Archive for opel astra

Quickies

Posted in News, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 09/02/2012 by Alexander


The BMW i8, which started life as the tongue-twisting Vision EfficientDynamics Concept Car (which I like a lot), has been promised as a production car, and has been spotted in the wild during the usual winter tests for cars under development. Looks pretty cool.

Opel/Vauxhall is in the s**t again. After having gone through some hard times thanks to the incompetence of its parent company, General Motors, more trouble looms on the horizon in the shape of more cost-cutting measures. This just goes to show how much I understand the car industry. Let me illustrate.
SEAT are an awful brand, who make ugly Golf-based hatchbacks and cheap Audi A4 rip-offs. A couple of years ago VW, who owns them, mulled over the hypothesis of ditching the brand due to dismal sales. Unfortunately, they’re going strength to strength, even though there’s nothing tangible to justify this. Opel, on the other hand, have been making better and better cars. The Corsa and Astra make top 10 sales lists all the time, the Insignia has been a top-selling sedan in Europe (400,000 units sold up to 2011), won European Car Of The Year and another German award for “Car with the least flaws“. I’ve already raved about the Insignia and Astra’s brilliant interiors, and there’s still great Opels to look forward too: the four-door Astra and the amazing-looking Mokka (and I hate SUVs). I’d have thought Opel would be a lifeline for GM but I’m spectacularly wrong by the looks of it.

Gordon Murray has his T25 and T27 city cars nearly ready to go into production, all he needs is some ink on paper to render the whole thing official. His cars had better be bloody good because there’s been a lot of hype surrounding them. The iStream manufacturing looks pretty solid, though. But if I were Mr. Murray, I’d expect a lawsuit from Apple in the near future for calling his brainchild “i-(something)”.

Studebaker is planning a comeback. The legendary American brand that stopped manufacturing cars in 1966 has a new concept in the works and is betting on advanced, clean technology, with diesel-hybrid propulsion inside a compact five-door. Everyone, a warm welcome back to the Studebaker Lark.

An intellectually dishonest take on the cost of running an EV versus a petrol car. Doesn’t include the hefty cost of having to replace a battery every few years and/or its hefty rental cost. Doesn’t take into account the taxes petrol pays, and that EV’s will have to pay road tax eventually too (do you think governments will pass up this opportunity to go for what’s in our pockets?) Uses a 20mpg figure for the car (11.8 litres/100km)!

Finally, news about a proper car

Posted in Upcoming cars with tags , on 27/04/2011 by Alexander

Car news hasn’t been particularly spectacular lately, with no new exciting cars. There’s another decrepit Lambo that’s being tested by wet-trousered journos, and even the Citroen DS5 doesn’t rank high in terms of eagerly awaited new models. However, Opel’s preview of the upcoming two-door version of their current Astra, dubbed the “GTC” (I suspect standing for “Grand Tourer Coupé”) is exactly what I expected it to be. The previous (or should I say current?) GTC is quite a handsome car in its own right, and in comparison, puts to shame the rest of the Astra range. The new Astra, when it came out, was a triumph in car-styling, another piece of proof that Opel has found very sui generis, fantastic and, IMHO, consensual styling cues for its line-up. It was a natural deduction that, given the great looks of the new model, and given the great design of the old GTC, the new two-door Astra had to look brilliant. And by golly, it does.

This is just an advanced preview before the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, and the car definitely won’t be out until next year, but it’s guaranteed to get lots of prospective car-buyers to wait it out until this beauty is available. I usually cock predictions up in a pretty splendid fashion, but I really don’t see many young men (let’s face it, young blokes are the vast percentage of the customer base for two-door hatches pretending to be coupés) opting for a Renault Megane coupé or even a VW Scirocco over this Astra. I know I wouldnt.

Renault Twizy – another wasted chance?

