The Truth About Cars » Opel Astra The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Opel Astra Review: 2014 Opel Astra Manual Diesel Wagon Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:00:16 +0000


Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant to be a Buick?

Several cars in the Buick line are siblings to European Opels (or Vauxhalls, in Great Britain). Two of them are also available as wagons – the Insignia Sports Tourer is basically Buick Regal Estate Wagon, and the Opel Astra Sports Tourer would make, with some re-badging, a nice Buick Verano Estate Wagon. The Astra/Verano is probably the better candidate for the American wagon, since it’s almost as roomy inside as Regal/Insignia (with seats folded flat, it actually has more cargo space), and is significantly cheaper.

Why not go all the way, and make it a sporty diesel, manual wagon. Last year, the Astra’s engine line-up was enhanced by addition of the 190hp 2.0 CDTI Biturbo version. Actually, it’s more than just an engine option – Biturbo comes as  a separate equipment level, somewhere half-way between ordinary Astras and the full-on sporty OPC version. It doesn’t have the same clever Hi-Per strut front suspension the OPC and GTC (that’s the three door hatch coupe version), but it’s been lowered, fitted with stylish 18” wheels and dual exhaust tips, special seats and a trick front spoiler.

The core of the Biturbo package is the engine. Two-liter diesel plant with common-rail direct injection offers some 190 horsepower and 235 lb-ft (320 Nm) sent to the front wheels through the six-speed manual gearbox. That puts the Astra Biturbo right on the border of the diesel hot hatch/hot wagon territory – but the Biturbo is not nearly so ostentatious. In fact, seeing that it’s not called the “OPC diesel”, it seems that Opel really wanted it to be more of a fast GT than a realy sports wagon.

The Biturbo’s exterior is quite restrained – no wings or flares or vivid paint to tell everyone you bought “the fast one”. Thanks to the slightly different front bumper, large (and really pretty) wheels and lowered ride height, the Biturbo looks more handsome than “ordinary” Astras, but unless parked beside one, most people will never notice why it even looks different. They’ll just like it a bit more than they usually like Astras. It makes for a wonderful sleeper.

Once you open the door, things change. The seats with red highlights and a silly “tire tread” motif seem incongruous with the discreet exterior. And I suspect that older people will have slight problem getting out of the front ones, since they’re really heavily sculpted.

But as the driver, you will probably love them. They offer lots of support, and even the base version is widely adjustable (you can add more adjustment as an option). I would really like to have an adjustable headrest, as it was too much forward, but overall, the seats are nice. And it gets even better once you reach for the wheel. The fact that it’s adjustable both in rake and reach is pretty much normal these days, but most cars are lacking in the range of adjustment. If you like to sit in the “proper” position, with the steering wheel high and close to your chest, and the backrest as vertical as you can bear, you run into all sorts of problems – usually with not enough range. In the Astra, it took me just a few moments to find a nearly perfect driving position. And the steering wheel’s thickness and diameter was spot-on as well, although the shape was not. I have never understood what was wrong about steering wheels being round… this ain’t no racecar, dudes!


Remember everything you heard about the modern diesels being so refined you hardly even know that you’re not running on gas? This is not the case, even though the Astra uses a very sophisticated common-rail system. The Biturbo two-liter may sound more refined than the old N/A plants from W123 or W124 Benzes, but it isn’t that much quieter.

Shifting into first brings much more positive thoughts. The shifter action is light and quite precise. Maybe not the best in the business, but certainly pleasant to use. Leaving the parking lot, you notice the first difference between the Biturbo and ordinary Astra, in the form of loud scratching sound when the front splitter hits the ground for the first of many times. In the beginning, you drive slow and carefully to prevent this from happening. Then, you realize it’s pointless exercise and just wonder when you’ll rip it off (as I found out later, Opel employees bolted the splitter to the bumper to prevent journos from losing it somewhere).

From a European perspective, the Astra feels massive inside. Compared competitors like the Ford Focus or Renault Mégane, it seems to be just so much bigger – which gives you a feeling of safety, but also makes parking quite tricky. If you’re buying one, don’t forget to add both front and rear parking sensors, or, better yet, a back-up camera.


I may have criticized the Tesla Model S for having no tactile controls, but the Astra is at the other end of the spectrum. There’s incomprehensible sea of buttons, captioned with confusing acronyms. If you’re new to the car, you will be hopelessly lost. I did find myself acclimating to this layout as I drove it, but I’d be worried if that didn’t happen.

