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Comparison test Ford Focus, Opel Astra, Renault Mégane and VW Golf

hans-Dieter Seufert
VW Golf, Renault Megane and Ford Focus in comparison test
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You are slowly losing track of all the hopes that Opel has presented in recent years : Opel Zafira , Opel Meriva , Opel Astra H, O pel Insignia , now again Opel Astra. It is the ninth generation of the compact, which used to be called the Kadett in the happier days. The new one with the code letter J sees itself as a vehicle for innovation and is a serious car.

The Opel Astra does not offer a lush sense of space

With 1,462 kilograms, a good ten percent more than the lightest of its three rivals, pushes the Opel Astra on the road. The high weight is due to the fullness of the car, which compared to its predecessor grew by 17 in length, 6.1 in width, five in height and 7.1 centimeters in wheelbase. That arouses expectations of a lush space - which are immediately disappointed. What is he doing with the many centimeters? Its front wasted so much length that the passenger cell moved far back. The gently sloping roof line and the voluminous dashboard push the seating position far back for pilots and the like and restrict the feeling of space.

Small car-like feeling of space in the Opel Astra

Apart from that, the Opel comfortably accommodates front passengers - as a standard sport on low-mounted, back-supporting sports seats. The rough backrest adjustment is their only disadvantage. There are a few more of these on the hard padded back seat. The space available in the Opel Astra fund is falling so cramped that the question arises whether it is a fully-fledged compact car. One can expect from such a person nowadays that four adults can travel with him relatively unhindered. In the Opel Astra that doesn't work - knees shudder the backrests, feet are stuck under the frames of the front seats. The small car-like feeling of space promotes lowWindows and massive roof struts. Because passengers over 1.70 meters in the rear are not welcome, it seems almost logical that the headrests are much too short.

Renault, VW and Opel rely on downsizing

The trunk is also a little outstanding: its basic volume is on par with its class, but it offers a flat loading area only if the variable loading floor compensates for the high inner edge - at the expense of the loading height. The Opel Astra leaves it at the variability ( the Opel Astra in the top test ) like the VW Golf with asymmetrically split rear seat backrests. With the Ford Focus and Renault Mégane, the seats can also be set up, whereby all four only master the minimum program. If the upsizing of the Opel Astra body does not bring any advantages, can downsizing its powertrain make it possible? Like Renault and VW, Opel combines a 1.4 liter four-cylinder with a turbocharger. 1.1 bar boost pressure pumps the less cultivated and jerky appealing engine to 140 hp, but it does not translate its extra power compared to VW Golf and Renault Mégane into better temperament.

The Opel Astra dispenses with an independent rear suspension

The slightly poorer sprint values ​​are secondary in practice. But not the sluggish elasticity. The long geared sixth gear of the easily shiftable gearbox robs the Opel Astra of its power, so that the fourth one often has to be tried on the autobahn. This intensifies the pronounced thirst of the newly developed engine, which therefore falls short of expectations and far behind the qualities of the chassis. Unlike Ford Focus and VW Golf, the Opel does without Astra at the rear on an independent suspension, instead refines its twist beam construction with a Watt linkage, which is supposed to prevent the axle from moving sideways.

The Opel Astra takes the title of handling master from the Ford Focus

The set-up impresses with its high level of comfort and pronounced dynamics, whereby both can be increased with the optional Flex-Ride chassis (930 euros surcharge). In the 'Sport' and 'Tour' programs, the system adapts not only the damper hardness but also the throttle response and the support for precise and direct steering. In every mode, the chassis guarantees a high level of driving safety, but the gently regulating ESP reacts late and hectically to the strong tendency to understeer on a wet road - that costs one point. Which does not change the fact that the Opel Astra takes the title of handling master from the Ford Focus. But the active driving Ford Focus with its direct, slightly bumpy steering is not only doggedly defending itself in this discipline against the five years youngerOpponents.

The Ford Focus is the only one to rely on a naturally aspirated engine

Conscientious driving comfort, high-quality material selection or meticulous processing quality do not like the Ford Focus -Strengths belong, but space and trunk volume do - and its engine. The Ford Focus is the only one to trust a naturally aspirated engine. The two-liter speaks more spontaneously than the supercharged rival and lives in a high-speed relationship with a briefly graduated, precisely switchable five-speed transmission. This comparatively simple combination is more convincing than the unbalanced Opel Astra drive. It ensures a high level of noise, but better elasticity with lower consumption. In the end, the Opel Astra slipped just past the Ford - because of important details such as more comfortable seats or the optional, excellent bi-xenon headlights with cornering, highway and country road lights, for which it received the maximum number of points.

In the Renault Mégane you only sit comfortably at the front

The Renault Mégane in the equipment. As an opulently furnished Luxe, it comes with leather upholstery and a navigation system as standard and puts the meager competition to shame. When it comes to space, it doesn't do that: even in the Renault Mégane, adults only sit comfortably in the front and hardly more crowded in the rear than in the Opel Astra. Despite the firm suspension and sitting with too short a leg rest, the Renault Mégane with its harmonious drive, great talent for the touring car. Renault has a turbo on the 1.4-liter - results in 130 hp and 190 Nm. The quiet and refined engine pulls the Renault Mégane forward elastically - supported by the hacky, but appropriately stepped six-speed gearbox. Here, too, the downsizing concept proves to be economical only with a cautious driving style, and fails to achieve its ambitions in everyday life.

The VW Golf skilfully uses its strengths

The handling is lower, which is less due to the simple twist beam rear axle than to the low-feedback, synthetic steering. But even the neutrally tuned Renault Mégane remains unproblematic in terms of driving behavior. Only because it is noticeable in the safety chapter with slightly poorer equipment, fewer light options and the longer braking distance on road surfaces with different levels of grip than the Opel Astra, the Opel can overtake it in the overall standings. That leaves the VW Golf . Andthat stays in front. Not simply because he does not have any weaknesses, but because he optimally realizes his potential. Some may find the design boring, but the boxy shape creates the most spacious interior - despite the smallest external length. Front and rear, the VW Golf accommodates its passengers courteously with plenty of space and comfortable seats.

VW shows how downsizing works properly

In addition to the well-known VW Golf virtues such as flawless workmanship, simple operation and high functionality, it convinces with suspension comfort and driving dynamics - as with the Opel Astra, both can be intensified via the electronic damper adjustment for an extra charge (945 euros). The VW Golf circles bends neutrally, precisely guided by the direct steering. His ESP intervenes early, controls finely and minimizes understeer. The one handling point that it loses against the more agile Opel Astra is easily compensated for by the VW Golf (the VW Golf 1.4 TSI in the test) with its smaller turning circle. In addition, its better overview makes it easier to handle in the city than the bulky and confusing Opel Astra. When it comes to the engine, VW goes to greater lengths than the others and shows how downsizing works properly: the 1.4-liter not only has a turbocharger, but also direct injection. Although he also takes a sip more at high speeds, as is typical of the turbo, his consumption is overall below that of the competition. The Golf makes up for the 18 hp power deficit on the Opel Astra with its lower weight.

The VW Golf remains the benchmark

In addition, the cultivated TSI is more responsive, even in sixth gear of the smooth, precise transmission, it pushes powerfully from 1,500 rpm and turns lively up to over 6,000 tours. The Opel Astra has little to oppose the VW Golf except for the plus points in terms of light and equipment - the gap between its arch-rivals has not become smaller in the new generations, but larger. The VW Golf remains the benchmark, the Opel Astra, on the other hand, carries too heavy a hope that it cannot fulfill.


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