Given the inherent practicality of a station wagon, it is strange that local motorists, most of whom are quite pragmatic, wouldn’t even consider one when shopping for a new car.
This is true of most couples, who upon starting a family, immediately think about acquiring an MPV (multi-purpose vehicle).
But if you have two kids and simply need a bigger boot for children’s accoutrements, then a wagon/estate is adequate for your needs.
And between an estate and an MPV, it is pretty obvious which one is going to be more fun to drive. If you’re a parent who happens to be a bit of a petrolhead, this point will resonate with you.
If mid-size station wagons aren’t your thing, there are compact options, such as the Peugeot 308 SW and Volkswagen Golf Variant, to consider.
The Pug and the VW, however, will have to contend with the Opel Astra Sports Tourer when it arrives in September this year.
If you’re still unfamiliar with Opel, it’s because the brand tends to be underexposed compared to its aforementioned rivals.
The all-new Astra Sports Tourer, however, is a well-engineered car that you should check out before making any buying decisions.
For starters, this estate looks sharper than its predecessor. Opel’s “blade styling” has evolved since the last model, with sharper lines and a bolder face. The swooping roofline makes the vehicle seem longer, too.
But in actuality, the Sports Tourer is only 4mm longer than the older model. In fact, its 2662mm wheelbase is 23mm shorter than before.
Now, a shorter wheelbase looks bad on paper, but the good news is that Opel has done a better job of packaging the interior.
In the latest Sports Tourer, backseat occupants have 28mm more legroom and 25mm more shoulder-room than in the previous model.
Headroom for front and rear passengers has increased by 26mm and 38mm as well. The floor protrusion is also lower than before, making it easier to accommodate a third adult.
This compact estate has also grown more practical thanks to its larger boot, which offers 540 litres with the rear seats up and 1630 litres when they’re folded. These figures are respectively 40 and 80 litres more than what the previous model offers.
Catering to the driver’s needs, on the other hand, is a snazzier cockpit with prettier instruments and a more attractive, more intuitive infotainment system.
Said system is very functional, with a responsive touchscreen and quick-loading menus. For smartphone users, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard features, too.
Also standard is the Sports Tourer’s more dynamic performance. The test-car comes with a new turbocharged 1.4-litre 4-pot that produces 150bhp and 230Nm. That’s 10bhp and 30Nm more than the older turbocharged 1.4-litre.
With the increased output, the Sports Tourer zips from nought to 100km/h in 9.4 seconds, or 1.4 seconds faster than before.
The quicker acceleration is also helped by the car’s weight, which Opel claims is at least 110kg lighter than the previous model’s.
Behind the wheel, the Sports Tourer feels punchier and nimbler than its predecessor at low to moderately high speeds. But it doesn’t have the meaty midrange I expected. Past 120km/h, it feels flat.
Overall, the car displays solid roadholding during my 225km drive. It’s perfectly composed during high-speed expressway runs, but it’s on the winding mountain roads that its handling really shines.
The estate tackles corners in a neat and planted manner. Long sweeping bends are a cinch, and understeer only becomes apparent when I push really hard through the shorter and tighter corners.
Complementing the Sports Tourer’s abilities is its new electric power steering, which is quicker and more precise than the old electro-hydraulic setup.
The new helm, which is almost 3kg lighter than the older one, also helps eliminate steering wheel vibrations with its Smooth Road Shake (SRS) feature. This definitely reduces fatigue on longer journeys.
Badge-wise, this German “Astra-naut” might be unfamiliar to most buyers. But its good looks, spaciousness and athletic abilities are characteristics that will definitely resonate with drivers.
Opel Astra Sports Tourer 1.4 (A)
Type Inline-4, 16-valves, turbocharged
Bore x stroke 74mm x 81.3mm
Compression Ratio 10:1
Max power 150bhp at 5000-5600rpm
Max torque 230Nm at 2000-4000rpm
Power to weight 120.3bhp per tonne
Gearbox 6-speed automatic with manual select
Driven wheels Front
0-100km/h 9.4 seconds
Top speed 210km/h (governed)
Consumption 17.9km/L (combined)
CO2 emission 128g/km
Front MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear Torsion beam, coil springs
Front / Rear Ventilated discs / Discs
Type Michelin Primacy 3
Size 225/45 R17
Traction aids ABS, ESC
Kerb weight 1247kg
Turning circle 11.1m
Price incl. COE To be announced
Warranty 5 years/100,000km
+ Roomier cabin, punchier low-end performance, better refinement
– Lacks midrange oomph, boot volume is smaller than Golf Variant’s