Day 2

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This is actually my 1st full day with the new Astra. I took a drive to Malibu with it. Even though the weather was less than perfect.

The car’s handling is really superior to most small cars on the market.
Again, it has this great German solid feel to it.
The steering as also really nice. A bit firm.
The suspension is between firm, and very firm. Especially on the freeway. But I don’t mind it.
It’s never actually hard.

The radio is pretty weird and unintuitive to use. You would think by now, 2008, everyone can make a radio that is easy to use.
Where things are supposed to be. I guess not.
The volume switch is the small button on the left. Not the big one in the middle.
That one is to navigate the menu. (Yes, it has a menu…)
But it does sound great.

The thing that bothers me the most, so far, is the transmission.
It seems to go to neutral if you stop for more than 5 seconds. Which means it has to quickly re-engage into first once you starts again.
And I can feel it every time. Kind of like in a Prius when you start again after the engine stops. There is a distinct shudder.
This is not as bad as the Prius, but noticeable.
I just don’t see the point of this at all. Why try to re-invent something that works.
Other automatics don’t do that.

At first I thought the car felt pretty slow. But you just need to push it a bit. There isn’t much power under 2500 rpm.
Once you get used to it, it’s not bad. And if you don’t try to drive it like a sports car it’s actually fine.

Even though the transmission has only 4 gears, I still managed to squeeze over 40mpg on the freeway on my way back.
Which is about the same as what I did with the new Focus.
My average in the city so far is around 23mpg. Regular.

Conversation 9 comments

  1. Vince,

    Appreciate the solid info on the Astra so far. I’d love to see continued comparisons to the Focus as you go along, since those two cars may be shopped against each other by some folks (present company included).

  2. I see what you mean.
    But the main problem for the Astra in the US would seem to be price.
    My car comes with an option package and Auto and it retails for almost $21000.
    (I’ll check on that to make sure of the exact price)
    And with Saturn, that’s what you have to pay (Unless they have a rebate)
    I think the tope of the line Focus (With Sync and sunroof) is less than $19000.
    Minus whatever deal you can find.
    That might make a quite a difference between the 2 cars. Could be up to $4000.

    The Astra does feel much more upscale. It’s just in another class. Almost like a small Volvo more than a Ford.

  3. Vince-
    So besides the weird neutral shift, is there any lag in the gas pedal? Is it a cable or drive by wire?

    How are the brakes?

    Suspension is firm? Are we talking bone jarring? Or just german sporty firm?

    any rattles or squeaks? road noise?

    keep up the good work! enjoy your reviews!

  4. I am very glad you are criticizing
    the automatic transmission. Indeed, all Opel automatics shift into neutral when you stop. It takes them a while to get into drive again even if you stay in D . And some of them perform quite roughly then.
    I recently drove an Opel Vectra model year 2000 and it already had that feature and I tell you: It gets WORSE. The older the car the longer the transmission needs to re-engage. They are doing that in order to improve fuel economy by 0.07 per cent or something like that. I have had Opels for more than 40 years but since they do that I have not bought another one. I still drive a 1995 Opel Vectra 4 speed auto and that transmission works great in comparison – after more than
    100 000 miles. Too bad Opel does not listen and they think they do not have to because most Europeans go with the manual anyway. I guess they need something to work on in their cars and automatics are not promoted in this class in Europe.
    The new Astra is quite a good car if you are not looking for too much ride comfort but the Ford Focus is better ( European edition )except they do not have an auto trans at all. They are working on a DSG transmission after failing with a CVT.

  5. I hate that center stack on the Astra. Especially the cheesey display. It sounds like the car is pretty good though. I wonder if the transmission goes into neutral so as to get the load off the engine to save gas while idling? The real comparison is going to be the next (US) Focus and the next Astra which should come out in about a year. I’ll bet they will both have that “German” feel while driving but the Focus will probably have the better price and if you can negotiate the price with the Ford and not the Saturn, well then…forgetaboutit!

  6. How does the Astra compare to the competition so far? At least the ones that you have driven; what’s better, or what’s not so hot?

  7. If Opel is so concerned with saving gas, why not shut the engine completely off instead of going into neutral? That really bothers me about the car changing it’s own gears other than the usual 4 or more foward speeds. I sometimes turn my car off at a long red light to save a bit of fuel here and there, but at least I have control over it.

    I can see why the sticker is $21,000. I have a friend with a 2005 Cobalt LS Coupe (This is basically the LT Sport Package Model 2006 and beyond) that had an original price near this Astra, but didn’t pay nearly that much because it was used and his father is the manager of a couple dealerships. This Astra has many more standard features though. However I can’t wait for the Elantra Touring to come out to make a proper comparison.

  8. By the way, what’s with the US version of this car having RED rear turn signals? I find that such a disgrace.

    I wish the US, Canada, and Mexico would get with the program and realize that amber turn signals are MORE SAFE and more easily distinguishable from brake lights.

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