I have been driving the Opel Astra for around a week now and have no significant problems with it, its comfortable, somewhat stylish and has lots of features and tech; It even won car of the year.
The Opel Astra Sport features a 1.4 Turbo motor producing 110kw, and once again, it’s a good engine, pretty nippy and 3rd gear especially pulls nicely. The rear of this vehicle has heated seats for passengers and the cabin is spacious, likewise the boot. The exterior styling has received mixed reviews from the people I have spoken to; it looks better in some colors than others. But once again, it boasts a modern design with sharp edges and lines which seem like the going look nowadays.
A feature I liked on the Astra is the entertainment system,it’s easy to use and even when I’m listening to music from my iPhone, I can change to a radio station by hitting the pre-stored stations which show at the bottom of the screen. Easy and straightforward.
So, in reality, it’s an excellent vehicle. But, my conclusion is that this is a safe man’s car. A car for people who don’t have any interest in cars, What do I mean? Well, I’m sure you have heard the term “play it safe” and that is exactly what this car feels like. It doesn’t inspire me, it doesn’t have a spark, I wouldn’t say its boring, but its pretty close.
For me, a vehicle needs to have a personality; there must be something about a car which makes you enjoy driving it. It might not be the comfiest car to drive or the car with the most tech, but it has something that you enjoy or connect with, then it doesn’t matter. For me, the Astra lacks that vital feeling, that character.
For others, a car is just a tool to get from A to B, and if you’re a person who looks at it from that perspective, then the Astra is a proven family hatch, it’s one of the best cars you can buy in its class, if not on the road. Your journey will be easier, safer and much more connected in an Astra, and that is a fact, It just depends if you are a car person or not.
If you haven’t yet noticed, many Range Rover owners bear a similar facial expression when they’re in their cars. It’s a difficult look to describe. Is it one that says “I’m better than you?” or “I have more money than you?” Who knows, but it’s definitely an expression that gives off an air of superiority. Why is this the case? Why does almost every Range Rover driver don this mug? We had a recent opportunity to find out when Land Rover South Africa scheduled us to drive the SDV6 variant of the Range Rover Sport.
The car in question was the SE model, which is slightly less fancier than the HSE in terms of aesthetics and specifications. Despite this, the size of the car still commands a great deal of presence whether it’s parked in a car park or driving on the road. The vehicle we had in our possession also had the air suspension which was a short man’s dream because you can add more centimetres to the ride height, allowing you to peer into the car stopped next to you at the traffic lights and proof read the drivers text message.
The most distinct feature about the Range Rover Sport is how the car drives like a hot knife in butter. It simply glides along whatever road surface it is faced with, accompanied by the slightly audible sound of the diesel V6 engine which produces 215kW. The silence in the cabin is business class like and like business class, the car allows you to think long and hard about how much more better your driving experience is compared to the hatchback driving alongside you. What adds to this is the seating position created by the armrest that allows for maximum comfort behind the wheel. A simple yet luxurious dashboard with a touch screen infotainment is your interior view.
This is where we feel the facial expression comes from. The car makes you and others feel very aware of the fact that you’re driving over a million rand worth of metal, rubber and leather. They say absolute power corrupts and it was safe to say that we had been corrupted during our week long test drive. Nearing the end of the week, we could feel that our noses were positioned more upwards and our overall demeanour had changed. “How dare that driver think he can cut us off?” “Can he not see our RANGE ROVER coming?” are but a few of the thoughts that featured in our minds. Any opportunity to use the 600Nm was not wasted.
To say that the Range Rover Sport makes the driver feel good about himself is an understatement. Interestingly this is not due to the car being the absolute best in its segment. Of course it is highly capable but the competition’s products are very capable too. This car has two major things going for it, pedigree and class. For decades the words “Range Rover” have been associated with a specific lifestyle and elegance. Even though the word “Sport” alludes to a racing nature, the V6 diesel is more about sophistication and comfort than anything else. This is why the Range Rover Sport can be seen in many business parks around the world, it’s as much a statement than it is a car.
It’s easy to get caught up in the smug life of driving a Range Rover in the city. If it weren’t for the Land Rover Experience that we attended in the past, we would think that all the suspension settings were there for the drivers ego, which is really not the case. The various on and off road features in the Sport are all functional. Having driven the Range Rover Sport off-road, one really sees what a serious case of multiple personality syndrome the car has. On the one end, it’s wearing a business suit and condescending over other cars in traffic. On the other end, it’s wearing a Khaki shirt and climbing various ascents and descents.
Considering all of this, assuming the drivers of most Range Rover Sport’s know this, one can understand why the expression is there. It is a fact that the Range Rover is a brilliant car in its segment. It offers space, luxury and performance packaged in a way that is very memorable indeed. It is the gentlemen’s choice in its class.
What if you had to drive a Suzuki for the rest of your life?
for fast food. But let’s for a moment use our imagination and picture a world where we only had one brand of cars to choose from. Imagine for some inexplicable reason, Japan ruled the world and the only cars they produced were Suzuki Swifts. We at TheMotorist had to imagine such a world for a week, when Suzuki decided to involve us in their “family test”. This entailed us driving a different model Swift every two days and the final one for the weekend.
Monday to Wednesday: Swift 1.2 GL Dzire.
