After the arrival of the new Opel Astra here in late 2015, the Opel Astra Sports Tourer has recently landed in Ireland. “Sports Tourer” is the posh name but what we’re really talking about here is an estate car and it makes a great buy if you need more boot space and practicality than what a standard Astra hatchback can offer.
The new Astra Sports Tourer also happens to be a very handsome car in the metal. True, the test car (pictured) was a top of the range Elite model and came with gorgeous optional 18” ‘Twister’ alloys (€550), but there’s no denying that even in basic form, the new car has a lovely, elegant shape.
The new Astra has also seen a huge step up in design and quality over its forebear, and the quality in the cabin is up there with the very best in the class. The Astra I think actually has an advantage here because the dash design not only feels well-made and all the materials are of good quality, but it’s also interesting to look at and nice to interact with. The Intellilink infotainment system is standard from SC trim upwards and the touchscreen gives the cabin a slick appearance, while also allowing easy integration with smartphones and access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps.
Entry level S cars get air con and Bluetooth but step up to SC and you get additional 16” alloy wheels, cruise control, four electric windows, steering wheel mounted audio controls and Intellilink. While SC and sporty SRi trim will probably tempt buyers most in this segment, the Elite model on test was a great showcase of how sophisticated the Astra can be should you wish to spec it up, with standard features including leather seat trim, dual zone climate control, heated steering wheel, electric parking brake, heated front seats (also with a cooling function!) and heated outer rear seats, on top of the safety tech like lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and Opel OnStar that are standard from SRi trim up. A cool option fitted to the test car was the electric tailgate that can be released from the key or by waving your foot under the rear bumper (€500).
It’s an estate car so of course the boot is the key selling point here because it’s 540 litres compared to 370 litres in the hatchback. It’s ideal for regular use because it’s got a low flat loading area and great shape for stacking your cargo or housing your canine friends on trips to the beach or park. For your human friends, there is seating for five and the space on offer is good. In the back, head and leg room gives the impression of a large, roomy car and even the middle passenger gets a relatively flat space to put their feet.
The great advantage of compact estates like the Astra Sports Tourer is that while they house generous cargo space they are also, well, compact, so you can get around easily and they are not a nuisance to park. The Astra Sports Tourer is a supremely confident drive and there is very little to complain about behind the wheel as the suspension does a great job of anesthetising the bumps and ruts of Irish roads, while the car handles with a great level of panache too. The steering is light and easy, but the grip from that front end makes itself tangible at the rim so placing the car on the road and dipping in and out of corners is actually quite fun. Compared to the hatch, the extra bit of bulk at the back makes the car feel slightly less dynamic if you’re pushing hard through tight corners because there’s more lean.
The Astra Sport Tourer is complemented by a range of petrol and diesel engines, with the best for economy returning as high as 78mpg. The engine line-up for the Sports Tourer is the same as the hatchback and includes three petrols (1.4-litre 100PS, 1.0-litre turbo 105PS, 1.4-litre turbo 150PS), and a 1.6-litre diesel with two different power outputs (110PS and 136PS). My test car had the 1.6-litre (136PS) diesel and it’s a fine specimen of the genre – super smooth power output through the 6 speed manual gearbox and excellent refinement with no annoying harshness, even stopping and starting around town. There’s also more than enough power and the car pulls strongly with great flexibility in all the gears, while returning up to 72mpg.
Estate cars have never really been big sellers in Ireland and certainly over the past few years many hatchback buyers have strayed further from this territory in the car showroom, migrating to similarly priced crossovers and SUVs rather than estates.
But the Opel Astra Sports Tourer certainly makes a great case for the humble estate, with a fine blend of practicality, smooth driving character and a level of refinement that would make many similarly priced SUVs and crossovers appear like false value.
Model Tested: Opel Astra Sports Tourer Elite
Price: €29,195 (Range starts €21,195)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
0-100km/h: 10.1 seconds
CO2 Emissions: 104g/km
Motor Tax: €190 per year