Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Feb 9, 2007.
To Saturn no less.
They seemed like a decent car when I was in Australia.
Looks good. I like the direction that Saturn is going.
I had an opel astra - good car
Bringing the Vauxhalls over here is a great idea. And I think its the only chance GM has to show its home market they have the capability of making a decent car. My family over in the UK have a Vectra, which I'm not quite fond of, but my cousin's Astra VXR is all kinda of hot
I hate Opels.
Of course you do. You're German and they're French.
Opel is German.
Edmunds First-Drive - Opel Astra (Saturn Astra)
Coming Soon as the 2008 Saturn Astra
European style and urban practicality have shaped the Opel Astra, a version of the 2007 Opel GTC concept car.
By Andy Enright, Contributor
Date posted: 06-12-2007
140-hp, 1.8-liter engine - Front-wheel drive - Three-door or five-door hatchback - Built in Antwerp, Belgium
When the news came to us that the 2008 Saturn Astra will be a rebadged version of our Opel Astra 1.8, our monstrously primped European superiority complex shifted into overdrive. We figured the Astra would do a number on the lackluster U.S. opposition when the first cars make landfall in November 2007.
After all, those of us in Europe have been laughing ever since 2006 sales figures confirmed that Cadillac sold less than a third of the number it had so bullishly predicted at the beginning of the year. Here in the United Kingdom, Cadillac was outsold in 2006 even by Lamborghini.
But the truth is, a 2008 Saturn Astra might have a hard time. The Chevrolet Cobalt hasn't exactly set the world on fire, despite its last-generation Opel Astra hardware, and no one wants to remember the Daewoo-built version of the Opel Astra that was sold as the Pontiac Le Mans from 1988-'93.
It's all about the driving. And now that we've spent some time at the wheel of the Astra, we think you Yanks will like the new Saturn version.
When the Astra arrives at Saturn dealerships this fall, you'll never think about the Ion again.
General Motors knows that the Astra will have to look right to make it in America. Two key criteria were identified early on in the program.
First the car has to pass what GM executives refer to as the "shop window test." That is, an owner must be so enamored of the Astra's lines that he can't help but sneak a look at its reflection in a plate-glass window. (It's hard to see the Saturn Ion being subjected to such a thing, as potential buyers would recoil in horror at the car's panel fit.) The other design exam is called the "100-yard test." Since much of the buying decision is made within the first 100 yards of a test-drive, a potential buyer has to feel instantly impressed with the Astra's intuitive, easy-to-use controls.
No matter what the design criteria might be, the Astra three-door hatch is handsome enough to snap the elastic band of your drawers at 100 yards. Opel had a huge degree of liberty in its styling of the Astra because the success of its Meriva and Zafira minivans allowed this practical hatchback to be about more than just schlepping the family about. The five-door Astra is a slick piece of design penmanship, yet the three-door Sport Hatch model knocks it into next week.
Built at GM's plant in Antwerp, Belgium, the three-door hatch and the five-door share a platform, with the same 102.9-inch wheelbase, but the three-door is actually 1.5 inches longer and 0.6 inch lower, and it resembles the GTC concept car shown at the 2007 Geneva Auto Show.
A TwinTop convertible with a folding hardtop is also sold in Europe, and it might be a possibility for the U.S. A stronger possibility is the Astra Panoramic, a three-door hatch with a windshield that stretches way back past the driver's head in one dizzying sweep, like the canopy of an F-16 fighter plane.
Mild at Heart
In Europe, the Astra represents part of Opel's sales resurgence thanks to a more dramatic sense of style.
Saturn picked a 1.8-liter Ecotec inline-4 out of Opel's portfolio of Astra engines, a 140-horsepower design introduced in 2006 to coincide with the European Astra's first styling face-lift. Peak torque of 129 pound-feet arrives at 3,800 rpm, and variable valve timing delivers 90 percent of this from 2,200-6,200 rpm. It's even possible to detect a VTEC-like step change at around 4,500 rpm.
It's not a particularly melodious power plant, but it makes some decent speed, as 60 mph comes up in 9.5 seconds and top whack is 129 mph. In European trim, the Ecotec's fuel economy is rated at 38.7 mpg on the combined cycle, and city driving is pegged at 28.5 mpg. Once this car arrives in America, your mileage may vary, as they say.
Perhaps in time the 178-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter will get the green light for the Saturn Astra Red Line, or possibly the gutsy, 237-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter slugger fitted to the Vauxhall VXR and Opel OPC versions of the Astra.
A Torsionary Tail
European practicality is a fine thing, but this might be the Euro tuning you had in mind.
