It is sexier than a Scirocco and just as practical as a Golf. Yet, it flies so low on the retail radar that few buyers think of it when they want a good-looking and well-built hatchback which drives well.
Behold the Opel Astra, a car which has been nibbling at the heels of Volkwagen's iconic model for more than a decade. The new model, however, looks like it could take the leg off the Golf at the knee.
The car is pleasing on every front. Its design is progressive - not just a collection of fluid lines flowing aimlessly. Its beautiful form has a solid and purposeful feel to it. It is a pretty face sparkling with intelligence.
It offers as much functionality as the Golf. All-round cabin space is fairly decent, despite a sloping roofline, a rear floor that is not completely flat and a wheelbase that is not the longest in its class.
Its cabin is as well put together as the exterior, with practically all panels finished in soft plastics. The cockpit is premium, with a biggish infotainment touchscreen that offers complete connectivity to Android and Apple phones.
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SPECS / OPEL ASTRA 1.4 TURBO
Price: $121, 888 with COE
Engine: 1,399cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual select
Power: 150bhp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 245Nm at 2,000-4,000rpm
0-100kmh: 9 seconds
Top speed: 210kmh
Fuel consumption: 5.5 litres/ 100km
Agent: Auto Germany
Other modern amenities such as cruise control/speed limiter, electric parking brake with self-release, collision warning and dual-zone climate control are standard issue.
Features are ergonomically arranged and a piano-black finish with metallic accents add a touch of class to this underrated German car.
The cherry on the cake is the way it moves. The car is powered by a new 1.4-litre turbocharged engine paired with a smooth six-speeder. Torque is available across a wide rev range and is delivered seamlessly.
It is more driveable all round and quicker, with a century sprint of 9 seconds, versus its predecessor's 10.2, and the Golf 1.4's 9.3.
The Astra is sweet around curves and its steering is astonishingly responsive. Yet, its handling misses the bar set by the Golf by a whisker. But it is more comfortable.
Last but not least, it is also less pricey than the Golf.