Posted in Car conception, Green Tech, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 26/04/2011 by Alexander


Electric cars aren’t a novelty. In the late to nineteenth and early twentieth century, they battled it out with internal combustion engines as the solution to powering the horseless carriage, and even though they were smoother and more efficient than early petrol-drinkers, they eventually lost to ICEs due to the longer range and easiness of refuelling with petrol, as well as the eventual drop in price of a new gasoline-powered car because of mass production. Until the 21st century, it was downhill from then on, with no convincing solution for electric propulsion amid many tries, some more infamous than others. Everyone knows what a stupid blunder General Motors committed with their EV1, and it’s been an example of how not to go about things. Had GM stuck with the electric vehicle concept, they might have developed better related technology and become the role model for the surge in interest in EVs that’s been witnessed during the past few years, thanks to the realisation that oil is expensive, polluting and is running out. Instead GM decided to moronically destroy all their EV1s, and become known as the “Company that Killed the Electric Car”. With that kind of vision, small wonder they nearly went bankrupt! But I digress.

The problem is that it would seem car manufacturers aren’t exactly hell-bent on repeating and/or avoiding previous mistakes. And where should I start? Perhaps at the beginning, years ago, when auto-makers started making a big hullabaloo about upcoming electric vehicles: the Chevy Volt/Opel Ampera and the Nissan Leaf, to name a couple. The hype gave way to an expectation-killing wait, and the announcement of prices that would make even the most die-hard electric vehicle fan baulk.

Renault has proverbially jumped on the bandwagon with their Zero-Emissions concepts, utilising their partnership with Nissan for the underlying technology. And the first model to roll off the production line is the Twizy, a two-seater quadricycle that Renault says will revolutionise the market. And forgive me for sounding pedantic, but if that’s not completely over-hyped bollocks, then I don’t know what is. If there was a revolution to be had, then the G-Wiz would’ve got there first. And that’s really all this Twizy is, really. A more stylish G-Wiz with no doors and a lower price tag. But of course that may be they key to the thing, what with other electric vehicles costing staggering amounts of money. The Twizy will cost (here in Portugal) €7000, which is nice, but then Renault slap an extra €45-per-month charge to rent the battery, for a 3-year period and for no more than 7500km a year. And that’s not counting the cost of the electricity needed to recharge it (probably every day, given its crappy range). So if you do exactly 7500km in a year (goodness knows what Renault will charge you if you go over this), that works out at €0.072 per kilometre, which sounds great. But a diesel car that does 5 litres per 100km on average will cost (at current fuel prices) €0.075 per km. Yes, it’s slightly more expensive, but only slightly more, and with considerable advantages. You aren’t limited to only 20.5km per day (7500km max limit divided by 365 days), you can go on a motorway, you can refill quickly and easily and you have doors on the sides of your car, meaning you won’t have to smell and hear everything around you, and can use your car in the rain and cold.

So let’s be honest, what sort of person will this Twizy appeal to? First off said person has to have their own garage, since they can’t park it outside (it has no doors and needs to be plugged in safely). They can live no further than 10km from their workplace and must have an enclosed parking spot there (because it HAS NO F**KING DOORS, and stray dogs can get in and have a snooze, not counting all sorts of unsavoury humans who won’t think twice to vandalise/burglarise/mistreat the innards of your car). Doesn’t sound like much of a market.

Anyway, like most electric cars, it’s been announced with a lot of fanfare, and tested by moto-journos, even though it’s only available next year. Nothing like a good, long, stupid wait to wane desires for a car that, conceptually speaking, won’t work.

A blight on God’s clean Earth #8 – Opel Astra G

Posted in A blight on God's clean Earth, Crap cars with tags , , on 18/04/2011 by Alexander


As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, should you reside in the British Isles, you can mentally substitute the “Opel” you read in the entry for “Vauxhall”.

In 1998, Opel’s new Astra managed a feat of staggering proportions: a car with absolutely zero styling. I was amazed at just how drab and bland it was, with the most standard-looking lines I’ve ever seen on a car. Usually, one gets the impression that on any car, even bland Korean ones, the designers took a tiny aesthetic risk here or there, perhaps a small mannerism on the rear lights, or perhaps a detail of trim on the flanks, or something like that. I can only imagine that during the board meeting held in the early-to-mid 1990’s to discuss how much was to be invested in the new version of the Astra, the top brass at Opel decided to allocate several million or so deutschmarks for the engineering bit, and 20 pfennigs for the designer to draw the car during his Thursday afternoon tea break.