There's nothing particularly remarkable about the specification of the Astra's suspension, as there's a MacPherson strut up front and a torsion beam at the back. When it comes to the way the Astra handles the road, though, this car is only a few percent shy of a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Rabbit. When the Astra is driven hard, you can detect a sense of reluctant inertia at the back of the car, but otherwise the Opel is composed and neat. The electrically assisted power steering doesn't deliver faithful feedback, though. Body control is acceptable and the rear suspension thumps only over bigger ruts and expansion joints. The brakes are beyond reproach.
Find the Quality Inside
Soft-touch materials help to make the Astra's interior inviting, although the navigation controls are fearfully fiddly.
The cabin is the Astra's strongest point. In Europe the Astra often runs $2,000 cheaper than a comparable Volkswagen Golf, but no compromises have been made in this car's interior. The slam of the driver door alone feels more substantial than that of some Mercedes midrange models. It's worth remembering that the Astra has been spawned from a long line of fleet specials, and its transformation into something more prestigious has massively impressed Europeans.
The interior details both look and feel expensive. The audio controls in the steering wheel and the combination of soft plastics, piano-black finishes and chrome-ringed dials give the cockpit a feel a long way removed from the average shopping hatch.
On the other hand, the control system for the trip computer, stereo and satellite navigation is, to be frank, hideously complex and looks cheap to boot. The ergonomics aren't brilliant either, notably the gear lever that's set a couple of inches too far back. Saturn freely admits that not a whole lot will be changed from the European car, although three smallish cupholders have been added for the U.S. market.
With a more generous equipment level and bigger 18-inch alloy wheels, the three-door car appeals to a younger audience that probably doesn't care about the generous headroom in the back of the five-door. Saturn will offer two trim levels (XE and XR) for five-door models, and a single trim (XR) in the three-door body style.
When it comes to safety equipment, the Astra has electronic stability control with traction control, and its standard four-wheel disc brakes come with ABS. There are also front-seat airbags, front-seat side airbags, curtain-type airbags for front and rear-seat passengers, active head restraints and collapsible pedals, all of which have helped the Astra earn a five-star crash-test rating from European New Car Assessment Program.
Lost in Translation?
The European-only Astra Panoramic features a windshield that sweeps overhead like a fighter-plane canopy.
Perhaps fearing that this European star performer will also suffer something lost in the translation, Saturn seems intent on playing down the Astra's chances in the U.S., insisting that it won't sell as well as the Ion. Perhaps the senior suits are just sandbagging.
From here, the Astra has everything a Saturn should have. It looks right, drives with an intuitive feel and a dynamic composure that everyone can appreciate, and it's both spacious and safe.
With all of our European superiority complex on this side of the Atlantic, we think the Astra shows that we know all the right things about small cars.
The three-door hatchback has the taste of style and sport that Saturn is seeking in the U.S.
First Impressions: The small car that made General Motors profitable in Europe could well turn the same trick for Saturn.
That windshield looks frightening. The rear view mirror just kinda floats there.
3 cupholders....i'm sold
Pricing and options released
XE five-door manual - $15,995
XR five-door manual - $17,545
XR coupe manual - $18,495
VW Rabbit territory.
won't be a sales-success....wrong form factor.
Jeremy Clarkson - Vauxhall Astra (Saturn Astra)
I do not, cannot, will not, believe it...
Not that long ago I was at a BBC drinks party in the dimly lit, wood-panelled boardroom in Broadcasting House when I noticed a pretty blonde girl on the other side of the room.
Later, I found myself a little closer, and again I was struck by her beauty. But then, as the evening was drawing to a close, I turned round to find she was right next to me and . . . oh, bloody hell — it was Esther Rantzen.
The same sort of thing happened last week as we were preparing to film Top Gear. Loads of cars were being delivered, some for the studio, some for the Stig to take round on the track. But I was distracted from the whirl of cabling and the cackle of walkie-talkies by a sleek-looking silver hatchback. “My,” I thought. “That’s a handsome brute.”
As the morning wore on I kept seeing it and I kept thinking: that really is a very good looking car. And then I had the oh-no moment as I discovered it was a Vauxhall Astra. And not a sporty, low-riding version either with fat tyres and a hint of menace to its spoilers. It was the floury (not flowery) 1.8 litre five-door — the sort of thing you’ll rent next time you’re at Aberdeen airport.
There’s been a bit of a tectonic shift in the world of the family hatchback recently, mainly because of the Volkswagen Golf. For 30 years it’s been the solid, well made fallback for those who wanted a taste of the exotic but nothing too challenging. Think of it as Ben Nevis: not as difficult as an Alfa Romeo Everest, but not as dull as a Ford hill in northern Derbyshire.
The new version, however, really doesn’t seem to have captured anyone’s imagination. Some say it’s the price, which is steep, others argue that VW has lost the quality plot recently.
