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Opel has introduced a sporty looking, automatic variant to the Astra line

Famous for being crowned South African Car of the Year in 2017, the fifth-generation Opel Astra has since its launch in 2015, soldiered on rather inconspicuously in South Africa, failing to make a dent in the Volkswagen Golf’s stranglehold on the market.

And while you could say that the Astra is a car for the discerning compact hatchback buyer, it’s a bloody good one at that. Opel has now sought to bolster the Astra line-up by introducing a new flagship variant, equipped with an automatic transmission. The 1.6T was previously available with a six-speed manual, but this has been replaced by a six-speed automatic transmission.

Like its name suggests, the 1.6T makes use of a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol motor that produces a credible 147kw and peak torque of 280nm available from 1,650 until 5,000rpm. Opel claims a 0-100kph sprint time of 7.8 seconds, and claimed fuel consumption of 6.1 litres per 100kms. Activating the standard sport-mode switch, will bring the torquey Astra’s impressive warm-hatch credentials come into play.

As you would imagine, the 1.6T Sport is kitted out with standard specification befitting of its flagship status. On offer are LED IntelliLux Matrix Lighting System, LED taillights, electronic climate control, keyless entry and go, Apple and Android mobile phone connectivity, Bluetooth, heated front and rear leather seats and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. In terms of safety, aside from six airbags, there is ESP Plus with ABS and Hill Start Assist, a tyre-pressure monitoring system, Side Blind Zone Alert, a rear view camera with hands-free parking, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, rain sensor wipers and Adaptive Forward Lighting to name a few.

Opel has opted to galvanize the 1.6T’s status as a flagship model, by fitting the exterior with the OPC-Line Sport Pack and the OPC-Line Pack for the interior. This includes alloy sport pedals, sporty seats, and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. It rides on attractive 18-inch alloy, shod with 225/40 rubber; and there is an optional tilt and slide sunroof on offer too.

The Astra shares its platform with the second-generation Chevrolet Cruze, a car we didn’t get in South Africa. Thanks to that, it sheds upwards of 150kgs over its bulky predecessor. This equates to good news not only for economy and emissions, but for performance as well. And this all from a car that is actually smaller than its predecessor – 5cm shorter, 2.5cm lower and even with a 2cm shorter wheelbase, but thanks to that modular construction, a more spacious interior.

The Opel Astra Sport 1.6T Automatic is priced at R508 000; and comes standard with a 5-year/90 000km service plan, a 3-year/120 000km warranty, and a 12-year/unlimited km anti-corrosion warranty.

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