The Swift Dzire is an interesting car. We won’t call the boot section ugly, we’ll rather say it’s functional. What you sacrifice in looks, you gain in practicality. This vehicle comes in handy in our “Suzuki Swift only” alternate universe because the start of the week is when most people decide to do some shopping, this where the extra boot space of the Dzire comes in handy.
Besides the added space, the Dzire shares the same interior as its hatchback siblings. Which means a nice and neat dashboard is included, as well as features such as Bluetooth radio, CD and USB input. Electric windows and remote central locking are features this model was equipped with too.
The small 1.2 litre engine in the Dzire is extremely frugal on fuel, which makes it an even more appealing package for those needing some extra space. Priced at R 145 900 for the entry level GA variant, many small cars will battle to give you all that for that price.
Wednesday to Friday: Swift 1.4 GLS Hatchback.
Now this is a good looking little car. This vehicle has the right combination of cute in it not to feel too feminine or too masculine. What you lose in boot space over the Dzire, you gain in visual appeal. Interestingly the 1.4 GLS, apart from having a more powerful engine, is very taught on the road which gives you a great feeling of nimbleness behind the wheel. It’s no super hatch but it makes for some good fun around corners because you can chuck it around and feel safe at the same time.
Again despite more enthusiastic driving, the 1.4 GLS was also very good on fuel, a feature which seems to be a recurring theme amongst the models. The comfort levels of the GLS are great and the LED lights on the exterior, as well as the larger wheels make this car a great package for an up and coming young person who wants something trendy to commute with everyday.
Friday to Sunday: Swift 1.6 Sport.
Remember the 1.4 GLS we were discussing right now? Now take that car, give it some steroids and a caffeine addiction, then you get the Swift Sport. Suzuki South Africa planned this week well, because the Sport is a car that does well in the weekend atmosphere. During the week, you have work and errands so your time is limited, whereas on the weekend you have more time to be silly. The Sport is a car that brings out the silly in most people, it’s an involving car therefore it makes you work for your fun. When you’ve worked hard enough, you appreciate what the essence of the car is about.
The car is all about feeling and revving that 1.6 litre engine all the way to 7100 rpm is a good feeling. The size of the car also has much to do with the experience it provides. Since it’s small and low and light on its feet, it can do things bigger cars can’t. It’s like a mouse. Mice aren’t the fastest creatures out there, but because they’re small and nimble, they can fit in many little nooks and crannies. Similarly, the Swift Sport allows you to explore every inch of its rev happy engine. The suspension setup also allows you to do things you shouldn’t do, and just when you think you’ve gone too far, you come out thinking “how did I make that gap?” or “how did I make that corner?”. For R253 900, you get a great deal of fun for the price you pay.
So at the end of the week we can say that an alternate world of just Suzuki Swifts wouldn’t be a terrible thing. The question is, in the real world if we had to choose one car from the models we tested, which one would it be? As practical as the Dzire is, we’re too vain to turn a blind eye to that boot. The natural choice then would be to pick the Sport, but truthfully no one drives like a hooligan all the time and even if you did, Jacob Zuma’s laws and traffic wouldn’t allow it. So as a result, the most logical choice would be to opt for the 1.4 GLS, and at R 212 900, it’s also very well priced too.
We wish Opel’s reasoning as to why the Corsa Sport has wind-up windows in the rear was because of weight saving. That’s the only logical explanation we can think of, even if we know it’s not true. At least with that explanation, boy racers can use it as a bragging tool at meet-ups when the topic comes up.
It was a very annoying thing to realise, mainly because by the time we realised it, we had talked up the Corsa Sport so much to our peers. How great it drives, how economical it is and how well built it is are but a few of the praises we gave it until someone piped up and said “why doesn’t it have electric windows in the back?”. Then silence occurred, “your face has no electric windows in the back!” we wanted to say, but that wouldn’t have worked, so we had no come back.
That’s the thing about the new Corsa’s, they’re very good so you end up growing too attached to them. Maybe it’s the looks, maybe it’s the comfortable hugging seats or maybe it’s because as a normal day to day car, it does such a fine job even when you’re driving like a civilised person. The Corsa Sport is not the fastest thing to come out of the brand and competitors like the Suzuki Swift Sport provide a better cheap thrill. But, thrills only last so long, as long as you have an empty road which isn’t often nowadays.
So it’s when you’re doing everyday things that you come to really appreciate the Corsa Sport. It’s when you need to overtake, or when that more luxurious German brand tries to move you off the right lane, but you decide to show him/her that you too can keep up. It’s also when you look at it, and those Bi-Xenon light’s give you a wink and that front end smiles at you. It’s then that you appreciate that this is a good all round package, the same feeling we had with Sunny, the Sport’s 1.0-litre sibling.
Maybe that’s why Opel didn’t bother with the rear electric windows and instead gave us PDC, reverse camera, City Steering and touch screen infotainment as standard. They knew that as irritating as it will be, it won’t be a make or break factor. Maybe it will be for non-boy-racers who knows? But for those that enjoy some fun behind the wheel, they can just say it’s for “weight saving”. So if you’re into a little excitement but at the same time want a good looking, quality car, then perhaps the 110 kW from the Sport’s 1.4-litre turbo is for you. At just under R260 000, it’s well priced for a junior hot(ish) hatch.