herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

astra turf war

Opel brings battle of the hot hatch to VW with this blistering OPC, writes Philip Hedderman

THERE was a time when the hot hatch segment was completely dominated by three letters - GTi.

Be it the mighty VW Golf or the less exciting (latter day versions) Peugeot, that badge was synonymous with fast and furious fun.

Now there's a new kid on the block that goes by the name of OPC, and this baby is completely bonkers.

Little brother of the Insignia, this three-door pocket rocket from the German car giant's racing wing Opel Performance Centre (OPC) is packing one hell of a punch with 280bhp, endless torque (400Nm) and a breathtaking 0 to 100kph sprint of six seconds.

It looks absolutely savage too, with stonking 20-inch alloys and every panel sculpted and toned to make it more aggressive.

Let's start at the front, which is dominated by the chrome triangular air vents that cool the cross-drilled Brembo brakes.

Wider, deeper and lower bumpers taken from the already beefed-up GTC give it a more squat stance, as do the side skirts and rear spoiler.

GROWL

Couple that with louder, in-your-face colours like the Buzz Blue, massive twin chrome tail pipes and a bellowing growl that would scare a lion and you have all the ingredients of a sure winner.

Inside the OPC racing pedigree is a little more subtle, but a trained eye will spot the tell-tale signs of its wickedness.

First is the leather Recaro bucket seats with chrome inlays just beneath the headrest which are snug and hold your constitution among other things when it gets a bit raucous.

Then there's the leather, flat-bottomed steering wheel embossed with the OPC logo and matching gear knob, door sills and aluminium pedals.

But the biggest giveaway of all is a little OPC button on the top left hand side of the colour touchscreen which should read OMJ (Oh My Jesus).

Press it, drop the hammer and that's what you'll be screaming as the G-Force from the 2.0l turbocharged engine tries to peel your face off.

Initially there's massive torque steer as the front wheels try to get to grips with the massive amount of grunt. Then the Limited Slip-Diff kicks in to calm things and the Astra comes into its own with a confident and composed ride.

The steering, we felt, could have been a little more informed, but the suspension in all modes was tight and body roll virtually non-existent.

The brakes too were absolutely superb, resisting fade while never being too jabby.

When not pushing her to the absolute limits, the OPC can lead a normal life pottering about town and doing the school run.

It will even return 35mpg (6.6l/100km) while the annual road tax is only €750 - unlike the Insignia which is almost €2,500.

It's got lots of standard kit too including leather uphostlery, heated seats, OPC chassis with HiPerStrut front suspension and Watt's link rear axle, FlexRide chassis with OPC drive settings, cruise control, air con and daytime running lights.

So, is it going to worry the GTi?

Power-wise, certainly, and for the fun factor a big thumbs up, but it may prove a little pricey and indeed much too lively for some to handle.

The Astra GTC, though, could be the perfect match in this situation.

The OPC starts at €39,995 and the GTC starts at €21,995.

THE all-new Mazda CX-3 will be here just in time for the 152 plate, with prices starting from €20,695. The Irish choice will be the 1.5-litre diesel with 105bhp in two or 4WD.

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