D With the facelift, the people of Rüsselsheim have had the Last year a little tidy up with the Astra drives: only three-cylinder - which still come from GM here - and a variant with automatic transmission for diesel and gasoline.
But while in the most powerful diesel a new speed -Transformer automatic tinkering (see AUTO 24/2019), the Opel engineers decided on a different solution for the gasoline engine: If you don't want to change gear yourself with the 145 PS variant, Instead of the 1.2-liter three-cylinder, a 1.4-liter is packed under the hood, on which a new CVT transmission is screwed. Edition cost: 26,800 euros.
CVT? Right, these are those gears that can vary their transmission steplessly and at lightning speed by means of belts or link belts on two conical axes and theoretically represent an infinite number of 'gears'. CVTs are lighter and are also considered to be more efficient than other automatic gearboxes; But they also have a principle-related peculiarity: They allow the motor to advance in speed which does not correspond to the speed as one is used to from other drives. This sound and acceleration behavior (often scolded as the 'rubber band effect') has meant that CVTs have so far led a niche existence among automatic gearboxes.
This could change in the medium term, at least with the Astra. Not only due to the lack of an alternative (the CVT is initially the only automatic in the gasoline portfolio), but also because Opel has shown a lucky hand when reaching for the parts shelf and adapting it. Because the GM transmission called VT 40 has also been working in Chevrolet Cruze and Malibu since last year.
Out of the niche - bye rubber band!
Back to our Astra: 145 HP and 236 Nm usually promise a lively driving impression in a 1.3 ton truck, which is why we are all the more excited about the automatic variant. And we are positively surprised: The CVT-Astra skilfully hides its working principle. On the one hand because of the quiet running and low noise of the three-cylinder petrol engine at low load, on the other hand because the VT 40 can simulate seven 'fixed' gear stages and cleverly influences the speed curve. While with other transmissions of this type the engine is always immediately set to the most efficient target speed for the desired performance when accelerating, in the Astra it is also different: The transmission control allows increasing speeds during acceleration and also specifies different speed limits depending on the speed and load . Most of the time you are traveling at low revs anyway, which also has a positive effect on consumption: Six and a half liters are possible, in the test average it was 7.2 l /100 km - not a bad value given the performance offered.
The refreshed Astra also gives a good feeling in other respects: neat materials and a clearly structured cockpit with understandable operation delight the driver, the good space and the large trunk all occupants. The only downer with the CVT Astra: It is not allowed to pull trailers, only to hook bike carriers.