A stealthy blap keeps the Opel Astra OPC revving up for more
- 17 September 2015
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Words and pictures by: Leah Carroll
Stealth-wise, Opel has it spot on. This Buzz Blue hot hatch appears so ominous and purposeful that you nearly forget it’s part of a mainstream production run. Straight away the monster 20-inch wheels filling the flared wheel arches draw your eye.
Inside, the ambience is nice and dark, the excellent sport seats and sports aluminium pedals make sure that you know you’re not in a standard Astra’s cabin.
My favourite part of the cabin, the seats. My least favourite, the stereo. Let’s talk about the seats. Big, cosseting, all angle encompassing, heavy and a joy to sit in. You can make all sorts of lumbar adjustments, support your legs, back and rump & you’re immeasurably comfortable while running on those huge 20s. I would happily gun a great number of miles in these seats and have no doubt that there would be few aches and/or pains on arrival.
The stereo, reminiscent of Ford’s Focus ST facia, is also a facade with which I was nonplussed. It takes getting used to and it’s not really interested in wowing it’s audience with what details are left within your compressed mp3’s. Also, I actually had to look up the manual to find ‘select’. Scrolling through the menu was no problem, but push up and depressing the middle button to all intense purposes did nothing. Eventually the manual directed me towards a slim outer ring on the audio wheel selector which performed the desired function. Huzzah! Relief. But I still managed to blap from FM/AM/DAB by accident while attempting to flick stations and not change the actual input, which happened frequently.
Visibility, the small glass areas and wide B- and C-pillars hamper your view to the rear and sides. Access to the rear is difficult (it’s a 3 door, get over it – literally). There is sufficient space and the boot is more than generous, I could easily fit my road bike into the boot with the rear seats down, all without bumping or leaving rubber marks on the interior.
The ride is quite firm and I liked it. The steering wheel does require more than two fingers to keep it in line. But it feels so good gripping the wheel and knowing exactly how much input is required for those perfect turns. You also get a handy upper arm workout accomplished during commutes. I’m not likening it to a car without power steering, it’s just heavy. The gear changes are a little long and loose but don’t distract too much.
The mechanical limited-slip dif works wonders in slow-speed turns where the driver impresses on the throttle early without the inside front wheel spinning or the nose pushing wide. The OPC makes you love roads you didn’t realise were twisty and encourages to push just a little harder, sometimes just to listen to it breathe.
The OPC is a beast. It’s undoubtedly aimed at the hardcore end of the market with its storming engine, excellent chassis and remarkable brakes. The gearchange and stereo could be improved but the Astra OPC is so enjoyable and tells you exactly what’s going on, physically and audibly. Opel Ireland were lucky to get the keys back.