Opel Astra: More than a pretty face

The previous generation Astra shocked and awed with imaginatively cast metal bisected from nose to tail by a sharp style line so vehemently creased into the bodywork that it permeated the cabin. Perhaps because of this, Mk5 Astras design dated quicker than Volkswagens effort. So rather than subtly reskin in the VW tradition, Opel has cast a new mould for Astra, effectively going back to formula phase. So no restricted glass house, no raked back roofline ending in an arrowhead. This ones far safer. You could almost accuse new Astra as being a sort of Best of the C Segment Hatch design fusion with elements of Mazda 3, Renault Megane and even Toyota Auris X thrown in for good measure. Our silver test unit plays well with the citys dancing lights and shapes as we hurry along empty streets, and you have to admit the styling is not a bad mix, still wholly cohesive and reminiscent of the old car.

The metal may be conservative, but the face is an overt feast of reflective lights and LEDs each side of a wide airdam and prominently badged grille. The previous stubby profile gives way to a more swooping roofline in the Megane mode, while Opels new trademark blade motif slices through the lower flank of the car from the base of the front arch, then kicks up to kiss the top of the rear arch. The rear end is saved from nondescript by the details: a V shaped handle housing, blacked-up diffuser section along the base of the rear bumper, a boot-mounted rear spoiler and a rear lamp cluster that reminds of a collection of lit arrowheads.

Yes, it comes across as a pumped-up rethink of new Corsa rather than an evolution of Astra, but I like it. Importantly, and key to current C-segment success, youll find no offensive angles. Yet it does indeed turn heads almost as fervently as it swivels lights. Thats right, unlock your Enjoy Plus with Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL) and Control Intelligent High Beam and Automatic headlamp levelling in an undercover parking facility and it will greet you with an intricately orchestrated handshake in which it raises, dips, pans and focuses the beams in an eerie fashion seldom seen this side of a sentient being. Impressive, if somewhat creepy.

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