ALL NEW ASTRA
Opel unveils hot hatch that will scare the pants off Golf and Focus, says Philip Hedderman
Opel has taken a leaf out of the VW design handbook and opted for an evolution rather than revolution policy with the all-new Astra.
Yes, the 11th generation of the hatchback sees an improvement on the aspects customers liked and a radical re-think on the bits they hated.
After all, 24 million (Kadett/Astra) owners worldwide can't be wrong.
Set to make its international debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, those who have waited won't be disappointed.
For starters, it looks amazing with its more aggressive, pumped-up body, giving it a real sporty, coupe-like stance.
The double bar stradd-ling the honeycomb grille which continues through the striking LED lights is underlined by a second black inset beneath the sunken foglights that both widen and lower the snout.
A massive scoop in the middle of the bonnet is a perfect complement to the blade-like creases running along the flanks.
These accentuate the Astra's stand out feature - the blacked out C-Pillar giving the effect of a floating roof.
It's also lighter (200kgs), and although shorter (49mm) and lower (26mm), the cabin is roomier, giving rear-seat passengers an extra 35mm of legroom.
A classy cockpit greets the driver with a similar layout to its predecessor, only it's been completely decluttered.
Gone is the raft of buttons, now replaced by an eight-inch colour touchscreen in the centre stack.
This is home to the latest App-based gizmos including Apple CarPlay.
It takes the iPhone features you'd want to access while driving and puts them on the vehicle's display in a smart, simple manner.
That allows drivers to make calls, send and receive messages and listen to music right from the steering wheel or by voice via Siri.
Other optional goodies include Traffic Sign Assistant, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Collision Imminent Braking and Blind Spot Alert.
Under the hood is a completely new line-up of engines ranging from 95 to a blistering 200bhp.
Obviously the favourite here will be the revolutionary 1.6-litre Whisper diesel which was unveiled in the Mokka late last year and which should be even more frugal in the slimmer hatchback.
Opel is hoping to tempt Irish buyers with the super light 1.4 ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo power plant.
It comes from the same family as the smaller three-cylinder engine that blew us away in the new Corsa.
The all-aluminum block boasts an impressive 145bhp, and because it's 10kg lighter, fuel economy is up while CO2 emissions are down.
No official prices as yet, but a little bird tells us that Opel Ireland is striving to keep it as close to the outgoing model as possible
If that's the case, the new Astra is sure to scare the pants off the Golf and the facelifted Ford Focus. We can't wait for the OPC.