Quibbles aside, the Astra is a nice car to drive. Even with the Biturbo’s stiffer suspension and on large 18” wheels, it’s reasonably supple. Hit the sport button and you’re treated to less steering assistance, quicker accelerator response and the red glow of the instruments – of, and the adjustable dampers firm up, making the ride a bit more brittle. Luckily, you can disable any of these. I really hated the red instruments.

While most of the diesel hot hatches seem stuck on getting the best Nurburgring lap time – and suffering for it in the real world- the Astra feels more grown-up, more comfortable . On our drive into the twisties, with sport mode on and the radio turned down, the Astra delivered a competent, but not exactly exhilirating performance. Handling was fairly neutral, even with the heavy diesel engine up front. Like most modern racks, the steering has a bit of a dead-zone on-center, but it’s well weighted. The clutch and gear change are all nicely done.

But American wagon enthusiasts need to temper their expectations. This is not a fiesty hot hatch like the Focus ST. It feels much more like a GT, at home on highways rather than back roads, and all its heft – perceived or real (it weighs about 3700 lbs) makes it feel like it was meant to be a Buick from the beginning.

The only trouble is that once you get to cruising speed and the engine noise fades into background, it’s replaced by even more unpleasant road and aerodynamic noise. At typical A-road speed of 50-70mph, it’s a bit annoying, but not terrible. At highway speeds of 80 or 90mph, it starts to bother you. And if you’re in the hurry and try to keep the Astra at 110-120mph, it’s hard to even listen to the radio.

Fuel economy is one area that doesn’t disappoint. At a typical relaxed pace (55-60mph on major roads), the Astra can get over 40 mpg. And only when driven really hard in the twisties, with the pedal to the metal on each and every straight and the speedo needle sometimes nudging 100mph, it barely gets under 20mpg. High-speed, cruising with speeds in the triple digits brought similar numbers.


 But, would the diesel Verano (GSD, maybe?) be a good car for America? I’m not sure. First of all, the economics for a diesel passenger car rare make sense with fuel prices so low (yes, I know, resale and all that matters too). And as much as North Americans may fetishize the idea of a diesel performance wagon, I’m not sold on the tradeoffs in refinement that the Biturbo Astra requires. In Europe, this car costs as much as a Ford Focus ST wagon, which is much faster, much more fun and not much worse on fuel when cruising on the highway.

But if you’re really hell bent on getting a diesel, manual wagon, this would be a nice choice.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, and serves as editor-in-chief at After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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GM Agrees to Keep Three Opel Plants Open Through 2018 Mon, 03 Feb 2014 11:00:37 +0000 Opels being assembled in Eisenach, Germany

Opels being assembled in Eisenach, Germany

Just a few days after new GM CEO Mary Barra visited Opel’s headquarters in Ruesselsheim and said the company’s plant there will be assigned a new vehicle to build, General Motors’ Opel unit has come to an agreement with the company’s labor unions to extend until the end of 2018 a no-layoff guarantee at three German plants. According to Reuters, the Ruesselsheim factory, plants at Kaiserslautern and Eisenach will remain open. Opel also announced that the Eisenach assembly plant will build the next generation Opel Adam and Corsa models. Approximately 7,150 employees work at the three factories.

Production ends later this year at Opel’s fourth German factory in Bochum.

The agreement is a hopeful sign of better labor relations at Opel. Management and labor have differed in the recent past about how to return GM’s European unit to profitability.

“For the company and its employees this is an important step toward securing our future,” Ulrich Schumacher, Opel’s head of personnel, said in a statement.

In the labor deal, Opel promised to add another model for Ruesselsheim to build, to continue making the Adam and Corse in Eisenach and to keep the Kaiserslautern component operations going.

GM has lost an estimated $18 billion on its European operations over the last 12 years. The company says that it’s on track to break even in Europe in 2015 after a redesigned Corsa subcompact is launched late this year, and a redesigned Astra concept is introduced next year along with new gasoline and diesel engines.

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Review: 2013 Buick Verano Turbo (Video) Tue, 19 Feb 2013 14:00:38 +0000

The popular wisdom among folks in the auto-biz of my generation (1970s) is that Buick only exists because of China. Why didn’t GM kill Buick in America and keep it in China? The answer is obvious: you can’t sell your brand on its “Americanness” if it isn’t also sold in America to Americans. Buick then is a brand hunting for a mission. It’s also a brand hunting for fresh customers that don’t remember the Century and Skylark, two abominations firmly burnt into my mind. In attempt to solve these problems Buick has ditched their badge-engineering mantra and is rolling out new products targeted at folks from the 80s and 90s. Forced induction and a manual transmission aren’t new to Buick, but the possibility of a desirable small sedan from the triple-shield is earth shattering. Have they managed it? GM tossed us a set of keys to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Buick has never been about visual excitement. Even the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera was more exciting than the Buick Century. (Admittedly that’s like saying lidocaine is a more exciting party drug than novocaine.) The Verano doesn’t depart from Buick’s past in the style department wearing the least exciting sheetmetal among its direct competitors. Speaking of competition let’s get that out of the way.Now that Volvo has killed the S40 and there is no sign of the V40 on our shores, the Acura TSX, Acura ILX, Audi A3 and Verano are really the only compact front-driving near-luxury options in America. If you want to expand the pool slightly, you can include the hybrid-only Lexus CT 200h, and maybe (and this is a big maybe) the new Mercedes CLA (which isn’t shipping yet anyway).

