REVIEW | The 2019 Opel 1.6T Sport OPC-Line proves you shouldn't judge a book by its cover
Gugu Masuku discovers a sparkling performer in this understated Golf rival
We all have that pair of shoes in the back of the cupboard thatnever sees the light of day. It's not that there is anything wrong with them, they're just constantly overlooked because, subconsciously, we have our favourite go-to selection. Then, one day, you stumble upon the underused shoes, realise just how good they are and scold yourself for allowing them to gather dust in the presence on moths and Lord knows what else. In the world of cars, the Opel Astra is the equivalent of those shoes.
Constantly overlooked in our market in favour of more prominent German badges, the Astra has been one of those vehicles I haven't taken notice of or had the desire to drive. Only after spending a few hours behind its wheel did I get a different perspective on this C-segment hatch.
The unit I reviewed was the 147kW/280Nm 1.6T Sport OPC-Line, so it looked better than I imagined it would, thanks to its beefy 18-inch alloys, which prove that the size worn by a car can drastically influence its appearance. The Astra is modest in styling, which may be part of the reason it’s not a firm favourite.
Where it does earn points is, well, everywhere else, really. Its interior feels spacious, more so than you would expect from a hatchback. I suspect the long, flat dashboard has something to do with it. You’ll find many niceties here. One thing that stood out for me was the crystal-clear, hi-res infotainment screen, neatly moulded into the dash.
Other goodies that made my time in this space comfortable were the heated seats and steering wheel. For R508,000, it's the least they could do. Other standard features include PDC, keyless entry and start, LED headlamps and a lane-keep assist system, which is refined enough not to jerk the vehicle but ease it into line. With all the tech packed into this unassuming hatch, I must say that acclimatising to operating everything was a seamless transition. Well done, Opel.
The one error I made was to undermine its driving dynamics — looks never tell the full story. This is a refined piece of machinery, whose badge doesn't reflect the way it carries itself on the road. Not that the Opel badge is inferior, but it doesn’t sit in the premium category either. Handling is something I pay close attention to, not that I would ever criticise an SUV for not hugging the road like a Porsche 911, but when a car exceeds my expected output, I must give credit where it’s due, and the Astra, once again, surprised me.