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Opel’s Mad Hatter

Opel’s Mad Hatter

Opel Astra OPC Review

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Fancy a car that makes the Golf GTI feel sensible, the Focus ST look ordinary? Then take a gander at Opel’s Astra OPC. Striking from every angle, with delicious curves and more than just a hint of aggression, it looks the part and lives up to its appearance.

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What is it?

The OPC is a large dollop of testosterone and angst, wrapped in sheet metal and supported by four very large wheels. It is the hottest of hot hatches, a car that aims to be outrageous and leaves the practical tag to its rivals. With just two very long doors and a smallish boot, it may not be as sensible as some, but then again, just look at it.

What is it like to drive?

On first impressions, the OPC is a very drivable, well-composed hatchback, but lurking below that is a reservoir of rage just waiting for someone to poke it with a stick. Do so, and everything changes.

Surprisingly, the OPC is easy to drive, even in traffic. The clutch is light, as is the steering, and when you’re forced to rumble along at peak hour, it does so comfortably and without fuss. At low speed it’s hard to believe that this is a 206kW monster built to hustle.

Until you get it out onto the open road. Then, press either the ‘Sport’ or ‘OPC’ button and everything stiffens up a bit, the accelerator gets more responsive, and your comfortable city cruiser turns into a sharp, agile speed freak.

Behind the angry headlights and vast triangular airscoops beats a 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine of great energy. Those 206kW work alongside 400Nm of torque, sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. Unlike OPCs of the past, torque steer isn’t an issue at all, while a limited slip differential helps to tame all those horses and keep the acceleration smooth. 0-100km/h is dismissed in just 5,9 seconds.

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We did have a major concern with driving the OPC, though. Get a puncture (as we did) and look in the boot and you will find no spare wheel. Not even a Marie biscuit. Instead there is a little air compressor and a bottle of gel. Unfortunately, if you get a puncture in the side wall (as we did) this gel won’t work to fix the hole, and you’re up a certain creek, no paddle in sight. As we were. In Europe this strategy might work, but here in South Africa it doesn’t. Here a car simply has to come with a spare wheel, especially when the vehicle in question rides on 20-inch Pirellis that are only available in major centres.

Opel OPCWhat is it like inside?

Other than the power of the engine, the interior is one of the justifications of the OPC’s steep price tag, and the seats by themselves go a long way towards this. Sculpted buckets clad in Nappa leather, they are the epitome of racing style, and yet remain comfortable even on long trips. The materials used feel of high quality and both comfort and safety features are comprehensive.

The interior is surprisingly spacious up front, and even rear passengers have enough room to get comfortable.

What does it cost?

At R443 700, the Astra OPC is over R70 000 more expensive than the Golf GTI and the Focus ST, and it will take an ardent fan or speedfreak to justify that sort of premium over cars of that calibre.

Opel Astra OPC R443 700

The price includes a 5-year/120 000km warranty and comes with a standard 5-year/90 000km service plan, both of which are impressive.

What’s the verdict?

If you were after thrills, power, exclusivity and the ability to turn a head, then it would be amiss of you not to take an OPC for a spin. Personally, I couldn’t buy a car that could so easily leave you in a pickle after a mere puncture, and I don’t think I’m the only one. If Opel SA can come up with an answer to this problem, I’d be far more comfortable giving it a wholehearted recommendation.

For more information see www.opel.co.za.

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