Why such limited competition? At 184 inches long, and sharing the FWD setup with the Cruze, the Verano is almost a foot shorter than the Lexus ES, one inch shorter than the Acura TSX and about the same length as the new Mercedes CLA. Although the Verano is essentially the same size as a Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3-Series, let’s be honest, you won’t find these fish in the same pond.

Although the Verano shares platforms with the Chevy Cruze, it isn’t a “Buick Cruze.”Instead it’s the American market twin to the Chinese Buick Excelle GT and the strangely named Opel Astra Limousine. This means the Verano shares little with the Cruze (or any other American market GM product) save for an identical wheelbase and common transmissions. Helping take the Verano up a notch our refrigerator-white tester had perfect panel gaps and a paint job worthy of Lexus. Seriously. My question for you is: is there enough visual flair to differentiate it from GM’s more plebeian offerings? Let us know in the comment section.


My impression of the interior differed from Michael Karesh’s review of the base Verano last year. Is the Verano Turbo a nicer place to spend your time? No, it all boiled down to color. The Verano Turbo I was send wore Buick’s “Choccachino” interior which replaces the black dash, doors and steering wheel with a dark brown version of the same. (The “Cashmere” interior gets a similar swap). The simple (and no cost) color option changes the interior feel dramatically without changing the quality of the materials. There are still some hard plastics within reach of the driver (like the lower dash and portions of the doors) but I must give kudos to GM for thinking “outside the black.”

Regardless of your color choice, the Verano’s ample button banks feel exceptional for a vehicle with a price range of $23,975-$32,000. While the fake wood isn’t going to fool anyone, it is used tastefully and [thankfully] sparingly in the cabin. On the other hand, the satin “aluminum” trim around the infotainment cluster had me fooled until I looked at the Verano’s spec sheet. While a power driver’s seat is standard on most Verano models, I had hoped the Turbo trim would add a power recline feature and adjustable lumbar to the throne but that still can’t be had for any price. An unexpected nicety is a passenger seat with the same range of motion as the driver’s seat albeit with manual levers. As you would expect from a vehicle in the near-luxury category dual-zone climate control is standard and the heated steering wheel on all leather-clad models is a welcome touch not found on most competitors.

Rear accommodations are rarely a selling point with compact sedans of any description. That being said, the Verano’s rear thrones provide as much head and legroom as the TSX or current Audi A3. Compared with its Chevy platform mate, the Verano’s rear cabin is slightly smaller thanks to thicker front seats and a touch more padding in the rear. Although the seats are no closer to the floor than those in the TSX or A3, the shape of the rear door openings made it easy to hit your head when getting in and out of the back, something to keep in mind if you shuttle adults regularly. Despite being longer than the Cruze, the Verano’s trunk is 10% smaller, although its 14 cubes are identical to the TSX’s trunk and in the same ballpark as most of the small luxury sedans from Europe.


Whichever engineer was in charge of the Verano’s center stack channeled their inner Acura, between the infotainment and HVAC controls there are no less than 41 buttons, 4 knobs and one joystick. Despite the button overload, Buick’s standard 7-inch touchscreen “IntelliLink” system is one of the best on the market combining Buick’s previous interface with improved voice recognition, app integration and snappier response times. (If you want so see the system in action, check out the video at the top of the review.) Much like Infiniti’s infotainment systems, you can either use the knob/joystick control in the dash or you can touch the options on the screen. This arrangement works well giving you the option to minimize fingerprints if you so desire.

Buick’s new software package is the close relative of Chevy’s MyLink system and uses the same intuitive voice recognition system for phone, navigation and complete USB/iDevice control. Compared to the MyFord/MyLincoln Touch elephant in the room, Buick’s voice responses are more natural and polished, entering an address requires fewer commands and the system is much, much more responsive. Base Verano models get an unbranded 6-speaker system while all other models can option up to the 9-speaker, 7-channel Bose system which adds a subwoofer, center speaker and some extra adjustment options. The up-level system was well-balanced as you would expect, but compared to other systems in the near-luxury segment the Bose system doesn’t play as loud without noticeable distortion.


