The last time Opels were officially sold in Malaysia was in the 1990s by a small company called Europel. There were ambitious plans to assemble a model called the Vectra but it never went ahead. Opel was actually a fairly strong brand in the country with its German background and it had robust, reliable models. Unfortunately, General Motors, which owned Opel then, decided to stop using the brand and instead used Chevrolet which it declared as ‘the most international of GM brands’.
Anyway, eventually Opel was sold off to the PSA Group (now part of the Stellantis Group) which has Citroen and Peugeot. Some of the models from the GM era continued to be produced and evolved through generations and one of them is the Astra, which began life as the successor to the Kadett (which would be familiar to older Malaysians) in the early 1990s.
Europel also sold the Astra here as a small, slightly sporty hatchback but only in limited numbers. So most Malaysians would not know about the model. It has reached the sixth generation which was recently unveiled, with deliveries to start early in 2022.
Moving to electric drives
Until now, the Astra has used combustion engines and for this new generation, it will be the first time that the model will have electric drive, in line with the future direction of the PSA Group. Petrol and diesel engines will still be available as there will still be markets that need them.
The electrified powertrain will be a plug-in hybrid type with two performance levels that can deliver up to 165 kW (225 ps) system output. The combustion engine side is a 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol unit and with the 12.4 kWh battery pack, an electric-only range of 50 kms is claimed (subject to driving conditions, of course). The transmission is an 8-speed automatic only.
PSA Group EMP2 platform
Earlier generations of the Astra sat on GM platforms that were used for a multitude of models of different brands all over the world. Under PSA ownership, the new Astra uses the third generation of EMP2 multi-energy architecture which is also used in Peugeots and Citroens.
The Opel Vizor look
The bodywork is appropriate for the new chapter in the evolution of the Astra. It has taut surfaces with no superfluous elements and with a new corporate face that the company calls the ‘Opel Vizor’, which was first used on the Mokka launched last year. It is inspired by a full-face helmet, with a ‘protective visor’ that organically integrates the grille, the headlights and the brand logo in one single module.
The Vizor concept also seamlessly integrates technologies such as the ultra-slim headlamps. This is the latest evolution of the adaptive Intelli-Lux LED Pixel light with 168 LED elements which comes straight from Opel’s flagship Insignia.
Moving into the fully digital era
As with the electrified powertrain, the interior also takes a leap forward. With the fully digital Pure Panel, analogue instruments are now ‘obsolete’, something for old-timers to talk about. There is a new human-machine-interface (HMI) with fresh, modern graphics on extra-wide touchscreens, just like a smartphone.
The interior designers have taken great care to ensure that the driver receives all the necessary information and useful operating options, but is not burdened with excessive or unnecessary data or functions. Key settings such as climate control can still be operated via physical switches and buttons which are still more practical and functional.
Driver assistance systems
The driver is supported by assistance systems ranging from the Head-Up Display to the semi-automated Intelli-Drive 2.0 assistance system and Intelli-Vision 360-degree camera. In addition to the multifunction camera, the technology comprises 4 body cameras, 5 radar sensors, as well as ultrasonic sensors front and rear.
The cameras and sensors are integrated with e-horizon connectivity in Intelli-Drive 2.0 which extends the coverage range. This enables the system to adapt the speed in curves, make speed recommendations and perform semi-automatic lane changes. Hands-off detection on the steering wheel ensures the driver remains engaged at all times.
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