The Ford Ranger's five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash test was a surprise in the sense that it was the first time a pickup truck ever achieved such a high score not only for passenger but also for pedestrian protection as well.
The independent European safety organization also released the results for 11 more new models that were tested along with the Ranger. With the emphasis given these days on safety, the five-star rating awarded in all but one of the models was to be expected.
The sporty-looking Opel Astra GTC was only just introduced in Frankfurt last week, but there are already reports suggesting that it could be one of the compact cars General Motors said it would build at an unspecified plant in the U.S. under the details released Tuesday of its tentative pact with the United Auto Workers (UAW).
According to Auto Observer, in a meeting with journalists and analysts at Opel’s Rüsselsheim headquarters in Germany, the firm's CEO, Karl-Friedrich Stracke, said "I could easily see it as a Buick" referring to the Astra GTC.
It would make sense from a marketing standpoint since Buick would automatically gain a new contender in the small sports car segment against the likes of the Hyundai Veloster, while also widening the reach of the brand to a younger audience.
Our spies have photographed and filmed the new Opel (Vauxhall in Britain) Astra Convertible on test in Germany. The vehicles caught testing here are early prototype models as the front doors appear to be carried over complete with their frames from the hatchback model.
Nevertheless, we are offered out first look at the open-top version of the new Astra series, which is planned to go on sale by early 2013. The most important change over the previous Astra TwinTop is the replacement of the more complicated, heavier and costly retractable metal roof with a traditional fabric hood.
This is General Motors’ brand new Opel Astra GTC revealed more than two months ahead of its world premiere at the 64th International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, in mid-September. The newest member of Opel’s ever-growing Astra family will go on sale across Europe including the United Kingdom where it will be available as a Vauxhall later this year. Recent reports also suggest it may come to the States under the Buick brand.
GM’s European subsidiary is confident about its new Astra GTC with Vauxhall going as far as to claim that it will “lay down the gauntlet to VW’s Scirocco and Renault’s Megane Coupe with a heady mix of dynamic excellence, dramatic design features and competitive pricing".
China with its massive emerging middle class is shaping up to be one of the important markets for General Motors. In fact, for one of the Detroit firm’s brands, China is actually its biggest market by far. We’re talking of course about Buick that has just surpassed the 3 million mark in Chinese sales since GM’s joint venture began offering the brand in the country in 1999.
Last year, Buick’s sales in China rose 23.0% to a new high of 550,010 vehicles. That’s compared to 155,289 deliveries (+51.9%) in the USA in 2010. Buick has more than 400 stores across China with the brand’s lineup comprising of several familiar models including the Regal, Enclave and La Crosse, as well as market-specific cars such as the Opel Astra-based Excelle XT, the new GL8 MPV, and the Holden Caprice-derived Park Avenue.
Opel will soon bring the total body count of the new Astra range to three with the presentation of the sporty Astra GTC, also known as the Vauxhall Astra in Britain, that will join the already available five-door hatchback and the recently revealed, Sports Tourer estate.
Even though we'll have to wait for the Paris Motor Show in October for the official unveiling of the GTC, we can give you a glimpse of the sporty looking three-door Astra as two prototype models were caught on film during testing in Germany.
As you can see in the video after the jump, the first camouflaged Astra GTC features a single tail pipe at each corner of the rear bumper and beefy tire/alloy combos, suggesting it's a turbocharged model, quite possibly, the rumored GSi that's said to be fitted with a more potent version of the 1.6-liter turbo delivering a little over 200HP.
[Updated Gallery] This here sleek-looking station wagon model is the all-new Opel (or Vauxhall in the UK) Astra Sports Tourer and it has been revealed ahead of its world premiere at the Paris Motor Show on October 2. It is set to go on sale across Europe in November.
The exterior design of the Astra Sports Tourer brings to mind the Insignia ST, and that's a positive thing. Unlike its boxy predecessor, Opel's styling team led by Mark Adams opted for a much more 'lifestyle estate' design with a more raked roofline and a less perpendicular tailgate.
The Sports Tourer shares its footprint with its five-door sibling, with a similar 2,685 mm-long wheelbase and front and rear tracks of 1544 and 1558 mm respectively.
Opel tuning specialist Steinmetz introduced some tasteful mods for the new Astra hatch at this week's 'Tuning World Bodensee 2010'. These include a front spoiler and a rear wing plus new upper and lower front grilles finished in black.
Other tuning options include a new lowering kit that brings the compact hatch 30mm (1.2 inches) closer to the road and two 19-inch alloy wheel designs, both of which run on tires size 235/35 R19.
If these U.S. patent drawings of Buick's forthcoming entry-level compact sedan are anything to go by, then the North American version of the car will be identical to the China-market 2012 Buick Excelle that was recently caught on film without any camouflage whatsoever.
