TTAC - 2008 Opel Astra (Saturn Astra)

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Mar 26, 2007.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The more GM sells stateside, the more money they will lose. Go figure.

    By Martin Schwoerer
    March 21, 2007

    When GM suddenly decided it needed a convincing small car for the US market, Car Czar Bob Lutz scanned his European operations and fixed his once-steely gaze on the next gen Opel Astra. Unfortunately, GM’s bean counters confirmed what common sense suggested: labor costs, transportation costs, unfavorable exchange rates and competitive pricing preclude the possibility of profit. Maximum Bob was undeterred, claiming GM will build the “Saturn Astra” in the US if it succeeds (i.e. loses them lots of money). All of which raises an important question: does the Astra have what it takes to sell stateside?

    The Astra’s muscular mix of creases and curves will appeal to US buyers who want a small car that looks taut, not tiny.
    From the front, the car’s oversized headlights and upwards sloping hood fool the viewer into thinking they’re contemplating a full-size sedan. From the side, the Astra’s flared wheel arches and cleverly constructed two-piece rear window give the car sporting symmetry. The model’s odd, bland rear– complete with gun slit rear window– denies viewers a happy ending. But at least it doesn’t look cheap.

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    They love their creases to pieces.

    If Americans fancy a bit of style, the Astra’s cabin got, er, a bit of style. The central hood crease is the main design element. It continues through the Astra’s windshield, dash and center stack. Ignore this needless affectation and you’re free to enjoy the Astra’s well-judged economy car minimalism. The right-sized steering wheel is reassuringly thick, perfectly shaped for ten and two hand positioning. The gauges are a model of clarity and legibility. And the high touch plastic switchgear snick-snaggles with convincing clicks.

    In terms of roominess, the Astra is no penalty box. Although supersized Americans might find the car’s supportive seats overly snug, there’s plenty of head and legroom on offer. I’m 6'3"; I could sit comfortably both fore and aft. Unfortunately, the Astra’s ergonomics are not ideal. The climate controls need color-coding and the mouse's piano of sound-system controls is a annoying distraction. Niggles really, given the interior’s overall quality.

    Once underway, I was impressed with the engine’s smoothness, but left wondering how a diesel could be so low on torque. Then I remembered that my tester was powered by an anemic 1.4-liter, 90hp gasoline engine. While Opel builds some class-leading motors; my tester’s mill was the weakest and cheapest. And man, was it a stinker. Never mind. All US Astras will holster a 1.8-liter, 140hp Ecotec four-cylinder powerplant connected to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

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    The US model is getting a 1.8L four. Thank God.

    I have a theory about automotive zen: every car has a certain speed at which it feels comfortable. So much for that theory. I didn't know they still built cars that generate 3000rpm at 60mph. At 110mph, with 5700rpm on the clock, the Astra's little engine that could sounded decidedly sweeter. But at that speed, the trip computer told a hysterical tale of 14mpg. Hopefully, the US-spec motor will offer better performance, efficiency and low end sonic civility.

    I have a favorite freeway off-ramp where I take my testers for comparison purposes. The Astra’s chassis handled the curve magnificently; it remained stable and balanced from start to finish, with neutrality that belied its front wheel-drive underpinnings. I was able to punt the car through the turn as quickly as any non-sports car I’ve driven– a full five miles per hour faster than I could push the Honda Fit.

    On the downside, the Astra’s steering is seriously non-linear. Turn the tiller a bit and you get a predictable response. Add a few more degrees and it’s like you wrenched the wheel sideways. The turn-in is far too abrupt for high speed precision driving— a criticism that's been leveled at the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. The Astra’s ride quality is also less than impressive, serving up an unappetizing combination of bounce and bang.

    The Astra's edgy, non-communicative steering and its ride quality (or lack thereof) killed any autobahn joy. Worse, it delivered unto me another classic Opel "moment" (sooner or later, every Opel I've ever driven has made me curse under my breath). My Astra moment came while doing 100mph, trailed by a pushy BMW, in a series of downhill curves. My mount did a nasty hop-skip over an expander joint. The Astra’s snatchy brakes did nothing to correct the feeling of impending disaster.

    With a better engine, the Astra would be a good car. But not great. There’s no doubt that the Astra's dynamics aren't up to par with its VW and [European] Ford competition. Still, the Astra has more character and style than most Asian cars, and it’s better than anything else GM has ever offered in this class. As an Everyman car for Europe, it’s a highly competent entry. As a high-spec, up-priced "European import", it’s destined to be a failure.

    [​IMG]
    Quick and darty.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Capt. Hammer

    Capt. Hammer PM me for rates on express consent. OT Supporter

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    Do not pass go

    Do not collect $200
     
  3. IDMO

    IDMO OT Supporter

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    James I got to drive my chick friend's Sky Redline today :yum:
     
  4. :rofl: honestly...
     
  5. hypnosmurf

    hypnosmurf blue member OT Supporter

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    Let's hug it out bitch!
    it looks better as a opel
     
  6. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    < mazda3
     
  7. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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  8. Ratven

    Ratven OT Supporter

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    Looks pretty sweet, Saturn's lineup is getting to be pretty badass :coold:
     
  9. Y2kAccord

    Y2kAccord Everything happens for reasons I just dont know

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    GM late the the party again
     
  10. autox

    autox OT Supporter

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    not bad. Hatchbacks and wagons>*
     
  11. SeaMack99

    SeaMack99 OT Supporter

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    I've seen those cars all over the place here and they're pretty badass to me
     
  12. DjShiznit

    DjShiznit Representing Deutschland, yah.

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    Oh look, Opel cloned the Focus and GM re-badged it :hsugh:
     
  13. autox

    autox OT Supporter

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    :wtf: because its a hatch? it doesnt look like the focus
     
  14. bokhan

    bokhan i love you

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    if i were in the market i'd consider a redline.
     
  15. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Do edit post, lol
     
  16. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    We'll get it eventually.
     
  17. LOL had to go to Germany to get a decent car



    I'll be looking into one.
     
  18. mucky

    mucky .

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    [email protected] screen
     
  19. Mr 20Valve

    Mr 20Valve OT Supporter

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    no VXR, no care
     
  20. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I sat in an old Astra while I was there. :o
     
  21. MrRyan

    MrRyan Gary Johnson 2016 OT Supporter

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    Oh my.
     
  22. MrRyan

    MrRyan Gary Johnson 2016 OT Supporter

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    In other news...my buddy wrecked his 05 GTO on Thursday...

    LS2 + Cheapie E36 BMW found for 3,000€ around here = Permagrin
     
  23. Teutonic27

    Teutonic27 OT Supporter

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    what does the VXR put down?

    isn't opels hot version called OPC or something?

    im too lazy to look this shit up again.
     
  24. MrRyan

    MrRyan Gary Johnson 2016 OT Supporter

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    I think GTC
     

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