Instead of the Cruze’s 1.8L naturally aspirated and 1.4L turbo lineup, we get a new 2.4L direct-injection four-cylinder engine and an optional 2.0L direct-injection turbo. The 2.4L “LEA” mill is a new engine for GM, based on their “LE9″ engine with an increased compression ratio and some direct-injection sauce to boost power to 180HP and 171lb-ft. That’s not the engine you want, and it’s not why we borrowed the 2013 Verano. This time it’s all about the turbo.

Strangely this is not the same 2.0L turbo found in the ATS and Malibu, this is an older engine found in the Saturn Sky, Fisker Karma and of course, the Regal GS. This upgraded engine is only found in the top-of-the-line “Verano Premium” which starts at $30,000. When jammed under the hood of the Verano, output drops slightly to 250HP and 260lb-ft of torque. Don’t fret about a few lost ponies, the torque still comes to a boil at 2,000RPM and stays strong all the way up the tach.

On the competition front, the TSX V6 may churn out 280HP and 254lb-ft, but in typical Acura fashion it all arrives at high RPMs. We’re told to expect 208HP and 258 lb-ft from the CLA when it lands and the current A3′s 2.0T engine covers the rear at 200HP and 207lb-ft. Sending power to the front wheels is GM’s ubiquitous 6-speed automatic transaxle, or the an all-new (to America) 6-speed manual transmission making the Buick and the Audi the only cars in this small segment that offer a DIY gear changer.


If the Regal made you think Buick’s path to sales success was Euro driving manners, you’d be wrong. The Verano is a modern Buick, but a Buick none the less with fairly soft springs and one of the quietest cabins available at any price. Think of it as the FWD compact luxury sedan Lexus never built. Even our “sporty” turbo tester with the manual transmission is on the softer side of most sedans. The downside to the quiet cabin is that you can’t hear the turbo mill revving which is a pity since Buick tuned it to be one of GM’s more pleasing exhaust notes.

With 250 ponies and 260 dollops of twist I had prepared myself in advance for massive torque steer and was pleasantly surprised to find strangely little. A quick inspection of Buick’s PR literature clearly shows that the Verano does not get GM’s lauded HiPer Strut tech favoring a less expensive traditional MacPherson arrangement.

The power bump from the base engine is noticeable in every driving situation causing a serious 2.5 second drop in the 0-60 time and improving driveability across the board. With most of the engine’s torque available just over idle there’s far less downshifting to be done on hilly terrain both with the manual and the up-shift-happy automatic. In our testing we clocked a 0-60 run in 6.5 seconds with me at the shifter and the traction control enabled, this more than a half second faster than my time in the FWD A3 2.0T but slightly behind the TSX V6′s 6.2 second time.

The Verano tips the scales at 3,300lbs, a bit heavier than the Audi A3′s 3,219lbs but substantially lighter than the 3,680lb TSX. The relatively light weight, fairly grippy 235/45R18 all-season rubber and well sorted chassis proved engaging and one might even say nimble on the winding roads of Northern California. The same cannot be said of the steering however which, even in this age of electric power steering, has to be one of the numbest vehicles I have piloted in a long time.

Despite the numb steering the Verano was an eager companion on my mountainous commute on California highways 92, 35, 9 and 17 thanks to the slick shifting manual. Buick’s row-it-yourself transaxle is not the same notchy unit found in the Regal, instead this has been lifted from GM’s European lineup and the change is welcome with shift quality equaling the Audi A3 and Acura TSX. (Bold statement I know.) Third pedal effort is fairly similar to the TSX although I actually preferred the predictable and linear engagement of the Buick.

Compact [near] luxury is about fuel economy as much as discount pricing. The Buick scores 20MPG around town and 31 on the highway with the manual, 21/30 with the automatic and 24 combined with either transmission. This slots the Verano at the top of our small segment essentially matching the FWD A3′s numbers and a few MPGs higher than the TSX V6. Thanks to a tall 6th gear in the manual transmission, the engine barely hits 2,000RPM at 70MPH and contributed to our weekly average of 25.6MPG.

Back in 2008 I argued that Buick should be killed for the sake of the company. I figured any Chinese repercussions could be written off in the bankruptcy proceedings and nobody would miss the tripple-shield. Five years later Buick has created a car that I not only rank above the Acura TSX and Audi A3 for overall performance and value, but also because it was also truly fun to drive and live with for a week. The only problem is that Buick image, which for anyone born in the 1970s and 1980s is full of Centurys and Skylarks.


