C’mon GM! Opel shows the wagon ain’t dead

  • Who said station wagons aren’t sexy – check this!
  • A real tourer at 200km/h with eight on board
  • GM SA – get you thumb out and bring in a few!
2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer
2016 OPEL ASTRA SPORT TOURER: GM SA – Opel in other words – reckons it won’t sell in SA because it’s a wagon, an estate car. Get into the new century, guys! Just LOOK at the darn thing – it’s not only fast but, hot damn, it’s gorgeous! Image: Vauxhall UK


Just like video killed the radio star so, in South Africa at least, the “multi-purpose vehicle” killed the station wagon – estate car, if you will – almost as dead as road kill and there are no signs of a revival even though some damn nice units are still being produced and sold in Europe.

One such, new on the market there this month (March 2016), is the Opel Astra Sports Tourer starting at the equivalent of about R363 000 and described by its creator as having “the most athletic look yet for an Astra Sports Tourer”. See, even the manufacturer has stopped using the names “wagon” and “estate”, models long regarded by the European middle class as the ideal family car.

Listen to the song while you read on…

The car was launched at the 2015 Frankfurt show but didn’t get much traction in the motoring news media; remember, it is only a wagon.

2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer
2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer

‘MPV’ just sounds sexier, like “impacted” instead of “hit” as so often used by newsreaders and websites who/which just don’t know any better. It’s assembled only in a town called Ellesmere Port, near the English port of Liverpool, and gives jobs to 2000 people; made in Rome, Detroit, Frankfurt, even India, all sound sexier than that, too.

Opel’s top-end diesel 83kW/350Nm 1.6-litre engine is one choice of motive power.That doesn’t sound too sexy either, but wait… does it suddenly show a glimpse of glamour when you read in the specs that 3.41 litres/100km and 86g/km of CO2 emissions are possible? Think of all the bucks that’ll remain in your back pocket. That should have some, er, impact.

Other engines go up to 150kW and some units can top 200km/h should you prefer to tour a speed, perhaps in Germany.

The Astra has been around for nearly four decades – it took over, if I recall correctly, from the Kadet, a model that sold hugely in South Africa until around the end of the 1970’s. More than 25% of UK drivers, the Vauxhall arm of the company on that chilly isle, tells us, have either owned or driven an Astra.

2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer
2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer

However, in South Africa, the market turned and the metal wagon went the same way as the wooden ones that used to cross this continent. Indeed, I regret to say this the latest Opel will not appear on the local market; a query with GM SA raised a laconic ‘not much demand any more’. Nevertheless, you deserve to know what you are missing so…

A media release sent to The Corner by Vauxhall/Opel reads: “The Sports Tourer has proved a popular car in the UK market, with sales making it the third most-popular estate car sold in 2015 after key rivals Ford Focus Estate and VW’s Golf Estate. It holds great appeal as a company car, taking drivers from their daily commute to weekend activities. It will also appeal to private buyers looking for a practical family car..”

Oh dear, is practical still an automotive selling point…? Guess so, given that Ellesmere Port will be churning out 120 000 units a year and its maker wouldn’t be doing that if there was no market for them.

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The car’s design comes from that of the 2013 Monza Concept, the lean shape “making it look more athletic than ever before thanks to work carried out by a design team led by Brit Mark Adams”. Apart from adult passengers, the rear section of the car can take three child seats or provide 1630 litres of luggage volume in a shell 4.70m long, 1.87m wide and 1.41m high.

2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer
2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer

The rear seats can be folded 40/20/40 and a FlexOrganiser with side rails, dividing nets and various fastening options is available as an option.

The Vauxhall design philosophy for the car is “‘sculptural artistry meets technical precision” with “a lighter, more agile, appearance”. Its drag co-efficient is only 0.272 where not so long ago anything starting 0.3 was considered excellent.

Facia switches and controls requirements have been reduced to “an absolute minimum”; instead the centrepiece of control is the Astra’s award-winning IntelliLink system placed, the automaker says, “to ensure an ideal view of the display within easy reach for use”.

The Astra hasn’t been given the moniker ‘Sport’ for nothing. Opel says the latest evolution of the Macpherson strut layout “results in excellent road-holding and has been developed in combination with the improved, electrically-powered steering to deliver precise control and handling”. There’s also dual-circuit braking in three combinations: ‘15-inch’ spec (276mm ventilated front discs, 264mm solid rear discs), ‘16-inch’ spec (300mm ventilated front discs, 288mm solid rear discs) and ‘16-inch/15-inch’ which uses the larger front and smaller rear discs.

2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer
2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer

Electronic stability control is standard across the range; it compares steering-wheel position with yaw angle (direction of the car, relative) and selectively applies brakes to bring things back under control. As Opel explains:

“Depending on the driving situation, it is possible for braking to be applied to one, two or three wheels at once and, if necessary, the electronic throttle opening may be reduced.”

The latest Astra Sports Tourer has the full diode-lit IntelliLux matrix headlights that adjust to road conditions as well as the latest-generation front camera able to monitor what is ahead and invoke “collision mitigation”: if the driver stuffs up (forget the fancy titles) the car will do its best to keep him and his passengers alive.


Bear that in mind when you’re car shopping; it’s way more important than connectivity and a fancy sound system. Oh yeah, and the camera reads road signs and will alert the driver if he/she is not “doing the right thing”.

I guess if the car were to be sold in SA, that feature would be permanently turn off. Sad, but there you are…

Infotainment can be controlled via a touch screen on the centre console, by controls on the steering-wheel or by voice and cellphones can be run through a wi-fi hotspot in the car.

All models have Bluetooth phone connectivity, audio streaming, aux-in and USB ports. DAB+ radio enables better selection and reception and Navi 900 IntelliLink offers a high level of personalisation – the home screen can be tailored according to customer preferences.

Gonna call your Opel dealer and say “Hey, you, listen up…” or continue to be steamrollered by those boring Ess You Vees?

2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer
2016 Opel Astra Sport Tourer

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