We don't know if GM will keep the 'Excelle' nameplate for North America, but we do know that the General is planning to bring the car to the States in 2011.
New photos of the upcoming Chinese / North American market baby Buick have surfaced in China (courtesy of Autohome), and it doesn't look too bad. The small, 2010 Opel Astra-based sedan will be a fitting bookend to what may become the most attractive Buick lineup ever.
The worst view by far has to be the red profile shot (anyone else think it looks like a Neon?) with the car sporting a very un-sporty wing. Let's hope that doesn't make it over to the states. Same goes for the gaudy chrome eyebrows over the tail lamps.
These latest spy shots show a lightly camouflaged version of the forthcoming Opel Astra Sports Tourer. The station wagon variant will be the second addition to the new Astra family after the five-door hatchback. It will be followed by a three-door hatchback, a coupe convertible and a four-sedan model that will be sold in the States as a Buick - see the scoop here.
The estate will use the same engine line-up as the five-door hatch, which means a petrol range stretching from a 1.4-liter naturally aspirated four-pot up to a 180 horsepower 1.6-liter turbo, and a comprehensive diesel range that tops out with a 160HP 2.0-liter CDTi.
We still don't know the name of Buick's all-new small sedan that will take its place right under the 2011 Regal in the carmaker's line up, but these latest spy shots from Germany give us our best look to date of the upcoming compact-sized model's exterior and interior design.
From what we gather by looking at these revealing spy shots, the only differences worth mentioning aside from the badges concern Buick's signature waterfall grille and possibly, the styling of the tail lights.
Using an official sketch that was revealed at Buick's Los Angeles Auto Show conference last December as a canvas, GMI (GM Inside News) forum member "Mr. Burns" created a fairly realistic rendering of the firm's forthcoming small sedan that's expected to be heavily based on the Opel Astra.
The new four-door saloon that will make use of the same Delta II platform as the Chevrolet Cruze, will take the place of the Opel Insignia-based 2011 Regal sedan as Buick's entry-level offering in North America while it is also expected to replace the current Excelle in China.
The VW Jetta sedan should be considered one of the most closest rivals to the as of yet unnamed "baby" Buick model.
Though details still remain scarce, it is believed that the engine range will include the same 140HP 1.4-liter turbo four found in the Cruze while it's also possible that GM may add the Opel Astra's more potent 1.6-liter turbo with 180HP in the mix.
Chances are that we'll get to see the new Buick model arriving in the States sometime next year.
Longtime Opel tuner Irmscher has expanded its 2010 Astra offerings with the launch of 20-inch alloy wheels that are available in various designs and can be wrapped in 235/35 R20 tires. The new rims complement the tuner's styling package that was first introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September and includes 18-inch alloys and a body kit with a new grille, front lip spoiler, rear apron with a diffuser, side skirts and a roof spoiler.
Buyers can also upgrade the new Astra with a sport exhaust system with two or four tail pipes and a suspension kit that lowers the car's ride height by 30mm for a sportier stance.
On the inside, Irmscher's offerings include a leather package for the seats, door panels and central armrests, matt aluminium door-locking pins and sport pedals.
In Britain, the new Astra hatchback is available with five petrol engines ranging from an 87PS1.4-litre to a 1.6-litre turbocharged unit producing 180PS, while diesels span from 110 to 160PS in either 1.7 CDTi or 2.0 CDTi form. Prices start from £15,675.
The company said that initially, Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant will build the new Astra for all European markets. The UK will take the biggest share with around 25 per cent of all production headed to British buyers.
It is believed that the still under development four-door sedan version of the new Astra will come to North America as a Buick within the next two years.
"And now, I have more exciting news to share with you; the first public showing of a rendering that includes our entire future sedan portfolio," Bierly said at the presentation.
"In addition to the new Regal, which you see on your right, you see our LaCrosse in the center and at the far left, an all-new premium compact sedan with the styling and craftsmanship of Enclave and LaCrosse plus the European-inspired driving dynamics of the Regal - and at a price that will make this Buick our new entry point to the brand.
"Is Buick's transformation complete? No … but we believe we're making steady progress," Bierly added.
While Bierly did not give out any specific details on the car, it's safe to assume that, like the Chinese market 2011 Buick Excelle hatchback, the four-door saloon will also be based on the new Opel Astra (sedan version), which shares the same Delta II platform with the new Chevrolet Cruze.
Our spies have already captured Buick's compact sedan testing in Germany, though at the time, it wasn't clear if GM was developing the car exclusively for China or also for the North American market.
In the States, the new Buick compact sedan will most likely be offered with a similar engine range to the Cruze including a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-pot, and quite possibly, the Astra's more powerful 1.6-liter turbo unit with 180 ponies.