The result is an utterly scummy, soulless plop of a car. I can’t begin to describe how offensive this car comes across, since it’s such an affront to flair and innovation in automotive design. What’s noteworthy is how this turd-mobile went on to sell so many units, another testament to the general public’s widened lack of criteria in buying cars, like the BMW 3-series and the Renault 19. I have noticed an interesting phenomenon among the many buyers I know who made the mistake of acquiring an Astra G: they tend to send it packing for a pittance as soon as they can. Very telling. Luckily for them, there’s a market for these pieces of manure amongst stupid modders.

The Opel quest for interior fulfillment

Posted in Crap cars, Desirable machines, General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/01/2011 by Alexander

First off, a small disclaimer. I live in continental Europe, so there’s no such thing as Vauxhall, only Opel. However, this being an English-language blog, it’ll be confusing to readers from English-speaking lands, where there’s no such thing as Opel, who show up and don’t fathom what I’m on about. To make matters worse, some of these Opels may have been commercialised under the name Holden, Buick, Saturn or Chevrolet. So when I mention Opel, you can translate into your minds whatever corresponding brand suits your fancy.

The first car I ever drove in my life was a 1981 Opel Kadett (Vauxhall Astra in Britain). It was a rickety, ugly thing, but what really stuck in my mind was how unwelcoming the interior was. The central panel was spartan and a horror to behold. Having practically grown up beholding the classy, comfy, space-age-like insides of Citroen CXs, the contrast was stark, to say the least.

This tendency for making the cabin look crap was a constant for Opel practically up to the present day. For example, the Opel Vectra B was definitely a nice car to look at from the outside, with its shapely curves, well-proportioned profile, and that fantastic detail of how the ‘V’ on the bonnet continued backwards into the side rear-view mirrors. But it contrasted this with a pathetic interior, that made it seem outdated from the moment it was was introduced. The ugly dials, the feeling of the centre console having been designed by amateurs as an afterthought, all contribute to this feeling of discomfort and all the effort in the design department was spent on the exterior and none on the inside. A good friend of mine had one, and when I rode around in it, I had the sensation that it must have looked great if this were the mid-80’s, not the 21st century. Then there was the Astra H, another car that made heads turn when it came out, especially the GTC version. I seriously like this car (not the four-door, though, the way its back lights are fitted looks like it has trousers with no belt, and they’re slipping). The interior, however, was a collection of bad ideas, from the horrid fake plastic-aluminium centre console, to the melted-toilet seat quality of the materials to the awful angular design. I’ve been inside many an Astra, and I’m always tempted to rap my knuckles on the centre console to check how awful, cheap and nasty it is.

I suspect someone must have told someone else who has some clout at Opel, “Man, why do your cars’ innards always look like they were dreamt up and put together by members of the extinct Australopithecus genus?” And so, said man with clout must’ve taken heed, summoned together other bigwigs and all vowed to make their cars look properly nice on the inside. And they’ve managed to pull it off, quite amazingly. For the first time, Opels have interiors so pleasant it makes you want to move in. The new Insignia is another looker from the outside, one of the nicest cars in its segment. It’s jumped onto the “four-door-coupé-look” bandwagon, and executed it better than anyone, except perhaps for the VW Passat CC. But the inside… what a revolution. The layout, the colours and the materials are all bang on, and that centre console, from the sat-nav screen to the arm-rest, is a piece of art. The latest Astra’s cues are exactly the same, with little to distinguish between it and the Insignia. I’m not a big fan of the current trend that’s gripped most car brands, of making all cars across the range not just have similar design cues, but to be hard to tell apart in some areas, as the example of the Astra’s and Insignia’s interiors emphasize. But it’s a good idea nonetheless, since it’s a properly cool interior to copy.

What I really like about it is how it’s completely different to most of the interiors today. Many cars have an upright central console, that abruptly shifts at an angle when the console becomes horizontal around the gearstick. These consoles flow, and have the arrangement of those buttons lovingly crafted into a unit below the sat-nav screen instead of looking that they were plonked there with no particular criteria (as was the case in their predecessors). Well done, Opel (or Vauxhall, or Holden or whoever designs these things).