name Delta and is shared with the Chevrolet Cruze among other upcoming models from General Motors.
Together with the five door version of the Astra shown here officially for the first time, Opel is also developing a three door model that features a more sportier appearance. It will be followed into showrooms by a more practical wagon version boasting a longer rear overhang for greater load capacity.
Dimensionally, the new Astra has grown, putting on 110mm in length at 4400mm. A good deal of that can be found in the wheelbase, which has been extended by 71mm to 2785mm mainly in the interests of creating greater rear seat legroom.
We’re yet to get an official look at the Astra’s interior but going on prototype versions we’ve seen testing at the Nurburgring you can expect the Insignia influence to extend inside. Opel claims a quantum leap in quality, although we’ll have to wait until closer to its planned unveiling at the Frankfurt auto show in September before we can back this up.
Underpinning Opel’s new hatchback is a heavily reworked version of its predecessor’s MacPherson strut (front) and torsion beam (rear) suspension. It also gets the FlexRide electronic damper system launched on the Insignia among a long list of options that also include Adaptive Forward Lighting, which alters the intensity of the head lamps to suit prevailing driving conditions and Opel Front Eye, which recognises road sings and provides a lane departure warning.
Downsizing is the name of the game for the Astra’s four-cylinder gasoline engine line-up. It is underpinned by a new turbocharged 1.4 litre unit delivering a gutsy-for-its-relatively-small-size 140bhp. Other gasoline engines set to become available from the start of European sales in December include a 100bhp normally aspirated 1.4 litre, 177bhp turbocharged 1.6 litre and 140bhp normally aspirated 1.8 litre.
Not enough? Within a year Opel also plans to introduce a successor to the Astra OPC – a Focus ST and Golf GTi rival powered by a 240bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. Its rumoured to be good for 0-60 in 6.2sec.
As you’d expect given its European origin, there is also a strong range of four-cylinder diesels, including a 95bhp 1.3 litre, 110bhp 1.7 litre and a pair of 2.0 litre units with 130bhp and 160bhp. Opel isn’t prepared to say too much at the moment, although sources suggest a plug-in electric version of the new Astra is also undergoing development. It would make sense since the Delta platform which underpins it shares certain elements with that found beneath the Chevrolet Volt – both having being conceived to house General Motors' Voltec gasoline-electric system.