The lesser-spotted 2022 Astra
The evergreen Astra: around these environs, you might be hard pressed to believe that seasons five, six and, to a lesser degree, seven have ceased production at all. Examples of each of these generations still ply their trade, from the local builder’s grubby estate car or faithful family holdall, to the noisome kerbside cruisers beloved of maxed-up youth. These and other variants remain daily sightings, their longevity a credit to the brand.
But wherefore the latest incarnation? Astra achter was revealed to this fair land during the Summer of 2021, becoming available to download (sorry), purchase from November, yet your North Western correspondent has yet to observe one emanating from a side junction, slip past one on the motorway or sight one in a supermarket car park. What gives?
The Griffin badge does attract a quantum of ambivalence, even within this parish. Having myself once been a proud Mk3 Astra-naut (owner to you), I’ve never felt any reason to return to the fold. The Focus that supplanted it proving better rounded, the Citroën C4 coupé more characterful. Vauxhall’s unprepossessing nature lingers, but the time for disparagement may well be over.
“Bold and Pure” was the programme mission statement at the car’s Spring 2018 inception, with both character and desirability being next-gen Astra watchwords. The Opel design team, under the supervision of Mark Adams, deemed this a “diamond opportunity” for the aesthetics to reflect the purposeful engineering beneath. Mariella Vogler, a seasoned Opel campaigner and Chief Engineer of Astra 8, gathered a twenty-five strong team, twelve of whom were women, all “pushing without rivalry, achieving openness and appreciation.” From the first prototype, it seems everyone was in agreement.
But wait, there are still matters of emotion to consider – or perhaps eradicate. Fix those peepers frontwards towards The Vizor®. There is no line of scrimmage here, only a forceful leitmotif of axes. With the Blitz or Griffin remaining centre stage, one can envisage a cyborg, in this case without the intended malice. As signature headlights go, these will do nicely. The front apron contains fins and wings a 1950s Cadillac might be proud of, were they flat and airflow inducing. The bonnet crease is continued towards the licence plate, acting almost like a spotlight for the badge. Neither aggressive nor austere, Rüsselsheim is being unashamedly bold.
This theme continues down the flanks, where (metaphorically) pin sharp strakes add sufficient tension to make this dynamic looking hatchback stand out from the crowd. Nor is there any hasty genuflection to the call of the electrified tune. In Electric Yellow at least – other hues certainly do not detract from the overall effect – nothing glares or jars the optics. “Adding juiciness,” is how Ilka Höberman, colour and trim designer, puts it. Astra is a daily car that looks good: A+.
The C-pillar reflects earlier Kadett / Astra incarnations and, when combined with a black roof, really does emphasise the shark fin. One fly in the ointment, however, is the black triangular sail panel that makes the rear quarter-light appear not quite oblong in shape, a feature which seems almost as laboured as this sentence. The flanks, therefore, receive an A-minus. The Astra’s rump too, receives a solid A for being uncluttered and in keeping with its rectangularly lit, Vizor front-aping taillights. A push on the badge opens the boot, a feature which flustered a few of the design matrix team, as did the neat and functional small, vertical high-mounted brake light.
Internal relations flit between that of the expected coal mine, minus canary, blended with some Pure sense and functionality. The materials and comfort of the seats may go beyond even the perceived premium baseline, but goodness, it looks drab in there. Spec up to GS or Ultimate trims to receive a slash of red and silver on the seat facings, along with a glass roof to allow in some much-needed light. The dashboard and door cards offer up a plethora of shapes and designs that may, if one studies them, reveal a distinct aura of inconsistency. Fortunately, the Astra’s USP is the driver-centric Pure display panel, available on all trim levels.
No grafted-on tablet here, sprouting incongruously from some obtuse slab, this man-machine interface is pitched as the car’s soul and, according to Vauxhall, a “visual detox”. The Pure display contains all the sub-menus a swiping finger can handle, with the added bonus of a handful of physical buttons. Mercy, one can actually raise or lower the temperature without the need to aimlessly stab at a screen. How refreshing. One hopes these buttons exude the correct weighting. The steering wheel, flat-bottomed with a silver spoke placed in the six o’clock position, houses the typical features one expects from the modern motor. Choosing an automatic cleans up the console area, given that stick-shift options look somewhat out of place in so modern an environment.
This Astra is the first to be powered by electricity, but will be preceded by plug-in hybrid versions, not to mention the inevitable combustion offerings. Attractively priced and with the handsome Sports Tourer catering for load-shifting duties, Astra 8 contains all the weaponry needed to be a sales leader. But is that badge still a sticking point? Lord knows it shouldn’t be, yet why the transparency in this vicinity?
The premium three dole out high-selling but bland design dross, while competition from time-honoured adversaries, Ford and VW, border upon the old-fashioned. This newest Astra is a design containing as much confidence as Korea’s offerings, whilst metaphorically blowing raspberries at Japanese efforts. One feels tempted to seek out the local Griffin seller for a real-world drive, but do they have an Astra in the showroom, or in the country, even?
Paddling in shark-infested waters is really not where Vauxhall / Opel’s feet wish to be. Shouldn’t they be actively hunting the other sharks? Stellantis will no doubt insist on larger volumes than these eyes have yet witnessed, to finally cast off the prejudice this brand has endured, once and for all.
Data sources: opelpost.com/ media.stellantis.com
 Vauxhall sell on-line (with a £500 discount), at the dealership or over the phone. They even offer a fourteen day love it or return it policy, allowing you up to 400 miles to make up your mind.
 Opel prototypes begin life in the Laubfrosch, a brick-built building dating back to 1924.
 The headlamp units are dubbed Intelli-Lux LED in Opel-speak. Catchy.
 The base Design trim sports a plainer front with but two diagonal indents, a mirror image of those at the rear.
 Perhaps confabulation might be a better description?
 The full-electric Astra is set to become available from 2023.
 Other views on this matter are available. [ED]