Opel Astra Review: 2010 Model | Astra | Car Buyers Guide

2010 Opel Astra Review

There have been ripples of change moving through the small family car category in recent years. For a long time, it was hard to look beyond three major offerings: Ford’s great handling Focus, VW’s classy Golf and Toyota’s dull but dependable Corolla. The Opel Astra was always there or thereabouts, but didn’t excel in any particular area. Now, though, the old order is starting to crumble. The Focus, Golf and Corolla are still as good as they’ve always been, but it has become more and more diffcult to ignore the quality and value on offer from the Koreans in the shape of the Kia cee’d and Hyundai i30. The Astra has raised its game, too, and the current model makes big strides in the area of cabin quality, ride and handling and styling.


For a long time, the Astra was one of the plainest-looking cars in the small family segment, but it became one of the best-looking with the arrival of the Astra H in 2004. This latest Astra J is not as much of a revolutionary leap forward as its predecessor was in the looks department, but it’s still a very handsome car from all angles. Our test car was finished in pearlescent Panacotta paint, a €501 optional extra, but the Astra wears most colours well. The forthcoming 3-door variant will n doubt look even better, but for now, the Astra is one of the smartest-looking 5-door hatches you can buy. Unlike its bigger brother the Insignia, the Astra doesn’t need big alloys to look ‘complete’ – our test car benefitted from 17-inch, 10-spoke alloys, but the wheel trims on lower-spec models are not lost in the wheelarches, either.


The engine range in Ireland includes four petrol and four diesel units, starting with both turbo and non-turbo versions of the 16v, 1.4-litre petrol. We tested the 140hp, 1.4 turbo, an engine configuration that’s likely to become quite common in coming years as manufacturers strive to maintain power outputs while reducing emmissions. There’s ample shove from a standing start in first gear, but in-gear acceleration is solid rather than spectacular. The 1.6i turbo, with 180hp on tap; or the 350Nm, 2.0-litre CDTi diesel should be the engine of choice for those who really want to make progress. That said, the 1.4 turbo is still a very sprightly engine when you consider its Band B emmissions and sub-6l/100km fuel economy.


Those looking for the ultimate in economy are catered for by the 1.3-litre ‘ECOFLEX’ diesel, which is a bit underpowered with just 90PS on tap, but makes up for this by saving you a packet on running on costs – it falls into Band A road tax and returns 4.1l/100km fuel consumption. There’s also 110 and 125PS versions of Opel’s 1.7-litre diesel available, as well as a torquey 160PS 2-litre diesel. Automatic transmission can be specified with the non-turbo 1.6 and 2-litre diesel engines only.


Enthusiastic drivers who value sharp handling should head in the direction of the SRi, which features lowered and uprated sports suspension as standard. Our test car was the Elite trim, which comes with standard suspension, but its handling still inspires confidence on back roads, if not offering ultimate grip and responsiveness.


Safety equipment on the Astra is very good, with driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags; and ESP all standard from the base model up. Those in search of a little luxury should plump for at least the SRi trim, which adds a central armrest, leather steering wheel and sports seats. The latter are fantastically comfortable, offering excellent lumbar support, and the addition of seat heating on the range-topping Elite model completes the package. The seats are one of several factors that combine to make the Astra a superlative long-distance cruiser. It offers a wonderfully quiet and refined environment in which to while away the miles and is reminiscent of much larger and more expensive cars in this regard. The 6-speed gearbox ensures the engine is totally unstressed at motorway speeds, while the ride quality on less well mantained roads is exceptional.


For the moment, the Astra represents a very solid buy in the small family car segment. The impending arrival of Ford’s all-new Focus will present it with a stiff challenge, but the Astra deserves serious consideration from anyone looking to buy in this class.




Opel Astra 1.4i Turbo Elite 5-door


RATING: 7/10



1.4-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder

Output @ rpm

140PS @ 4,900; 200Nm @ 1,850–4,900


6-speed manual, front-wheel drive


0–100km/h in 9.9s

Top speed




CO2 emissions


CO2 tax band

B (€156 p.a.)



Boot capacity


Base price


Price as tested



Smart looks, great ride, fantastic seats


Fussy dash, not thrilling to drive



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