After a long wait, Opel has finally finished the development of its Astra Electric, which means we got to drive it. Thanks to its new Nidec electric motor, the compact hatchback promises, quite frankly, astonishing efficiency figures. Or is it too good to be true?
In the battle between the technically similar e-308 and Astra Electric, it’s Opel who shot first. While both models have been on a pretty much parallel development rhythm, according to the Opel employees we spoke with at the event, the battery-powered Astra is the first to be available for test drives, although its Peugeot counterpart should follow quite soon.
Not a lot of compromise
On the surface, there’s not much between the combustion-powered Astra and this Electric version. No tailpipe, obviously, and there’s a small badge on the trunk indicating its battery-powered drivetrain. The Astra Electric also gets a sporty front bumper and 18-inch wheels as standard.
On the inside, Opel promises no practical compromises compared to the regular car – or at least, compared to the PHEV Astra. The trunk is similarly sized (352 to 1,268 liters), and the interior space has also been retained, although the standard electrically adjustable driver’s seat is mounted a bit too high. Space in the rear is also limited for taller passengers.
New Nidec e-motor
But the real star of the show is the Nidec drivetrain, which is a joint venture between Stellantis and Punch Powertrain. This M3 motor (not to be confused with BMW’s or Tesla’s offerings) offers 115 kW (156 hp) of power while promising a consumption of only 14.8 kWh per 100 km (WLTP standards). Even lower than some competitors on an EV-specific platform!
This allows Opel (and Peugeot, DS, and…) to use a smaller battery of just 54 kWh while still offering 418 km of WLTP range. There’s no long-range option here, as a bigger battery would eat the trunk capacity and add more weight. Now, the Astra Electric can make do with a kerb weight of 1,679 kg, again similar to the Astra Plug-in Hybrid. Charging takes less than 30 minutes at a 100 kW fast charger, while a three-phase internal charger of 11 kW is standard.
To test out these efficiency claims, we were invited to Berlin, which offered many historical and cultural points of interest to drive to, while also keeping the consumption low due to the heavy traffic and subsequent low average speeds. Meaning that these figures should be taken with a grain of salt, but we managed an average consumption of just over 12 kWh/100 km over a distance of 134 km, including some small stretches of (restricted) Autobahn, resulting in a theoretical range of 440 km.
A more realistic range of around 400 km does seem possible, however, which is entirely acceptable within the segment and also proves the efficiency of this Nidec motor, which is coming to pretty much every current small to mid-sized EV in the Stellantis range.
The rest of the driving experience in the Opel Astra Electric is also pretty pleasant, with a mostly silent electric motor, which responds naturally to inputs. The response can be regulated via the drive modes, which limit the power output if you’re not in Sport mode, although kick-down overrides this limitation. The additional weight can be felt during cornering and on uneven surfaces, although that’s no different from the Astra PHEV.
In summary, the Astra Electric pretty much does what it promises: offer a reasonable range thanks to great efficiency while not compromising too much on daily practicality. An even more practical Astra Sports Tourer Electric is coming later this year, too. That means it has the same positives and negatives as the regular (or hybrid) Astra. And if you don’t like that one, a very similar Peugeot e-308 is coming soon.
Concrete pricing has not yet been announced for the Belgian market, but in Germany, the Astra Electric should start from around € 45 000 while offering more comprehensive equipment than the Hybrid, which starts at just under € 40 000 in Belgium.
Optional equipment is very limited in the electric Astra, with only a couple of options and the color to choose from, simplifying production and distribution. Deliveries are set to begin in Q4 2023.