The Germans invented the ‘hot hatch’ decades ago and you can mount an argument they still do these cars better than anyone else. Exhibit ‘A’: the Opel Astra OPC.
OPC is Opel’s version of AMG for ‘Benz, ‘M’ for BMW and ‘R’ for Volkswagen…so you’re confident they know a thing or two about fast cars and the engineers have probably spent more hours at the Nurburgring race circuit than they have with their families.
Where the Opel Astra steals the show is its racy looks. This Opel is more a rival for Volkswagen’s curvaceous Scirocco than it is for the Golf.
Opel Astra OPC Overview
So Opel delivers the handy Astra GTC Sport three-door hatchback to OPC and that’s when the fun starts. Enhanced aerodynamics outside, a marvelously sporty interior and let’s toss the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine and slide in a 2.0-litre turbo from the Insignia with extra boost and sporty exhaust.
Underneath OPC borrows from some motorsport partners for a racy suspension set-up and brakes…and ta-dah we have a genuine German autobahn stormer.
Here’s the really good part for Australian buyers – the price. At $42,990, the Opel Astra OPC undercuts the Volkswagen Scirocco R by $4,500
Opel Astra OPC Engine
Astra Opel OPC’s turbocharged direct injection 2.0-litre petrol engine comes from the larger Insignia range but with 25 per-cent more turbocharger boost (1.5 bar in the Astra), new exhaust and recalibrated computer controls. With 206kW at 5300rpm and 400Nm from 2400rpm, it has plenty of pace and Opel claims that 200Nm of torque per litre translates into the highest specific output in class.
Certainly with maximum torque available between 2450rpm and 5000rpm, the Astra OPC isn’t peaky – as was evidence in yet another Monash Freeway snafu in Melbourne’s south-east suburbs which had us inching forwards for the best part of two kilometres…our Opel nowhere near as cranky as its driver.
Zero to 100km/h takes 6.0 seconds and, aided by auto start/stop, the Opel Astra OPC returns combined cycle fuel consumption of 8.1l/100kms.
Opel Astra OPC The Interior
The Opel Astra OPC stamps its performance intent with a brilliant interior which we reckon has set the benchmark in this league. Even at first glance, the sporty Nappa leather seats, ‘Cool Pearl’ colour door panel stitching and gloss black trim highlights exude real European quality.
Climb inside and you sit low - as you should in all sporty cars. In fact the hard-shell, lightweight seats are mounted 17mm lower than the Astra GTC and 30mm lower than a standard Astra. There’s manual adjustment for the under-thigh supports and superb electric adjustment for the side bolsters to provide snug support even for thin folk.
The steering wheel is a great flat-bottom design, thick, leather wrapped and at 360mm is 10mm smaller than the regular Opel Astra. Rake/reach adjustment ensures a first-class driving position.
Instruments are the expected European quality with some OPC-unique touches like the G-meter readout which shows the force being created under acceleration, braking and cornering. Audio is a seven-speaker system with a seven-inch colour screen for the satellite navigation display.
Access to the 60:40 split-fold rear seat involves tugging a lever adjacent to the front seat headrests which tilts the seat-back forwards and ratchets the base ahead. Rear seat space is on par with similar three-door hot-hatches.
Cargo capacity is 380-litres with the rear seat in-place or a reasonable 1165-litres when folded. A special mention for opening the rear hatch – you press the Opel badge which look just like a normal badge…clever.
Opel Astra OPC Exterior & Styling
Based on the Opel Astra GTC Sport, the OPC version gets off to a flying start in the looks department. It’s a crisp, very European look highlighted by that superbly crafted swooping roofline and muscly wheel-arches which combine with the slick three-window design to deliver a powerful and dynamic silhouette.
The OPC version gains unique aero front and rear bumpers (the latter incorporating twin exhaust tailpipes), side skirts and a large roof spoiler which is nicely integrated into the rear.
To round-out a brilliant styling package, our test car was fitted with the sensational-looking optional 20-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli P-Zero tyres.
Opel Astra OPC On The Road
Within a few minutes of the Opel Astra OPC arriving in our garage we were hurtling over our high-speed mountain roads test loop. Well the red Astra looked so damn good it demanded to be driven!
And we returned with broad smiles – this thing is a high-tech projectile as only the Germans can do them. The ‘High Performance Strut’ (HiPerStrut) suspension from the Astra GTC, Drexler mechanical limited slip differential and meaty Brembo brakes all equip the Astra OPC for some serious motoring.
You can switch-off the ESP altogether but as usual, we found the high performance setting (called ‘Competitve’ in the Astra OPC) to be the best set-up. There’s a smidge of torque steer when you nail the turbo 2.0-litre mid-corner but you soon acclimatize and the total chassis package is just right – firm, precise and balanced and certainly enhanced by the grippy Pirelli P-Zero rubber.
Likewise the matching of engine and transmission was just how performance drivers like it – nice spacing between the ratios for second, third and fourth for when the road is tight and twisty but a quite cruise in sixth.
And in that turn-after-turn-after-hairpin-after-switchback environment, those marvelous adjustable sports seats were certainly appreciated.
Our points deduction for the Opel Astra OPC was mechanical noise. Opel OPC actually tuned the exhaust system (including removing one of the three silencers used in the GTC specification) to provide a better audio track on acceleration but with plenty of revs on board, the so-called ‘jet-like’ sound gets a bit raucous for our ears.
Around town the sensational acceleration of the 2.0-litre powerplant made for zippy freeway merging and surprisingly the low front spoiler didn’t catch on any of the driveways we encountered.
And those optional 20-inch alloys looked so good we were very careful not to ‘curb’ them when parking (and in that context the restricted rear three-quarter visibility called for careful maneuvering). In our tight CBD car park the Opel Astra OPC’s 12.3-emtre turning circle was noticeably larger than we expected for a vehicle which is only 2020mm wide and with a wheelbase of 2695mm.
Opel Astra OPC Challenges
Astra OPC’s tuned exhaust noise isn’t music to all ears. And the price of that glorious swoopy rear end is restricted visibility so we’d like a reversing camera.
Opel Astra OPC Verdict
If you visit Germany, chances are an OPC-tweaked Opel will rocket past you on the Autobahn – these are the cars for which Opel is famous in Europe and it’s great to see the range now in Australia. Like arch-rival Volkswagen, Opel knows the buttons to press for hot-hatch buyers and there’s no doubt the Astra OPC delivers by the bucket-load.
Fast, grippy at the limit and rewarding for drivers who press on, the Opel OPC is a ‘must-include’ on the shopping list of anyone considering a European hot-hatch.
And apart from all the technical goodies, Opel and OPC have nailed the styling – this thing just looks brilliant. Then there’s the interior – well, as we mentioned, that’s probably the new benchmark in this league.
Wrap all of that up with a price tag of $42,990 and the inescapable conclusion is: great value.
Opel Astra OPC The Competition
Renault’s Megane (RS265 Cup at $42,640; RS265 Trophee at $47,140 and RS265 Trophee+ at $51,640) has set the bar in this league. As a package, the Renault is ahead on chassis dynamics but the Opel Astra OPC’s 206kW/400Nm outguns the 195kW/360Nm Megane.
With 188kW/330Nm, Volkswagen’s Scirocco R is outmuscled by the Astra OPC but for those who find the Opel and Renault a tad too racy, the stylish Scrirocco’s refinement should hit the sweet spot. At bit pricier at $47,490 (six-speed manual), Volkswagen also offers the Scirocco with a six-speed automatic at $49,990.