I think the problem is that in these exciting times, with credit cards from Fish and Egg, there’s no need to buy a medium-size mountain when you can have a waterfall or a volcano. Whatever, I sense the world is full of disaffected Golf owners bumping into street furniture as they roam around, wondering what on earth they should buy next.
These guys are bound to be attracted by the Renault Mégane.
It has a five-star safety rating and a pert bottom, which means it’s cold-prickly and warm-fuzzy all at the same time. It’s also cheap and well equipped.
But if you’ve been driving around in a Golf for 30 years, you’ll think you’ve stepped out of a cave and into a primary school classroom. It has the fit and finish of a five-year-old’s home-made robot.
BMW is entering the market with the 1-series, but it is monumentally ugly — as much of an eyesore as the 1960s fire station in a mellow yellow Cotswold town.
Then there’s the Mazda3. Mazda has been making some surprisingly excellent cars these last few years, but this isn’t one of them. It feels as cheap and as nasty as the new Volvo V40, which isn’t surprising since both sit on the same platform. And worryingly, this is the very platform that will support the new Ford Focus which is due to arrive in the autumn.
To drive, the current Ford Focus, with its complicated and expensive independent rear suspension, is still miles out in front. I actually bought a humdrum 1.6 four years ago and even today I’m amazed every time I get into it at just how beautifully it handles. I’m also amazed that it has never gone wrong. But its styling is now a bit wearisome, which brings me back to the Top Gear studio and that new Astra.
Part of the reason it looks so good is that it exudes a sense of genuine quality. The paint seems to sparkle as though it has one or two more coats than usual, the metal seems to be a little bit thicker, the chrome a tad more lustrous.
There’s a curious anomaly which makes the boot look like it’s ajar when it isn’t, but this is a bit like Esther Rantzen’s teeth — an oversight we can ignore in an otherwise unblemished sea of radiance.
So could it be that Vauxhall had sneaked into the fray, when nobody was looking, with its first decent car since . . . well, since ever really?
The trouble with Vauxhall is that it’s part of General Motors, which makes all its money from finance schemes and therefore never seems to bother much with the product. In essence, GM makes cars like provincial tearooms make sandwiches: to satisfy a need among the elderly and the undiscerning. There’s never been any flair, élan or style. I honestly believe that the Vectra was designed and developed in a coffee break. It’s got four wheels, four seats and 4% finance with £500 cashback from Linda Barker herself, if you buy NOW!
Inside, the Astra’s sense of quality continues. The carpets and upholstery don’t feel like they’ve been taken from an Indian restaurant’s offcuts. The plastic doesn’t feel as if it’s been made from a melted-down Action Man. It feels like a Golf used to feel when Volkswagen made its cars properly.
Plainly I had to take this thing for a drive, so I did, and the news just kept on getting better and better. Yes, the gearbox was a bit saggy and I was alarmed at how much pressure the brake pedal needed to do an emergency stop, but other than this, all was well. The handling was particularly good — not as good as a Ford Focus, obviously, but better than you get from the new Golf — and the ride comfort was spot-on too. Other things? Well, the stereo was crisp and the air-conditioning provided a jet of cold air that would have stunned Captain Oates.
And there are no landmines in the brochure either, waiting to dash your hopes in a cloying torrent of GM wallpaper paste. It will do a respectable 35mpg. The fuel tank is big enough. Plenty of equipment is provided as standard, and there’s a juicy options list which allows you to fit anything that takes your fancy. Tyre pressure sensors? No problem, sir. Best of all, it costs a whopping £1,500 less than the Golf.
All things considered, then, this is not just an acceptable effort from Vauxhall (which would be a first) but probably the best family hatchback you can buy today (which is astonishing).
Sadly, though, you can’t have one because it would mean telling your friends and family that you’d bought a Vauxhall. Which is exactly the same as telling them that your whole life has been a failure.
This new Astra, to my mind, has the same ring as Marks & Spencer and the Consumers’ Association. It’s worthy and sensible but blighted with a badge that says you’re an absolute dullard and that you may live in Baldock. Certainly you will have a pair of Rohan trousers. Vauxhall is a badge of honour for those who think a prawn cocktail is exotic, London is dirty and there’s nothing wrong with an own-brand stereo system.
This means that if you’re after a family-size hatchback, you must buy second-best to keep up your self-esteem.
Verdict: A shock: good looks, handling and value make it probably the best buy in the class — if you ignore the badge
when will they be here? later this year?
I'm trying to convince my wife we should wait to look at new cars.
Is this coming over here?
Ok, he likes a goodlooking car, so what?
I rented one(non-turbo) and I thought it was a cool car
Yes, this winter.