Buick provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 6.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile:15 Seconds at 98 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 25.6MPG over 712 miles


2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtsy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Front 1/2, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, 2.0L Direct-Injection Ecotec Turbo Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Engine, 2.0L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, gauges , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, gauges , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, gauges , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, gauges , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, Front and Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Infotainment, Buick IntelliLink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Infotainment, Buick IntelliLink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Infotainment, Buick IntelliLink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Infotainment, Buick IntelliLink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail


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Opel Astra On Sale RIGHT NOW In North America Mon, 11 Jun 2012 16:29:12 +0000

Yes, that’s right Europhiles, you can buy an Opel Astra in North America…it’s called a Buick Verano, and it will join the more familiar Astra hatchbacks with four gasoline and three diesel powerplants at launch, as well as a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder at some point in the future.

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European Chevrolet Production May Help Ease Opel Capacity Problem Mon, 14 May 2012 13:32:40 +0000

With Opel’s fortunes in the toilet and Chevrolet vehilces gaining ground in Europe, Opel brass are looking at an obvious solution – stop building Chevrolet products in South Korea and start building them in Europe.

Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke told the New York Times that

“We are in talks with our colleagues in Detroit and Shanghai to find out whether we can build Chevrolet vehicles in Europe, to improve utilization of capacity,” 

The article touches on the many familiar Opel problems – the need to close factories, excessive capacity, staggering losses (Q1 2012 saw Opel lose $300 million), but the Chevrolet solution won’t be an umbrella cure of Opel’s ills. Building Cruzes and Sonics (or Aveos, as they’re known) in Europe brings to light whether the cost advantage of building in South Korea can be maintained.

Opel is also looking to export markets, like Latin America, Australia and the Middle East for growth, but given the popularity of brands like Chevrolet and Holden in those markets, is there room for yet another sort-of premium brand when established GM nameplates and more prestigious European marques are already fighting it out in their respective spheres?

If anything, the way out of this mess may be the PSA alliance. GM puts Russelsheim to use by twinning the Citroen C5 and Opel Insignia, while PSA uses their excess capacity at the Rennes plant (just like Opel, PSA’s unions fear the closure of the factory) to build the Zafira/Picasso/Peugeot MPV. Meanwhile, mum’s the word over at PSA headquarters. That would allow Astra production to be sent to a lower-cost facility in Poland, and England, where the Astra is a key product for Vauxhall.

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Scion xD Scores Last In Euro NCAP Compact Crash Test Thu, 10 Dec 2009 16:03:21 +0000

The Scion xD is known in Europe as the “Urban Cruiser,” and with an AWD option it’s sold as a quasi-SUV. According to a Euro NCAP crash test of comact cars though, the Urban Cruiser offers a lot less safety than you might expect in an SUV. NCAP’s latest round of compact testing saw vehicles from the new Opel Astra and Chevy Cruze to the Peugeot 308 and Mazda3 recording perfect five-star scores, indicating just how safe compact cars have become. And even the video of the Urban Cruiser’s three-star performance lacks the drama of earlier compact crash tests: a failure of side airbags and a weak performance in the new side pole crash caused the poor score. Most embarrassing of all, the Chevrolet Spark (neé Daewoo Matiz Creative) came in second to last, scoring four stars to the Urban Cruiser’s three.

Toyota’s PR has responded to the poor showing, telling What Car?:

In 2009, we received a five-star rating for all three new cars that were evaluated by Euro NCAP (iQ, Avensis and Prius).

We are therefore very surprised that the Urban Cruiser received only a three-star rating from Euro NCAP. As with any other Toyota vehicle, we had submitted the Urban Cruiser to rigorous in-house tests, which indicated that it would secure a five-star rating.

We are currently investigating the Euro NCAP result in detail, in order to understand why there is a difference between our Toyota assessment and Euro NCAP’s rating.

Together with other car makers, we are also discussing with Euro NCAP certain aspects of their evaluation methodology, which might also explain why the rating is lower than we expected.

The three-star rating for the Urban Cruiser has been triggered by the “pole side impact” test. During this assessment, the dummy head area deceleration slightly exceeded the demand value of Euro NCAP.

There is a difference of opinion between us and Euro NCAP on a technical matter, namely peak acceleration of the head area in the Pole Side Impact test.

Our in-house tests, which are designed to meet the highest safety requirements, indicated that the protection provided by the head curtain airbag would be in line with a five-star Euro NCAP rating.

Once again, we remain fully convinced that Urban Cruiser is a safe car.

And compared to past performances in this class, the xD is a relatively safe car. It’s just less safe than… a 1.2 liter Korean minicar. Deal with it, Toyota.

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