With 45,000 pre-orders since September, it doesn't seem like General Motor Co.'s new sixth-generation Opel/Vauxhall Astra five-door hatchback would have a problem with sales. The model arrived at dealer showrooms in Europe last Saturday, upping the excitement further. The Astra is Opel's most important model and its success dictates what the long-term future of the brand is.
Last year, the fifth-generation of the compact contributed sales of about 438,000 cars, which is roughly a third of the brand's overall volume. Dealers have different ways to spice up their sales approach.
German car dealer Thomas Bieling, who expects to sell 1,600 new cars annually via the five sales points that comprise his Autohaus Bieling dealership, said he is giving away a Christmas tree to those who test drive the car.
The 1.4-liter, 87-hp variant, which was assembled in Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port, England, plant, is priced from 15,900 euros ($23,970).
Astra's top rival, the Volkswagen Golf, starts at 16,650 euros. Another model that will be launched next year is the Astra Sports Tourer, which has been on the news lately due to a conflict between Ruesselsheim's labor force and management over their decision to concentrate all production of the station wagon version in Ellesmere Port.
The new Opel Astra is powered by any of the eight available engines at launch, with power ratings ranging between 70 kW (95 hp) and 132 kW (180 hp) – all engineered to deliver real-world efficiency. Mated to a manual transmission, the new powertrains for the Astra help lower overall carbon dioxide emissions by more than 12 percent, compared to the current generation. On average, diesel engines consume 4.6 liters per 100 km while their gasoline counterpart eats up only 6.1 liters per 100 km.
Interestingly, the engine range for the new Opel Astra models for Europe at launch includes four diesel mills, with power ratings of between 70 kW (95 hp) and 118 kW (160 hp). When paired to a manual transmission, these engines consume less than 5.0 liters of diesel fuel per 100 km and emit less 129 gram of carbon dioxide per kilometer. In early next spring, Opel will release an ecoFLEX version powered by a 1.3 CDTI engine that delivers 70 kW (95 hp) while consuming only 4.2 liters per 100 km and emitting just 109 grams of CO2 per km.
Meanwhile, the gasoline lineup for the new Opel Astra includes naturally aspirated and turbocharged 1.4-liter and 1.6-liter engines, offering power ratings of between 74 kW (100 hp) and 132 kW (180 hp). The base gasoline version is tuned to emit only 129 grams of CO2 per km, which is the lowest among gasoline mills in the compact segment.
Opel's strategy of downsizing prompted its engineers to replace the 1.8-liter engine (103 kW or 140 hp) of the previous generation with a new 1.4 Turbo mill that delivers similar output at greater efficiency. In fact, this engine only consumes 5.9 liters of gasoline per 100 km, or nearly 18 percent more efficient than its predecessor.
Hans Demant, Managing Director of Opel, remarked that the carmaker has a mission to make high-tech innovations accessible, and this reached high success in the Insignia. Now, Opel has achieved a new goal by injecting most of those features in the new Opel Astra, which competes in the compact segment, Demant noted.
A number of the innovative technologies in the new Opel Astra are distinct in the compact class or are previously not found in this segment. These include the so-called Opel Eye that could recognize road signs, and provide a warning to the driver when the Astra inadvertently changes lane.
The new Astra is equipped with the new generation of Opel bi-xenon Advanced Forward Lighting (AFL+), which is considered as the most advanced lighting system in the compact class. Employing nine different lighting functions, AFL+ could modify its intensity and reach to match current driving and road conditions.
In addition, the new Astra is fitted with Ergonomic Sport Seats that feature a six-way adjustment range. Available at all trim levels, this seat features a four-way adjustment of the lumbar support and extendable seat cushion. Offering enhanced support and body comfort, Ergonomic Sport Seats is the only seating system in the compact class that managed to receive a seal of approval from Aktion Gesunder Rucken e.V., which is an independent panel of ergonomics experts and doctors in Germany.