Gottagged

Astra OPC

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Pros: Futuristic design, fighter jet exhaust note, impeccable handling.

Cons: Notchy gearbox, dated infotainment display, cheap looking subwoofer.

The Astra OPC has been on our shores for a while and one hardly sees these vehicles on the road, it’s very strange as this is a hot hatch that ticks most boxes and we certainly know that we would love to have one. But wait, a few niggles could be the reason why it’s not as popular as the competition.

Aesthetics

When you step into the OPC you’re greeted by the great looking recaro seats, not many manufacturers have these seats in the hot hatch segment and one begins to wonder why. They provide support, comfort and cater for any individual big or small, there is something special about these seats one would have to experience them to know what emotions are conjured when you step into them.

The centre console is filled with plenty of gizmos and buttons, yet it’s neat enough to know what each button does. Many cars in the past have had plenty of buttons that one could not figure out, but gone are those days, manufactures now have simplified functions and some have enhanced the experience by using an iPod like interface, all good and well but It can be distracting whilst on the road.

Unlike some hot hatches this is a very nice place to be in and once again I’ll mention the seats, there are very, very good. Fitted with a beefy 360mm flat-bottomed leather steering wheel one does believe that you’re in something special, grip it tight, enter the apex and blast out of it with no drama.

It has dual zone air conditioning and offers individual climate control capabilities so the driver and passenger can set different temperatures. None of the features in the interior are jaw dropping as most other cars have them so one is not wowed into how perceptively brilliant this car is. All one can say is that it is a good place to be in.

Performance

The OPC is a Jekyll and Hyde kind of car, in the normal eco mode you can cruise around as though you are in a plush limo with four seats. Engage sport mode and things begin to taunt up a bit and the suspension and throttle responses are sharpened. The OPC button changes the illumination on the dials and facia to a red glow encouraging some wild and memorable drives, the suspension becomes rock hard, the throttle response is immediate and the aural pleasures of the exhaust note are amplified, OPC mode is short for, I don’t have much to lose and whatever happens, happens, advanced driving courses are recommended for the unskilled.

Traditionally I would not waste any time in finding the nearest straight and planting the throttle, but for some reason I was hesitant, it’s almost as though I was having a moment of silence in the OPC slowly learning what this and that does and I guess building some courage of the rush I was about to experience. One can read a plethora of articles of how well this car handles and sounds, but, it’s not enough, you need to be behind the wheel of this gem to fully appreciate what is going on in the hood, drivetrain and everything else that makes this car a marvel.

206kw and 400Nm are numbers that one could only dream of having in a front wheel drive car, but to circumvent any drama and unforeseen mishaps, the OPC is fitted with a mechanical limited slip differential which in the simplest terms allows the wheel with the most amount of traction to get power enabling motion without losing momentum. This is what unfortunately plagued the previous OPC too much power and no way of putting it down, but strangely it was quicker than the hailed Golf 5 GTI and Focus ST around the Top Gear test track.

It’s very difficult to set a wheel wrong in this car, the high-tech front wheel drive machine will beg you to push it harder and faster into corners but I soon ran out of talent and frankly got scared as one should not be feeling so confident in a front wheel drive car without the unexpected under steer that plagues many. But not everything is rosy in the OPC the change from first to second gear can be a bit tricky and hampers the brutal acceleration it delivers, If only Opel would consider having the DSG transmission as an option then one could not fault a single thing with this cars performance ability.

Summary

All in all the OPC is a great alternative to Volkswagen’s Scirocco R, Renault’s Megane RS and Ford’s Focus ST and I would certainly select it as a better daily drive over most other hot hatches, It may not be the quickest of the bunch but it is certainly a more well-rounded package that offers ballistic acceleration, speed and unmatchable handling.

GOTTAGGED Rating: 7.5/10

 

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