General Motors has taken the wraps off the new Astra — slated for production later this year, despite the uncertainty surrounding the future of Opel and Vauxhall.
The sixth-generation Astra is all-new, and shares nothing with the current model; the platform is new and the engine line-up has been lifted from the Insignia and Corsa range.
The first car to be launched at the Frankfurt motor show was the five-door hatch. Joining the five-door next year will be an estate, followed by the distinctive three-door Sport Hatch model with its coupé-like styling, although we won’t see that car until 2011. The VXR, which will be based on the three-door, won’t come until 2011, either.
Like the current model, the three-door’s styling is very different from that of the five-door. Wider rear wings, a lower roofline and a different front-end design with larger intakes will set the three-door apart, and the blade design in the car’s flanks has been reversed to sit behind the front wings, in the style of the Insignia.
One model will not be replaced, at least immediately. There won’t be a new Twin Top coupé-cabriolet model; instead, GM will continue to make the current car well into the new Astra’s life cycle.
The new Astra is, inevitably, larger than the current model, mainly because of more stringent crash legislation. At 4400mm long, it has grown by 110mm, but the wheelbase has also increased by 71mm to 2685mm, which improves leg room for the occupants.
Underneath is General Motors’ new Delta platform, launched earlier this year in the Chevrolet Cruze and due to form the basis for another four cars. But the Astra does not have multi-link rear suspension, as had been rumoured. Instead, there’s a reworked version of the Astra’s clever torsion beam set-up, originally engineered by Lotus.
That means the new Astra will not be able to match the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf’s more sophisticated multi-link rear axles, but Vauxhall claims the new suspension takes the Astra’s ride comfort “into a different league”. The car also gets wider front and rear tracks, which Vauxhall claims will help improve stability and agility.
The Astra will also be available with a version of the Insignia’s FlexRide system — an electronic damper control programme — with the same Standard, Sport and Tour settings. Other Insignia carryover technology includes the Adaptive Forward Lighting system, which adjusts the headlight beam according to weather conditions and road layout, and the road sign recognition system.
The Astra will be the first GM product to use a new 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, which in effect replaces the current car’s 1.8-litre unit.
The 1364cc engine has the same output as the 1.8, with 138bhp, but has 170lb ft of torque, which will give it a diesel-like surge but with petrol engine responses.
The other advantage is 10 per cent better fuel consumption and CO2 emissions compared with the 1.8; that equates to around 44mpg and 160g/km.
The rest of the petrol engine range will include a 99bhp 1.4 (not related to the new turbo unit) and a 177bhp turbocharged 1.6 shared with the Insignia. There will be four diesels: a 1.3 with 94bhp, a 1.7 with 108bhp and two 2.0-litre units, shared with the Insignia, with 128bhp and 157bhp.
An Ecoflex model will go on sale next year, with a version of the current car’s 1.7-litre diesel. A GM source suggested that the car could produce less than 100g/km of CO2.
Although Vauxhall hasn’t yet released any pictures of the interior, our spy photographers caught the new Astra’s cabin while the car was testing in Germany a few weeks ago. You can see the picture in our image galley by clicking on the link above.
Heavily influenced by the Insignia’s cabin, the Astra has a similar centre console, wrap-around fascia and instrument pod with four individual dials. Much of the switchgear on the centre console is from the Insignia, along with the climate control panel.
GM Europe’s blade design theme, used on the Astra’s rear wings, is repeated in the door trims (and the rear lights).
The Astra goes on sale in December. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but expect the entry-level 1.4 five-door to undercut the entry-level three-door Focus.