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Big Blue

Holiday Rental 2016 Part 2

It's an Opel Astra. It says "Benzin"!!! More on that later. I did 1926km in it through towns, on motorways and up to the mountain cottage on an unmade road.

On approach It's a pretty handsome beast to my eyes and the bodywork is well made. Tight shut lines with no cheap black trim.

Inside it's the lowest spec car I've driven since high school. Air con not climate. No Bluetooth. No USB. It has a button to scroll through the OBC menus. But no OBC. No cruise. And a very first world problem I never had until the Gorilla arrived: no keyless entry. The horror. Here's the instrument binnacle. This is all it does: very 1970s, I must say. As to having a menu button on the stalk when there is no OBC: I assume the cost of the OBC module delete is less than the button delete

As to the centre console, it all looks pretty comprehensive but most buttons do fuck all or rudimentary functions. There's a config button, file buttons, info: all pointless.

Fortunately I had my Snooper 8500 satnav and a TaoTronics Bluetooth adapter for the sad looking input jack so I was sorted for in-car tech that we never needed a couple of decades ago.

Build quality-wise, the centre console is very much reminiscent of that on my Chrysler Sunbeam after the UJ had seized and caused the centre console to explode into the cabin in a shower of hard plastic: crappy plastic with sharp edges along the edge where the grey shiny crap meets the rock-hard black crap.

The rest of the interior is pretty dull and it has wind-down rear windows: are they still a thing? The seat offers limited back support. I say limited but that's generous. It holds my shoulder blades such that I do not lie prone in the rear of the cabin but as to any other form of support: I cannot comment on what does not exist. Lower back strength exercises advised.

As a family car it fits the bill. We did several short journeys 5-up, 2 in child seats. For the four of us it was fine and swallowed our luggage and buggy with no hassles, which you expect for an estate.

One major family related issue was the access to the rear seat belt at the tensioner. Anyone with a 2 year old and no isofix knows you have to belt the seat in and reel the belt to hideous levels of tightness. This is difficult when you can barely get hold of the belt!

OK so you know it's not going to worry the interior designers at Audi, or indeed Lada, anytime soon. So how does it fare as a driving tool? Well it's a dull family estate in the lower-mid-size sector and it's taken that brief and delivered on it. Nothing could possibly make you get in this car and take it out for a spin just for the hell of it - you're more likely to park it on the drive and walk to the bus stop.

I've said before there are no bad cars and this one isn't bad. It moves, it carries stuff, it has lights and it has aircon. I could even point it at the bit of road I wanted to on roundabouts and roads I know well so it handles respectfully enough. Steering feedback is well above average, I'll give it that too, but the brakes: what.the.fuck!!!!!!

The first 10-15mm of travel on the pedal does NOTHING. There is no retardation for any given input during the initial press of the all-important middle pedal so your instincts tell you "there's some kind of a fucking problem here, mate!" so you mash the pedal into the carpet whereupon the servo decides "oh, the driver DOES want brakes..." and hitches an anchor to the nearest piece of street furniture. No amount of driving in around 2000kms made me adjust to this "foible" and I'll be glad to not flip myself over the bars of the Black Whanger when I go back to my commute.

So on to performance.

There. That was it, a complete description of the performance of the car in no words. I often lament not getting a petrol car and I have been rewarded by the hire-car gods with one which tells me why they can't be arsed with them. It needs to be over 4000 to make any progress and it redlines at 6500 but if you can stand the tortured screams of the combined mechanical parts over 5500 you're in no way sympathetic and gaining precisely fuck-all. You can, however, hold second through a roundabout and this alone is worth an extra star over a diesel. But it has no power AND no torque. This car couldn't outdrag a nun on a Raleigh Chopper from the lights even if it had a rolling start. It fared better 2-up with no child seats on the way to the MotoGP but didn't set the world alight save for one strange saving-grace.

This was a five-speed car and no matter what the wretched green up-change light said time and time again you couldn't cruise this car in 5th at 50kph (the speed limit in towns, except Czech where it's 40!). So we can assume 5th is a high gear - and it is. The motorway speed limit in most EU countries is 130kph yet here we have a car that takes on some second persona as potential land-speed-record attempt vehicle at a sat-nav indicated 130kph (so the speedo is already reading 137). The march to 150 is over in a flash and whilst the car is not exactly "planted" at speed (even W2.0 noticed and said it was nerve-wracking, although her English is less advanced than that so she was somewhat blunter about the car swaying from side to side on the very flat and very straight M1 in Hungary) it certainly isn't shy of it.

