There has long been a tradition of roomy, practical estate cars from German marques and the latest Opel Astra Sports Tourer looks to continue that trend. Adding more sheet metal to the rear of the already handsome five-door Opel Astra hatchback has done little to diminish the car's exterior appearance, so how does the rest of it stack up?
In the metal
The exterior design of the Opel Astra Sports Tourer is a laudable example of how to incorporate the requirements of an estate car body without losing much aesthetic appeal. All of the exterior changes that Opel makes to create this estate version come behind the rear doors. An extra 211mm at the back contributes to a boot volume of 597 litres (increasing to 1,634 litres when the rear seats are folded). However, that capacity decreases slightly to 516 litres (1,553 litres maximum) in the plug-in hybrid model. Nevertheless, it is still more than what one rival, the Skoda Octavia plug-in hybrid, can offer. The overall length of this Astra Sports Tourer is 60mm shorter than its predecessor, but the wheelbase is longer by 70mm, resulting in improvements to passenger legroom.
Aside from the base model, the Astra Sports Tourer features door mirrors and a roof that are painted black. This suggests more of a premium image and helps visually reduce the Opel's height. At the front is the brand's 'Vizor' grille, making it very recognisable with crisp lines that continue throughout the rest of the car. A crease down the bonnet's centreline helps to form a defined compass shape with the LED daytime running lights, and this motif repeats at the back of the Astra due to the high-mounted third brake light.
View the Astra Sports Tourer directly from behind and you won't notice a great deal of difference between it and the five-door hatchback. Other than a repositioning of the registration plate to the tailgate (to lower the load height), the look of the Opel Astra has hardly changed. Should the specification of the Sports Tourer mimic that of the Astra hatchback, the SC version will come with 16-inch wheels as standard. Larger 17-inch and 18-inch wheels are standard on the SRI and Elite versions, respectively.
Opel deserves much praise for this eighth-gen Astra's interior as it has shaken off the conservative styling of its predecessor to move into the digital age. A pair of 10-inch displays comprise the instrument cluster and touchscreen infotainment system, the latter being quick to react to inputs and accommodating the now-essential smartphone compatibility. We'd prefer to see less use of the shiny piano black surfaces, however, as they scratch easily and are magnets for dust and fingerprints.
It might seem easy to write off a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine in an estate car such as the Opel Astra Sports Tourer, but performance is decent from this 130hp unit. Opel does offer a less potent 110hp version of this engine with a six-speed manual gearbox in SC trim, but the more powerful 130hp version, mated to the eight-speed automatic transmission that turns the front wheels, is preferable.
The automatic is notably smoother than the manual gearbox and results in a more enjoyable driving experience. The auto suits the performance characteristics of the turbocharged three-cylinder engine better, keeping engine speeds relatively low as it quickly upshifts through the range of gear ratios to minimise fuel use at higher revs.
For the most part, the Astra is quiet and refined, with the engine only becoming more vocal when worked harder. Opel's engineers have created a steering setup that provides a lovely balance of weight and feel. Carry a little too much speed into a bend, and you will experience a safe and predictable amount of understeer, but in general terms, the Astra is a car that feels surefooted and composed through the corners.
The small engine is perfectly fine on longer journeys, too. Having that eight-speed automatic transmission enables the engine to settle down at higher speeds and, mixed with the sound insulation in and under the car, there are good levels of refinement. Back in town, the petrol engine's responsive nature, combined with a kerb weight that is only 20kg heavier than the hatchback, makes the Opel an easy car to drive. Numerous assistance systems are on hand to help with manoeuvring, and, despite its increased length, the Astra Sports Tourer will easily fit into a regular parking space.
What you get for your money
The introduction of the Opel Astra Sports Tourer to Ireland won't take place until sometime in the first half of 2023 due to ongoing supply chain issues. Hence, there is no official Irish pricing yet in place. When it does arrive, the petrol and diesel engines will likely be available initially, followed by a plug-in hybrid. As the market introduction and pricing are confirmed, this section of the review will be updated.
The Opel Astra Sports Tourer builds on what was an already appealing hatchback by adding more space for hauling stuff around, without the need for an SUV. It scores well on luggage space, and even the plug-in hybrid is only a little compromised on that score due to the placement of its battery. If you want a generous mix of style and practicality, the Astra estate is worth a look.