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2004 OPEL ASTRA
ON SALE: Now (in Europe)
BASE PRICE: $15,666
POWERTRAIN: 1.4-liter, 90-hp, 92-lb-ft I4; fwd, five-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT: 2706 pounds
0 TO 60 MPH: 13.7 seconds (mfr.)

You needn't spend much time with General Motors management before you hear the latest catch phrase: "One Company." At this spring's Geneva motor show we heard GM president Rick Wagoner say it at dinner. The next day while introducing Opel concept cars, product guru Bob Lutz was using it, too. Even an engineering bigwig at Opel threw it into conversation.

The words appear to be marching orders to rally the various subsidiaries spread out around the globe to work together to share smarts, expertise and, when available, parts from a worldwide bin. If the business school theories are correct, it will lead to greater corporate profits.

Carried to the extreme, "One Company" thinking should bring about one-or perhaps more-GM-designed cars to be built and sold in all the markets in which GM does business. Easier said than done.

Though GM has yet to design and build a so-called world car, with the new Opel Astra now on sale in Europe, it is getting closer.

Unveiled at the Frankfurt show in September, the third-generation Astra is Opel's most important product, since it is also sold in the United Kingdom as the Vauxhall Astra. The compact car class, in which Astra competes, accounts for 30 percent of the market in Europe. Opel had more than 30,000 firm orders for the car before the first deliveries early last month. That number of pre-sales is important because it eclipsed the pre-sale orders for Volkswagen's new Golf-Astra's major European competitor-which went on sale last fall. (We will not see the new Golf in the States until next year.)

Astra will be in just about all GM markets except the United States. The closest we will get to the Astra is the Chevrolet Cobalt, due later this year. But close is a relative term. Cobalt is built on GM's small-car, front-wheel-drive Delta platform, while Astra is built on a modified Delta base. Cobalt and Astra share some suspension parts and dimensionally, they are similar.

After sampling this Astra on both public roads in Europe and an airfield-turned-test track, we wondered why this isn't the new Cobalt, or why it is not destined for the United States. Yes, Americans don't buy hatchbacks; they favor small sedans. But based on a brief test, the Astra would seem to be a fitting package. Noth-ing about it screams "economy car," in fact, it is just the opposite. The exterior shape is handsome for a small car and the interior is fitted with high-grade materials that appear to be better than those used in Chevys, Pontiacs and Saturns.

The Astra comes in five trim levels. There are six engine choices, including four gasoline engines, 1.4-liter, 1.6-liter, 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter, and two versions of a 1.7-liter common-rail diesel. Four transmissions are available. No domestic manufacturer offers anything close to that on its compact cars for U.S. sale, further emphasizing this segment's importance in the European market.

We drove an Astra with the 2.0-liter, 170-hp turbocharged Ecotec inline four mated to a six-speed manual and found that to be a wonderful combination. Offering smooth power with little turbo lag, the car had the legs to keep up with bigger sedans on the auto-route and was a blast on the auto-cross course. The only complaint: a balky shifter that surfaced while pushing it on the track. Smooth shifts were hard to accomplish under hard cor-ner-ing or heavy acceleration. It is a minor complaint, because unless you are participating at a track day event, chances are you would not be pushing your Astra this hard.

There may not be a day when GM builds and markets a true world car, but this is clear: Engineers on both sides of the pond are at least talking to each other about how to make cars better. In the long run, world car or not, that should be better for GM customers.

From Autoweek:

http://www.autoweek.com/cat_content.mv?por...t_code=06014798
 

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Hopefully, the latest catch phrase "One Company" becomes more of a consistent mantra. Besides the obvious benefit of bringing North American enthusiasts some really cool cars from across the kingdom, One Company would certainly go a long way to boosting profits through increased plant productivity and less duplicative engineering efforts, to name two of the many benefits.

96 years is a glacier's pace to finally get this "One Company" thing rolling, no?
 

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unless the following is possible... rebadge the Opel Astra to Chevrolet Cobalt HATCHBACK... or Cobalt5, whichever is good... hatchbacks start to be popular in North America these days thanks to the introduction of Protege5...
 

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Pontiac Astra, please!!! Bring that turbo 2.0 motor over here as well! PLEASE GM PLEASE!! Get rid of the Vibe and Sunfire!
 

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When I was in europe, I saw tons of these. They looked 20x better than the golf. The golf was boring and plain by comparison. Everything is nice about it. Exterior, interior, and engine choices are all great. I would buy this car if it was in the US.
 
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