Depending in what corner of Ireland you live in, the Astra may carry the Opel or Vauxhall badge and soon the latest version of the Astra will be taking to our roads.
From 1962 until 1991 we had the Kadett then a name change to Astra and it has become one of the most popular cars on European roads. Apart from everyday use the Kadett/Astra has made quite a name in motor sport, both in rallying and circuit racing. In 1978 the Kadett GT/E was the most popular rally car in Europe and Brian Culcheth was one of the many drivers who tasted success at the wheel of the German car. On the local scene the late Frank O’Rourke raced to many wins in a Dealer Opel Team Ireland Kadett. This team, which included Bob Montgomery and on occasion George Windrum, was a regular sight at the Irish circuits. The high profile BTCC has proved to be an excellent vehicle for the Astra and currently the most successful driver in Touring Car history, Jason Plato (below) heads the two car Power Maxed Racing Team.
On the UK motoring scene, the Astra is the number two best seller for Vauxhall, a favourite with the business user and the retail customer. The newcomer which I experienced on the first European Drive will carry on in the C segment which is a very competitive sector of the market facing up to Golf and Focus. With the latest, now described as 7th, generation it is very much evolution rather than revolution in terms of styling. The focus on the front fascia amongst the highlights, not to worry you will recognise the new Astra The heart of the matter is a range of new aluminum petrol and diesel engines, allied to new transmissions including a nine speed automatic transmission which I sampled with a 1.5 litre diesel. Three cylinder engines feature, with 1.2T and 1.4T petrol units with respective power of 110 and 145PS, while the 1.5 diesel is available with 105 or 122PS.
There is really good news on the economy front, with an improvement by as much as twelve percent! All of the new engines are compliant with Euro 6d (6.3) and RDE 2.CO2 figures are low, some diesels are actually down to 90g/km.
There has been a major effort re upgrading the interiors with the latest in car technology and wide use of quality materials. A whole suite of top-of-the-range technology, including the smarter, faster and more intuitive Multimedia Radio, Multimedia Nav and Multimedia Nav Pro systems. The systems offer optimum levels of connectivity, and are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The top-of-the-line Multimedia Navi Pro comes as standard on Elite Nav and Ultimate Nav trims, with an eight-inch colour touch screen and voice control. Connected navigation services are available, which present the driver with real-time traffic information and online map updates, making the journey as easy as possible. As for aesthetics, the navigation display appears with redesigned symbols in a fresher and more modern look, while the instrument cluster features a new digital speedometer. quality materials. With the newcomer the choice of two bodystyles Hatchback and Sports Tourer and production is at various European facilities. For the purposes of this report I tried UK Vauxhall models, which will go on sale in Northern Ireland in mid November. I had the opportunity to try one petrol model and one diesel. Right away I was taken by the improved build quality, the handling thanks to a revised suspension set up and the newcomer is some 200kg lighter than the outgoing version. Much attention has been paid to revising the steering, this simply adds to the overall drive experience; the new Astra tucks well into the corners and builds confidence the more you drive. With space for five and adequate boot storage the new Astra has bags of appeal, will be welcomed by existing customers and no doubt the newcomer will conquest. After a good meal, no better way to finish than a tasty dessert, so it was with my first introduction to the new Astra. I was strapped into the Power Maxed Racing Astra with Jason Plato as my driver, a number of highly enjoyable fast laps (below). As a matter of interest it took the team three days to convert the Touring Car so that a passenger could experience an Astra racing style.