We usually focus on purely electrically powered vehicles and leave out the now almost innumerable “part-time electric vehicles”. This time, however, we made an exception for good reason when the opportunity arose to gather first impressions of the new Astra Plug-in.
The good reason is the fact that Opel had already announced that it would also be offering its new Astra as a pure “electric vehicle” in the course of next year and that we were able to get to know the new, recently launched generation of Opel’s bestseller with the plug-in. As an appetiser, so to speak. The opportunity arose from an invitation by the manufacturer to test drive along the Portuguese Atlantic coast.
Even before we were able to enjoy our first experience, which actually turned out to be enjoyable, there were a number of positive news about the Astra model family: in terms of price, the compact success model has remained stable compared to its predecessor and also costs from 22,465 euros in the base model. This is not a matter of course in times of galloping inflation. And there will soon be another Sports Tourer, as Opel calls its station wagon. In 2023, the electric Astra will also be available as a Sports Tourer, which fortunately closes a large gap in the range of electric cars. We have already announced one message in advance, namely that for the first time there will be a plug-in version with 133 kW/180 hp and an 8-speed automatic transmission, which will cost from 35 800 euros. A second, more powerful engine with 165 kW/225 hp was announced as an alternative.
The new Astra design – straightforward, clear, modern
Of course, the Astra now also has the “Vizor” front, which already marks the new Opel brand face on other models of the current vehicle generation. In general, the exterior appearance is clear, matter-of-fact and does without ornamental frills. Timelessly modern, not trying to be fashionable, that is how the exterior of the newcomer appears. The optional two-tone paint with black roof makes the car appear lower and thus more powerful. At first glance, you get the impression that the new Astra is larger than its predecessor. In fact, at 4374 millimetres, it is longer – by a whole four millimetres… Here it becomes clear what an extended wheelbase can achieve not only visually, but also in terms of more space for passengers in the rear.
The Astra developers are particularly proud of the new “Intelli-Lux LED® Pixel” light, which is now being used for the first time in the compact class. With a total of 168 LED elements – 84 per headlamp – the novelty ensures a precise and flowing light pattern appropriate to the situation without dazzling other road users.
The interior – pleasant and practical
What is evident in the exterior is also continued in the interior, namely a functional clarity. As in the recently tested Mokka-e, the “Pure Panel” cockpit is located in the driver’s field of vision. The unit consisting of the display and the touchscreen, which is slightly curved towards the driver, is a better, because more user-friendly solution than the mega-screens in the centre and vertically positioned Tesla-style. Even in the Astra, the Rüsselsheim company does not push digitalisation to the extreme. Some frequently used settings can still be made with buttons and knobs. This is extremely practical and does not detract from the tidy impression of the cockpit. Otherwise, the smartphone connects to the multimedia system without a hitch, and anyone who wants to can of course order a clearly legible head-up display and a rear-view camera.
The seats, which have been awarded the “Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V.” quality mark, are firm and provide good support. The luggage compartment of the Astra Plug-in is naturally somewhat smaller than that of the combustion engine due to the space required by the drive battery, but with 352 and 1268 litres respectively, it is sufficiently large.
As far as the suspension is concerned, Opel can be said to have done a really good job. The Astra feels extremely harmonious, the firm yet comfortable suspension works reliably, even when cornering. The steering is smooth and the brakes are powerful but not too biting.
The varied route along the coast, in the hinterland and on motorway sections thus became a real pleasure tour. Another positive aspect is that the stated electric range of 60 kilometres seems quite achievable, at least under halfway ideal conditions. On the test drive mix with relaxed gliding along country roads, curving around towns and cities and at the maximum motorway speed of 120 km/ with occasional acceleration approaches, the part-time electric car achieved 54 kilometres. However, the outside temperature was around 20 degrees. What also contributed to the increase in electric range, besides the warm conditions and the renunciation of the dynamic sport mode, was the selection of the stronger recuperation level by pressing the “B” button in the centre console. Especially in stop & go traffic on local roads, this allowed many a kilowatt hour to flow back into the 12.4 kWh battery when braking.
With the new Astra, Opel has a good chance of continuing its success story in the compact class. After several hours of test driving, the plug-in hybrid left an excellent impression. Commuters who have charging facilities at home and/or at work can make a large part of their everyday journeys powered by electricity and, thanks to the electric range of 60 km, also benefit from the government’s innovation premium. For all those who are interested in the all-electric Astra-e, the wait until next year should be well worth it. At least, if Opel will give its electric car a little more range than the 300+ kilometres that have been usual up to now – for example with the Mokka-e. Or a higher fast-charging capacity. Or a higher fast-charging capacity.
Text: Peter Grett
Lead story, picture 1 and 3: Opel
Picture 2 and 4: Peter Grett