It's been a long time since Opel launched a real sports model of a series. With the Astra GSe, that is now changing, much to the delight of Opel fans. But is the 225 hp plug-in hybrid drive the right choice?
The hot hatch is threatened with extinction. For many manufacturers, it is too CO2-intensive and stands in the way of achieving the EU fleet limits. For some brands, the base is no longer worth it - see Mercedes A-Class and Ford Fiesta. Opel, on the other hand, is reviving its GSe abbreviation, making the E for injection the e for electric and crowning the Astra series with a sporty top model that does not have a negative effect on the EU emissions balance. The 225 system hp PHEV drive with eight-speed automatic converter is indeed group goods with best regards from France, but the GSe gets a few more durable seats, independent design with front and rear apron and rims from the Manta GSe concept car driving dynamics additives. For example, an adapted chassis with the body lowered by ten millimeters, frequency-selective dampers that should be able to react independently to different requirements without electrical adjustment options, and a revised steering tuning. One wants to offer emotional but responsible driving fun, says Opel.
Driving fun is such a thing, especially one of the expectations. Anyone who now expects an old-school sports compact will be disappointed at first. The first Andalusian turns show the good precision and the subtle, not intrusive directness of the steering and the faster corners, the pleasant neutrality of the chassis and the sure-footed traction of the front-wheel drive thanks to well-applied stability electronics. Even bad road sections don't faze the Astra, because the chassis is taut, but structurally stable thanks to sufficient suspension reserves. Only occasionally does the front axle distribute slight impacts on potholes driven over with the steering angle - a small flaw that the standard Astra also has to contend with. The rolling movements of the 1.7 ton Astra GSe, which is quite chubby, cannot be completely prevented, but at least largely suppressed. Nevertheless, the Opel offers little that is really exciting. The steering doesn't let much feedback through, which is also due to the low-rolling-resistance tires (Michelin Primacy 4) that fail early on in their adhesion tasks.
The friendly dealer around the corner can certainly help with the tires. It will be more difficult for him to give the transmission a more agile shifting strategy, because while the chassis has certainly understood the task of dynamization, the drive is still in the ecological dungeon. Print? When both engines work together in Sport mode, things move quickly thanks to 360 system Newton meters. The standard sprint to 100 km/h takes 7.5 seconds.The directness of the response decreases as the battery level decreases, then the 81 kW electric motor, which sits between the engine and the transmission, no longer helps the 180 hp 1.6 turbo four-cylinder so confidently over the turbo lag. But the biggest stumbling block is the gearbox, which has no manual mode. You can only downshift before the bend with the standard steering wheel paddles, but this often doesn't prevent the transmission from climbing up the gear ladder in the middle of the curve so that the white flash at the corner exit literally collapses. The full throttle command at the corner exit is followed by nervous switching back and forth and the rapid end of the dynamic driving flow.
At least: In normal operation, the drive works quietly and harmoniously and saves annoying loudspeaker synth pop. At the same time, it remains acoustically completely reserved. The four-cylinder hums along in the background. In the interior, the Astra gives the usual image of its series, rightly still relies on plenty of haptic controls in addition to its 10-inch touchscreen. The GSe seats provide really good support when cornering and have a seat surface angle adjustment and the AGR certificate (Healthy Back Campaign) known from Opel. Otherwise, the cockpit remains untouched, which fits on the one hand, since the Astra cockpit makes a qualitatively decent impression and only a few puzzles arise when it is operated, on the other hand, a little more sports make-up should be nice. The speedometer display only offers a tiny bar as a tachometer. In a sports model, a slightly sportier display option may also be programmed.
More utility than entertainment value
All in all, the Astra remains a pleasant, hardly pointed everyday companion. The trunk offers 352 to 1,268 liters of utility value, the rear is a little narrower than some competitors but still sufficient for most adults. Interesting for electric commuters: According to the WLTP, there is a range of around 63 kilometers with a fully charged 12.4 kWh battery. The electric mode must be selected for this, since the Astra in the hybrid setting often switches between the drives, even in urban areas. The transition from recuperation to hydraulic braking is imperceptible, only the response is a bit nervous. If you take your foot off the gas pedal, the Astra glides. The automatic recuperation is activated only when the B mode can be selected via the gear lever. The battery can be fully recharged in around four hours, or even less than two with the optional 7.4 kW on-board charger. Important here: The faster on-board charger works in a single phase, so the 7.4 kW can only be used on 22 kW columns and wall boxes.
The Astra Sports Tourer GSe, available from April, offers even more utility. It offers the same recipe with more space in the second row thanks to a 57 millimeter longer wheelbase and 516 to 1,553 liters of luggage space.The same applies to the already available Grandland GSe, which even offers 300 hp . But the price of the five-door Astra is already far removed from the idea of a cheap, practical compact car. It is in the price list with a basic price of 45,510 euros – a stately 6,200 euros more than a VW Golf GTI. The Astra comes with a wide range of equipment that can only be expanded to include LED matrix lights, leather upholstery, navigation, head-up display, heated windscreen, panoramic roof and the 7.4 kW on-board charger. In the absence of plug-in hybrid funding, the Astra GSe remains an expensive pleasure.
If you are looking for a dynamic, semi-electric compact, the powerful and comfortable Astra GSe is the right choice. Hot hatch fans will have to wait a little longer until they enter the e-age. A better switching strategy would be a start.