I don’t really see the point of sunroofs, I have to confess. Back when nobody had air conditioning, tilting sunroofs were a useful escape for the steam rising off your rain-soaked body. In the summer, you could use them to help circulate air around your sweat-soaked body but at no point could you actually open one up fully. If you drove faster than 30 km/h the noise and buffeting becoming unbearable and let’s not forget that a big part of the reason you were so damn hot to begin with was because the sun was beating through the glass down on top of your skull. Some manufacturers started calling them moon roofs and, indeed, they were a useful way of showing off your pimply bottom, but otherwise they’re all but useless.
They leak, they rust, they collect all types of weird gunk and if they’re electric they usually seize up from lack of use. With air conditioning in most cars now, they’re even more pointless than ever but that hasn’t stopped Opel coming up with a whole new kind of sunroof, which is available in the Astra GTC – the panoramic windscreen! Normally, panoramic roofs go from one end of the car to the other, ensuring a nice, even bake for every occupant in the vehicle, but Opel does things differently. The reassuring bit of steel right in front of your forehead has been removed so the windscreen stretches all the way from the wipers to just behind your head.
A solid, lockable blind can be slid forward as far as the rear-view mirror, making the Astra feel entirely normal when you don’t feel like star gazing, but this blind is also home to the sun visors, which means it’s impossible to enjoy the panorama when the sun is even vaguely visible in the sky. You can’t use it either when the sun is out because despite the use of heat-repellent glass, the cabin still gets too toasty and the light is so bright you get exhausted from squinting, even with sunglasses on. And you can’t use it at night because street lights create a hypnotic bright-dark-bright-dark effect on the dashboard. Which leaves miserable, overcast, rainy days as the only time that you can roll back the blind and take in the view. And who wants to look up at that? Indeed, who wants to look up at all?
While I admire the engineering involved and appreciate the wow factor when you sit someone in the Astra and pop the blind back for the first time, the Astra’s Panaromic Sunroof is, by and large, a bit of a waste of money. It’s a whopping two grand extra, you see, which is an awful lot of cash to spend on a hole, I feel. I heartily recommend the car on which the skylight was foisted: powered by a Fiat-sourced 150bhp 1.9 CDTi engine and boasting a 6-speed manual, combined with the SRi trim level and tasty 17” alloys, this particular Astra was a real joy to drive. But unless you have an unnatural love of clouds or are a bit of an exhibitionist, there’s really not much to be gained from going for the panoramic roof.
Engine 1.9-litre turbo diesel, 150bhp, 320Nm torque
Transmission Six-speed manual
Acceleration 0-100 km/h 8.9 seconds
Top speed 210km/h Economy 5.8 litres/100km
CO2 Emissions 157 g/km
Boot Capacity 418 litres
Base Price €30,895 (1.9 CDTi SRi)
Price As Tested €33,445