Opel Astra review (2023) – Looks can be deceiving

Dual nationality

The great thing about motoring journalism is that you can cultivate huge preconceptions before you even set off on a test drive. So, on the train to Paris, we start asking ourselves long questions about the Astra to kill time. “Well, it must be a bland copy of the 308”, “but, given that it’s less expensive, it shouldn’t be as well made”, “and since it’s a German, it’s bound to be as stiff as the Mokka”… Only when I picked up the car keys did I realize that I’d made a big mistake and that the total indifference had no reason to exist. Fantastic.

It’s true that this Astra is a real eye-catcher! Under the August sun, mustard yellow increases its seductive potential tenfold and skillfully highlights the lines of this German car, which is not of the demonstrative type. A serious face emerges, with a number of details that allow the car to play reasonably with originality. The most notable of these is undoubtedly the gloss black mask used as a grille. This contrasts sharply with the – too – bright yellow. Like it or not, it certainly sets the Astra apart from its competitors. The same applies to the rest of the car, where all chrome elements have been replaced by gloss black. Even the roof is a contrasting colour on this Ultimate trim, which says it all! In the end, just when you thought you were getting a bland, cold car, this Astra has its own personality and that’s really reassuring.

Classic interior 

The dashboard gently calms things down. There’s nothing sparkling to report compared to the exterior, but that doesn’t mean that the cabin is boring, no! That’s because the Pure Panel, which combines two screens in a row, is well designed with a clear interface. Unlike the 308, the driving position is also easy to find, thanks to a ‘normal’ steering wheel and surprisingly comfortable seats with multiple settings. The other bonus is that the Astra avoids the ergonomic shortcomings of the 308 by retaining physical buttons for ventilation. This is in good taste, even if the buttons could have been better. Last but not least, the head-up display provides an appreciable extra level of comfort.

The quality of the trim is also worthy of note, as the Astra is by no means a 308 on the cheap side. So, the good rubs shoulders with the not-so-good, just like in the French car. Yes, except that the German is a little cheaper! Priced from €34,750, our Ultimate test model, with its 130 PS 1.2-litre petrol in automatic, doesn’t overcharge. However, the equipment is good, including semi-autonomous driving, AGR-certified electric seats, Alcantara upholstery, LED matrix headlights and even a 360° camera. Without being the bargain of the century, the Astra is in the middle of the class. On the downside, space is tight in the rear and the boot is unremarkable at 367 litres.

Clearly stiff

Peugeot has brilliantly adjusted its slider between comfort and dynamism. To further differentiate itself from the competition, the Opel has emphasized its German origins and visibly hardened its suspension. As a result, even though the excellent seats cushion irregularities as best they can, they remain really firm both in town and on the road. As a result, the Astra is clearly one of the stiffest in its segment. But in return, it delivers a vigorous ride by keeping its roll remarkably well under control. You’ll even find yourself speeding through certain bends without the slightest fright. In short, it’s great on twisty roads. And on the motorway, it’s even better! While the damping has become a little more considerate, it’s the soundproofing that really deserves a round of applause, with very muffled wind noise. Excellent for hitting long distances.

The other pleasant surprise comes from the small 1.2 litre petrol engine. Already tested previously in the Mokka, we found it to be better educated under the bonnet of the Astra, being both smoother and quieter. However, this is not enough to make it a model of enjoyment, as it retains certain weaknesses such as a rough operating rhythm at low speeds. When the throttle is applied, the result is a jolt that the gearbox struggles to contain. Added to this is the sometimes haphazard management of the Stop&Start system, which even plays tricks on you as you approach a give-way. It’s a pity, because otherwise, this petrol Astra becomes silent at a steady pace and, all in all, not very thirsty (5.9 l/100 km).

A viable alternative to the 308

Contrary to our fears, the Astra’s lower price compared to the 308 clearly does not confine it to the second league. The German model boasts a real personality and a cabin that is less complicated than that of the French car. Apart from a few details, its equipment is also more generous. On the other hand, it is much firmer than the 308, without being any more agile on the road. The narrow rear seats and small boot may also put off some families. But all in all, this Opel is a very pleasant surprise. When we tell you not to be fooled by looks…

Verdict: 7/10

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