sport and plug-in hybrid, is it possible?

Everyone knows the GTI name made famous by VW. But this is not the case with the “GSE” logo.which designated, in particular, the ultimate evolution of the Monza coupé equipped with a 215 hp V6 in 1983. Forty years later, Opel is remembering this when naming the most powerful plug-in hybrid Astra in the range. Next to the smart version of the GS that shows 180 combined hp, the new GSe is intended to be a sports car of its time, with the powertrain delivering 225 hp. A respectable figure for a compact sedan: the first Renault Mégane RS of 2004 showed the same cavalry! And because power is meaningless without the style that goes with it, this Astra draws a sporty look based on black inserts (grill, logo, lower rear bumper), specifically 18-inch rims and, on board, bucket seats with integrated headrests. For good measure, the engineers focused on virilizing the chassis. The suspension benefits from specific settings, with the body height lowered by 1 cm, while the shock absorbers use FSD (Frequency Selective Damping) technology, which does not really convince us at the moment, without on purpose Finally, the Astra benefits from a recalibrated steering, as well as the “GSe Engine Sound” function, just to make the engine sound sportier thanks to the addition of an artificial sound to the speakers.

Efficiency before sensations

On paper, the well-known traction chain in the Peugeot 308, 3008 and other DS 7 – a 180 hp 1.6 turbo petrol combined with a 110 hp electric unit – offers solid acceleration in the Astra: it is said to go from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.5 s, like an Abarth 595. Lap times are one thing, feelings are another. Carrying a solid 12.4 kWh battery, the Astra packs its weight (1703 kg is announced) and the hybrid mechanics smooth accelerations, which are certainly effective, but not showy. And don’t rely on the engine sound or the GSe Engine Sound to mess things up. The four-cylinder is hardly mellow when you’re looking for high revs. In addition, the soundproofing is so effective that one actually comes to driving at speed flaws without realizing it.

The chassis is not clunky

It’s a shame, because on the chassis side Opel has done things well. In its sport settings, the Astra is sharper than a Peugeot 308 Hybrid 225 and it feels on the wheel. Well placed on its supports, showing a sharp front axle and contained body movements, the Opel is not clumsy and easily digests the available power. That’s not enough to make the Astra GSe exciting to drive, but the efficiency is there when the road is dry. As we saw on the difficult course of our test in Spain. It’s unfortunate that the steering filters change grip a bit, that the automatic transmission isn’t the most responsive there and, above all, that braking proves difficult to dose, as is often the case with plug- in hybrids.

New Opel Astra GSe© Vauxhall

In return for this excellence, this Astra is not a model of comfort. The suspension turns out to be quite stable, especially since the “German” bucket seats are not the softest either. That said, the biggest complaint about the front seats is not their firmness, but their lack of lateral support on twisty roads.

A super equipped family… and not cheap

For the rest, if it’s the GSe, the Astra remains a fairly welcoming compact family car. The presentation is a bit tight – especially with the counter screens showing – and the larger storage spaces wouldn’t have been too much up front. But the whole looks serious, the interior space is decent – there isn’t too much stuff in the back – and the equipment is plentiful in this top-of-the-range version (360° camera, heated steering wheel, keyless access and start , etc.) .

Finally, behind its sporty positioning, the Astra GSe is a true plug-in hybrid, with genre-specific features and flaws: the Opel can drive easily at 100% electric up to 135 km / h, for about forty kilometers in real life – the 64 kilometers claimed in the excellent WLTP cycle is difficult to achieve. Then, when the battery is empty, this Astra’s appetite approaches the 8 l/100 km we measured in the 308 Hybrid 225, with which it shares a platform and traction chain. But the main pitfall of this Astra GSe is its price. Appears, in fact, 48 250 €. True, it is almost more expensive than a 308 Hybrid 225 GT (€47,470). But for those who want an Astra PHEV, the 180 hp variant, as powerful as it is, seems more recommended, shown from €41,900.

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