I had to work out fuel economy myself due to that non-existent OBC and it was 37.86mpg. To me that is astonishingly high as I'm used to big thirsty cars; it's also not much worse than I've had from diseasals in the past. I did thrash this car mercilessly so could expect no more but there was no other way of ensuring forward progress. It's still better than the 19mpg I get from the Gorilla but about 1000 times less satisfying.

To sum up I'll acknowledge that these cars are almost exclusively fleet fodder. If you're in one of these it's because you're not a "user-chooser" or if you were the alternative was an unspeakable Chinese copy of a pre-VW Škoda. I simply cannot imagine any sane human being testing a few cars in the same price bracket and class of car and not choosing a SEAT or KIA or Hyundai. If you do find that you have mistakenly signed for one of these if there is any kind of seat upgrade available, even a lime green faux-Recaro rally seat, take it. Your back will thank you even if your soul won't.
Nice Guy Eddie


I can't understand how these cars get through the sign off stage. Do the directors of GM Europe think they can turn around their fortunes with something so dull.

Its offensive but not as offensive as your shorts.

It must have the same engine/gearbox combo that our hire drive Meriva had a few years ago - it wouldn't have been out of place in a moped.

I'm now glad I got a 308 diesel this year.

Sounds great.....makes me feel better about the Fiesta I had, but not much.  It's the risk of getting a car like that which means I don't book lower down the price list.  It wouldn't ruin my holiday but I don't want to be annoyed every day either.

Did your old Alpina have Bluetooth and USB?

Martin wrote:

Did your old Alpina have Bluetooth and USB?

It probably didn't even have a cd player!
Racing Teatray

That's the old Disastra isn't it?

It is, yes.  The new one is a big improvement imo, it even has tech that BB hasn't experienced yet.
Big Blue

Ha ha. The B10 had a cd changer and the Bluetooth was provided by the snooper. It also had climate and cruise and electric rear windows.....
Chris M Wanted a V-10

Martin wrote:
The new one is a big improvement imo, it even has tech that BB hasn't experienced yet.

Not even in the Gorilla ?

FWIW even a current Fiesta Titanium has wind-up rear windows.....

Nice Guy Eddie wrote:
I can't understand how these cars get through the sign off stage. Do the directors of GM Europe think they can turn around their fortunes with something so dull.

I do wonder how much time senior people in the industry (and any other industry really) spend trying their billy-basic models / goods.

I am sure if you are a GM director and you have a quick drive in the VXR you might sign it off. But spend 2 weeks in this and you'd fire everyone involved.

It's like airlines. I wonder when was the last time the CEO of an airline travelled economy long haul?
Nice Guy Eddie

Its a complaint I have with most products and services.

Anything from Apple where iTunes is so shit to James Villas that can't let you book your airline seats in advance as its a crappy group booking, that's in the last few weeks. I've got a massive list of companies that just get it so wrong and its all such basic stuff.
Bob Sacamano

PG wrote:
Nice Guy Eddie wrote:
I can't understand how these cars get through the sign off stage. Do the directors of GM Europe think they can turn around their fortunes with something so dull.

I do wonder how much time senior people in the industry (and any other industry really) spend trying their billy-basic models / goods.

There's a certain logic to having a very basic but cheap entry model. It gets punters through the door and once they are behind the wheel you can upsell the nicer trim, extra goodies etc - all the stuff that makes the real profit. BMW used to be masters at this.

It also means the more heavily depreciating shit stuff can be sold in 'doom blue' to the rental market less affecting the value of other vehicles.

Hideous vehicles, those Astras. They are now the standard police issue in most places. I can't understand how they had to nerve to sign them off. The worst bit is the view being obscured by the A pillars. It's borderline dangerous.
Im astounded you think the steering gives some feedback, I think it's not even connected to the wheels, it's so bad. It's just rubbery and dull. Same on all of ours. At least police spec gives the OBC which includes tyre pressure monitoring.

I feel a lot of sympathy for you having to put up with that during part of your holiday!

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