The redesigned Opel Astra shares design cues with the Opel Insignia.
Opel, General Motors' financially embattled European subsidiary, has ripped the covers from its sixth-generation Astra ahead of the car's planned debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September.
The five-door hatchback traditionally is one of Europe's best-selling models and originally was expected to play an important role in the Saturn lineup in the United States. Under GM's pared-down lineup, the Astra's Delta 2 chassis is likely provide the underpinnings for a small Buick, initially in China, and then in the United States, depending on market conditions. A sedan version of the car comes to the States as the Chevrolet Cruze in 2010 as a 2011 model.
The Astra reveal comes in the midst of uncertainty over the future of Opel. The German-based carmaker has been approached by a number of companies in recent weeks, including Fiat, supplier Magna International and Russian automaker GAZ, that are interested in buying part or all of Opel. GM plans to sell Opel as part of its global restructuring plan.
Opel developed the new Astra from the ground up. Visually, it takes on a more upscale look than its immediate predecessor, borrowing styling cues from the larger Insignia.
Along with the initial four-door hatchback model, Opel also is preparing a sportier two-door hatchback, as well as a wagon variant. There are no plans on replacing the existing cabriolet, sources told AutoWeek. The sources suggest that the current convertible will continue to be produced for some time.
The new Astra is larger, mostly to satisfy tougher safety legislation in key markets. At 173.2 inches long overall, the new Astra has gained 4.3 inches.
Much of that extra length is inside the wheelbase, which has increased by 2.8 inches to 105.7 inches, improving rear-seat legroom, Opel says.
Opel has yet to provide a look at the interior. However, insiders say it picks up the styling theme from the Insignia and even makes use of some of the Insignia's switchgear, which helps cut costs.
The redesigned Astra is engineered for front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. Initially, the new Astra will be front-drive only.
The suspension is a combination of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion-beam setup at the rear. At first glance, this would appear to be a disadvantage against cars such as the Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Golf, which use a more sophisticated multilink rear suspension. However, Opel claims the ride quality has improved greatly over the outgoing Astra, mainly through the adoption of new suspension geometry that includes wider tracks and improved weight distribution.
Buyers also will be able to option the new Astra with an electronic damping control system called FlexRide, also adopted from the Insignia.
One thing about the new Astra that is smaller is displacement of the four-cylinder engines.
The range includes a new, turbocharged 1.4-liter unit rated at impressive 140 hp and 148 lb-ft torque--figures that match the outgoing model's naturally aspirated 1.8-liter unit. Opel says the new engine delivers 36.6 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
Other engines at launch are carryover units, including a naturally aspirated 1.4-liter rated at 100 hp, a turbocharged 1.6-liter rated at 177 hp and a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter that makes 140 hp.
The car is not likely to be launched for at least another year, but we also hear that Opel is preparing a 270-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter performance version of the new Astra to be marketed under its OPC (Opel Performance Center) brand.
Among the diesels will be a 1.3-liter rated at 95 hp, a 1.7-liter rated at 110 hp and two 2.0-liter units, both shared with the Insignia, rated at 130 hp and 160 hp, respectively. Also under development but not due out until next year is a frugal EcoFlex model that uses a retuned version of the 1.7-liter that's claimed to return close to 60 mpg.
Since GM has developed the Delta 2 platform to accept its Voltec plug-in hybrid system, there also is a strong possibility that the new Astra will offer electric drive some time within its planned seven-year model cycle--provided that any new suitor for Opel is able to agree to terms with GM for the use of the system.