A direct cousin of the new Peugeot 308, the Opel Astra is available in a GSe version. Enough to bring it closer to the Peugeot 308?
Within the Stellantis group, platform sharing is legion. As a general rule, it is the ex-PSA brands that set the tone, then entertaining the other entities, who only have to make small adjustments to try to create a difference. This is what Opel has always done by making those that serve as the basis less dynamic. Proof of this is with the behavior of the Grandland diametrically opposed to that of a Peugeot 3008.
But things are changing in Rüsselsheim. Especially since Opel also wants to enter the new small world of electric sports cars, if not electrified, by developing a dedicated range. This is now known as the GSe, in reference to the brand’s GS/E history, but now tinged with electrification. The strategy is nothing new, and the Volkswagen group is the perfect example with the Cupra brand which, although it has become a brand apart, takes up the German technical bases to retouch them in its own way.
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A boon for Opel, which can then use the EMP2 V3 platform of the Peugeot 308, stealing from it in passing one of the most powerful hybrid two-wheel-drive mechanisms available on the shelves (there is the 250 hp version reserved for the DS 9 e-Tense). Still offered only with the 180 hp engine, the Astra now boasts 225 hp for 360 Nm of torque with the GSe. Unpublished at Opel, but nothing new in detail. Because it is the usual tandem composed of the 1.6 l THP of 180 hp associated with a 110 hp electric machine placed in the EAT8 Aisin box. Everything is powered by the new pocket cell battery with a capacity of 12.4 kWh, of which 10.0 kWh is usable.
Small performance improvements
If it is the only one to be so powerful in the Astra range, the GSe cannot mechanically claim sports status and thus make people forget the fire OPCs before it. Because as with Cupra, electrification sold as a performance enhancer is ultimately limited only to a surplus of dynamism, nothing more, by providing a welcome electric boost when you want to play sports. And the Opel Astra GSe comes at the right time since the management of the hybrid system has recently been the subject of electronic alterations. If the electric traction is mainly used in hybrid mode to the point of draining the battery in a hundred kilometers, it does however reserve a useful buffer charge to save performance. Which was not the case before with times that stuck out their tongues.
But just like the 308, which does not become a roaring lion, this does not give the Astra the opportunity to scamper like the lightning it sports on its Vizor grille. At 0-100 km / h in 7.5 s (compared to 7.6 s with 180 hp), we timed it times from 80 to 120 km / h in 6.2 s all round. Or a meager difference of 0.7 s compared to the 180 hp version. It’s little more than a meager Sport mode in most cars, but it barely really satisfies. Especially since the box retains its annoying laziness when changing gears, where it needs more than 1.5 seconds before going into the right gear, while the engine hoarse without grace. With the battery flat, the energy reserve of nearly 20% (nearly 2 kWh) hidden from the eyes of the driver can still ensure these lap times, but it should not be abused under penalty of quickly saturating the battery.
Specific shock absorbers
If the ramage struggles to convince, the Astra however takes the trouble to make improvements to the chassis. Lowered by 10 mm, the body rests on firmer springs and new Koni shock absorbers. These are more exactly parts equipped with the technology Frequency Selective Damping (FSD), which is materialized by the presence of a new hydraulic circuit: the new circuit adapts the damping laws via a valve which releases or retains the fluid. This does its job depending on the conditions, and therefore depending on the force applied to the rod and its speed. Management intervenes in real time and is always faithful to the situations encountered. However, it does not have the immediacy of an electronically controlled shock absorber, which can sometimes give rise to reactions that are more surprising than truly surprising.
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In terms of behavior, the compact is no surprise. Despite the delayed interventions of the ESP in Sport mode, it is faithful to the philosophy Autobahn Proof dear to the brand, and always presents an imperturbable balance in the vast majority of situations. We were more attracted by the more direct steering around the midpoint, allowing you to control the rare deviations in trajectory, unless you play too much with the limits of the Michelin tyres… Primacy 4 S1. This is what fairly defines the temperament of this version, which behind its sporty showcase, still makes the choice of propriety. Because the Pilot Sport 4, which would have ultimately been more consistent with the rest of the chassis improvements, are not as sober as its Primacy 4.
Not sure that we would have seen a significant difference with the averages of 4.5 l/100 km and 6.6 l/100 km, measured in full battery and empty battery hybrid mode respectively. On the other hand, this can have a real impact on the electric range when passing WLTP certification, where the utility factor can save the brand’s accounts. If we could not measure on part its radius of action, the technical sheet announces a value of 64 km, or 3 km less than the versions already known. Which means there shouldn’t be much difference in the real world, with a range of around 40 kilometres. On the charging side, the policy is unchanged. The 3.7 kW charger is supplied as standard (complete recharge in 3h30), the 7.4 kW charger (recharge in 1h40) is offered as an option at 400 €, but in no case is the right cable offered: the Astra receives a Mode 2 8A 1.8 kW cable as standard (recharges in 5h30), and Opel offers to pay €539 for a Mode 2 16A 3.7 kW cable, or €249 for a Mode 3 32A 7.4 kW. To put it simply, the on-board charger is a smokescreen without the proper cable, and you have to spend €649 to fill up as quickly as possible!
Should we prefer the Sports Tourer station wagon?
Double blow for the Opel Astra GSe, which is also available in Sports Tourer version. Technically, nothing changes, and the break has the same specificities as the compact sedan. The only difference: at worst 2 km less electric range depending on the equipment, of which no one will see the difference in reality. On the other hand, what is sensitive is the habitability: here, the trunk goes from 352 to 516 l. But the longer wheelbase of 57 mm does not really benefit the knee space in the rear, in the category average. On the other hand, with these new ratings, the station wagon is barely more stable on secondary roads, while the 14 kg more in running order have no difference in performance. The compact is not player, the behavior does not really lose the change. This version at the additional cost of €1,150 is therefore rather recommendable in our eyes.
Like the Cupra Leon, with 204 hp or 245 hp, the Opel Astra GSe wants to appeal to sports driving enthusiasts who only have compact plug-in hybrids to absorb their sorrow. But despite the speeches, the German with a French heart, just like the Spaniard with a German entrail, is more dynamic than really sporty. But we still welcome Opel’s effort in terms of chassis improvements. Thus equipped, the Astra GSe narrows the gap with the Peugeot 308 HYbrid 225 which, in terms of hierarchy and image, still retains a notch ahead in terms of liveliness.
However, the Opel Astra GSe now has luxury tastes. Because to access the only 225 hp engine in the range, it will be necessary to sign a check for 48,250 €, when a Peugeot 308 GT, also the only one to offer 225 hp, is displayed at 47,470 €. At Cupra, the Leon V 204 starts at €43,750, while the VZ 245 claims €45,750. The VZ Cup 245 (Brembo brakes, modified geometry, carbon appendages, DCC controlled suspension…) is available at €50,900. In short, a 180 hp GSe would undoubtedly help to make the pill go better, but a 180 hp GS provides almost the same services for €5,100 less.
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