Opel Astra GSe plug-in hybrid: does the student want to surpass the master?

A direct cousin of the new Peugeot 308, the Opel Astra is available in a GSe version. Enough to bring it close to the Peugeot 308?

Within the Stellantis group, platform sharing is plentiful. As a general rule, former PSA brands set the tone, then entertain other entities, which only need to make small adjustments to try to create differentiation. This is what Opel has always done by making the underpinnings less dynamic. Proof of this is the behavior of the Grandland which is contrary to the behavior of a Peugeot 3008.

But things are changing in Rüsselsheim. Especially since Opel also wants to enter the new small world of electric sports cars, if not electrified, by developing a dedicated range. It’s now known as the GSe, in reference to the brand’s GS/E history, but now with a hint of electrification. The approach is not new, and the Volkswagen group is the perfect example with the Cupra brand which, although it has become a brand, takes German technical bases to retouch them in its own way .

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A boon for Opel, which can use the EMP2 V3 platform of the Peugeot 308, stealing from it by passing one of the most powerful hybrid two-wheel-drive mechanisms available on the shelves (there is a 250 hp version reserved for in DS 9 e-Tense). Still offered with the 180 hp engine, the Astra now boasts 225 hp for 360 Nm of torque with the GSe. Not published on Opel, but nothing new in detail. Because this is the standard tandem consisting of a 1.6 l THP of 180 hp associated with a 110 hp electric machine placed in the EAT8 Aisin box. All are powered by a new pocket cell battery with a capacity of 12.4 kWh, of which 10.0 kWh is usable.

Minor performance improvements

If it’s the only one so powerful in the Astra range, the GSe can’t claim sporty status and make people forget the fire OPCs before it. Because as in the Cupra, the electrification sold as a performance enhancer is limited to a surplus of dynamism, nothing more, by providing a welcome electric boost when you want to play sports. And the Opel Astra GSe comes at the right time because the management of the hybrid system has recently been the subject of electronic changes. If electric traction is mainly used in hybrid mode until the battery is exhausted within a hundred kilometers, however, it reserves a useful buffer charge to save performance. That didn’t happen before during the times when their tongues were out.

But like the 308, which doesn’t turn into a roaring lion, it doesn’t give the Astra a chance to break free like the lightning bolt it portrays in its Vizor grille. With 0-100 km / h in 7.5 s (compared to 7.6 s with 180 hp), we timed it from 80 to 120 km / h in 6.2 s throughout the cycle. Or a small difference of 0.7 s compared to the 180 hp version. It’s more than a stingy Sport mode in most cars, but it’s hardly satisfying. Especially since the box maintains an annoying sluggishness when changing gears, where it takes more than 1.5 seconds to go into the right gear, while the engine roars without grace. Since the battery is flat, the reserve energy of about 20% (almost 2 kWh) hidden from the driver’s eyes can still ensure these lap times, but it must not be abused under the penalty of fast battery drain.

Specific shock absorbers

If the ramage struggles to convince, however, the Astra struggles to make chassis improvements. Lowered by 10 mm, the body rests on firmer springs and new Koni shock absorbers. These are more precise components equipped with technology Frequency Selective Damping (FSD), materialized in the presence of a new hydraulic circuit: the new circuit adapts the damping laws through a valve that releases or retains the fluid. It does its work depending on the conditions, and therefore depending on the force applied to the shaft and its speed. Management intervenes in real time and is always honest with the situations encountered. However, it lacks the immediacy of an electronically controlled shock absorber, which can sometimes cause reactions that are more startling than truly surprising.

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In terms of behavior, the compact is not surprising. Despite the delayed interventions of ESP in Sport mode, it is faithful to the philosophy Highway Proof dear to the brand, and has always displayed an unperturbed balance in most situations. We are more attracted to the more direct steering around the midpoint, which allows you to control the rare deviations in the trajectory, unless you play too much with the limits of the Michelin tires… Primacy 4 S1. This fairly defines the attitude of this version, which behind its sporty showcase, still makes a choice of suitability. Because the Pilot Sport 4, which will ultimately be more consistent with other chassis improvements, isn’t as good as its Primacy 4 counterpart.

Not sure we’ll see a significant difference with averages of 4.5 l/100 km and 6.6 l/100 km, measured in full battery and empty battery hybrid mode respectively. On the other hand, it can have a real impact on the electric range when passing the WLTP certification, where the utility factor can save the brand accounts. If we cannot partially measure its radius of action, the technical sheet announces a value of 64 km, or 3 km less than the versions already known. That means the real world shouldn’t be any different, with a range of about 40 kilometers. On the billing side, the policy doesn’t change. The 3.7 kW charger is provided as standard (complete recharge in 3h30), the 7.4 kW charger (recharge in 1h40) is offered as an option at 400 €, but in any case the correct cable is offered: the Astra receives a Mode 2 8A 1.8 kW cable as standard (recharges in 5h30), and Opel offers to pay €539 for the Mode 2 16A 3.7 kW cable, or €249 for the Mode 3 32A 7.4 kW. In other words, the on-board charger is a smokescreen without a proper cable, and you need to spend €649 to fill up as soon as possible!

Do we prefer the Sports Tourer station wagon?

A double whammy for the Opel Astra GSe, which is also available in a Sports Tourer version. Technically, there is no change, and the rest has the same specifications as the compact sedan. The only difference: at worst 2 km less electric range depending on the equipment, where no one will see the difference in reality. On the other hand, the sensitive is the habitability: here, the trunk is from 352 to 516 l. But the wheelbase extended by 57 mm does not really benefit the rear knee space, in the average category. On the other hand, with these new ratings, the station wagon is almost more stable on secondary roads, while 14 kg more in the running order makes no difference in performance. The compact is not playable, the habit does not really lose the change. This version at an additional cost of €1,150 is therefore recommended in our eyes.

Dear GSe

Like the Cupra Leon, with 204 hp or 245 hp, the Opel Astra GSe wants to appeal to sports driving enthusiasts who only have compact plug-in hybrids to absorb their sadness. But despite the speeches, the German with a French heart, like the Spaniard with a German gut, is more dynamic than really sporty. But we still welcome Opel’s effort in terms of improving the chassis. Functionally, the Astra GSe narrows the gap with the Peugeot 308 HYbrid 225 which, in terms of hierarchy and image, still remains a notch ahead in terms of liveliness.

However, today’s Opel Astra GSe has a luxurious taste. Because to access the only 225 hp engine in the range, it will be necessary to sign a check for 48,250 €, when a Peugeot 308 GT, which alone offers 225 hp, is shown at 47,470 €. In the Cupra, the Leon V 204 starts at €43,750, while the VZ 245 claims €45,750. The VZ Cup 245 (Brembo brakes, modified geometry, carbon appendages, DCC controlled suspension…) is available for €50,900. In other words, a 180 hp GSe would undoubtedly help to enhance the tablet, but a 180 hp GS provides almost the same services for €5,100 less.

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