2010 Opel Astra Preview

Jeff Youngs | Dec 31, 2009
FAST FACTS
  • All-new compact hatchback
  • Possibly coming to the U.S. badged as a Buick in 2011
  • Based on the same platform as the
  • Front-wheel-drive drivetrain
  • Currently only offered in Europe
  • Four-cylinder gasoline and diesel powerplants

Introduction

2010 Opel AstraOpel is a European division of General Motors. Originally founded nearly a century ago in Germany, the company was acquired by GM in 1929. Since then, the automaker has grown to become GM's core European business selling cars under such nameplates as Corsa, Astra, Omega and Vectra.

After a failed attempt in the late 1960s and early 1970s to sell Opel-badged products in the U.S. through Buick dealerships, General Motors has occasionally dipped into the Opel model lineup to create products for sale in the North American marketplace. Examples include the Cadillac Catera (an Opel Omega in Europe), Chevrolet Malibu (Opel Vectra), and Saturn Astra (Opel Astra). The upcoming 2011 Buick Regal is a version of the Opel Insignia, and to help General Motors meet stringent new federal fuel economy standards in the next decade, there is talk of marketing a Buick version of the redesigned 2010 Opel Astra, seen here, to Americans.

The 2010 Opel Astra is manufactured on GM's latest Delta II platform, which provides the basis for the upcoming Chevrolet Cruze. The platform is known as the Global Compact Vehicle Architecture, or GCV. The Astra was originally expected to arrive in the States as an all-new Saturn or Saab model, but those plans were abandoned when General Motors declared bankruptcy and shed those slow-selling brands. New announcements from GM lead many to believe the Opel Astra will now be imported to U.S. shores (in its compact sedan form) badged as a Buick.

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Design

2010 Opel AstraThe Astra's styling is inspired by the larger Opel Insignia. Compared to the outgoing Astra model, the 2010 version is three inches longer and features all-new sheetmetal that borrows many design cues from its larger sibling. The front fascia is smooth and aerodynamic, retaining the Opel family resemblance but with a sporty and aggressive flair, the automaker says. The Insignia's "sculpted blade" treatment is visible on the body sides, while the emphasized fenders lend a "strong shoulder" appearance to the overall vehicle.

The Opel Astra also received significant design influence from the Insignia on its interior. Very different from its predecessor, the sweeping dashboard features a primary instrument cluster with a large tachometer and speedometer on each side, with two smaller gauges set in the middle. A small multi-function instrument panel for warning lights is in the center. The center cluster features the traditional climate controls set directly below the available navigation screen. Cabin storage includes a large center console, possible thanks to an electronically actuated parking brake, freeing up the need for a large pull handle.

Hardware

In Europe, the 2010 Opel Astra is available with an array of engines, including diesel options. The base powerplant is a 99-horsepower, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder. Other choices include a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, and a choice between 1.7-liter or 2.0-liter diesel powerplants. The range-topping powerplant is a 237-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter gasoline engine, designed to allow the Astra to compete directly against the Volkswagen Golf/GTI-its primary overseas competitor. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, with a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission optional, depending on engine. All 2010 Opel Astra models are front-wheel drive.

Safety

2010 Opel AstraThe previous-generation Opel Astra earned 5-star safety ratings in Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Program) testing, and the new model promises even more occupant protection. Standard safety features include dual air bags, thorax/pelvis side air bags, active head restraints, safety belt force limiters and pyrotechnical belt tensioners for the front passengers. The floor pedals are fitted with an automatic release feature (Pedal Release System). Once the air bags are deployed, the hazard warning lights are triggered and the doors are all automatically unlocked.

Technology

While the platform is shared with the Chevrolet Cruze, the suspension of the 2010 Opel Astra has been significantly updated for a better ride and more precise handling, the automaker says. The front suspension features special rebound springs to help reduce understeer (the tendency of a vehicle to "plow ahead" when cornering), while the torsion bar rear suspension is supplemented by a Watts linkage to allow more articulation and movement of the rear axle. While the previous-generation Astra handled admirably, the new model with its updated suspension will offer more precision in the corners, plus a much more comfortable ride on the highway, the company states.

The 2010 Opel Astra will also offer two new electronic driving aids. Next-generation bi-Xenon headlamps adjust brightness based on ambient lighting, drive, and road conditions, while the Opel Eye front camera system helps the driver maintain lane control and identify reflective traffic signs.

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