Another busy few days for YOM, with 500+ miles disappearing under the spectacular alloys in a combination of more leaden-footed test drives and an extended commute due to roadworks.
Still nothing to add to the faults log, so on to a more detailed look at the tech...
Vauxhall/Opel have been playing catch-up for a while in the area of connectivity, but with New Astra they've not only caught up but they've overtaken and sprinted away. The new Intellilink interface is slick, intuitive and fast. Pairing your smartphone is easy and this then opens up a world of possibilities - if you have an iPhone, Apple CarPlay is already here so you can mirror your phone's screen on the car's large touchscreen. Android users will have to wait until the new year for their system to arrive, but even without that, the system can play streamed music from your phone, make and receive calls via the in-built mic, and will read out texts when they arrive, with the option to send a pre-set reply if needed without the need to text and drive.
DAB radio is standard and the large shark's fin antenna provides strong, stable reception (even hanging on to TalkSport through the Cefn-y-Bedd signal hole), while the quality of sound is superb - powerful and very clear. This is an area in which the Astra's newfound quietness pays dividends, with reduced road noise making the music easier to hear at all speeds.
YOM's satnav is the latest generation for GM vehicles, and it's another big step forward. The screen is big and very clear, and the map scrolls smoothly. Inputting data is straightforard and logical, and it's very quick to work out a route and equally fast to re-calculate when the driver thinks he knows better (or fails to take a suggested turning). It also has a very handy, and very fast, traffic avoidance system that will route you around any tailbacks on your intended route.
Then there's the 'voice command' system - hit the button and simply say where you want to go. We've done it half a dozen times and it's never failed to immediately understand and find the address (this same system works with the phonebook, too).
YOM is fitted with OnStar, and it really is a very clever tool. Thankfully, there's been no need to use the SOS function, but we've used its non-emergency features to send directions to the car's satnav (meaning none of the dangerous aggravation of trying to type in a post code or address while driving), and to keep tabs on the car when it's been out on test drives. It's reassuring to know that we can 'ping' YOM and know where it is at any given time. You can't track the car in real time, and we're told that when we 'ping' it, a message appears on the screen to say 'sending location' so the driver knows that we're watching! You can switch the location system off, if you really want to, but it will then not be possible for OnStar to send directions to the satnav or tell you where the nearest McDonalds is - the sytem is automatically restored in the case of an emergency. By the way, access to the location finder is via the app or a desktop screen - both of which are password and PIN-protected.
New Astra will make you a better driver. Passive safety systems are almost a given these days, and Astra has all that you'd expect from a brand new model - airbags everywhere, ABS, traction control, ESP etc, etc. But what makes New Astra stand out is the array of active systems which will mean that, hopefully, all those are redundant - after all, it's better to avoid the accident in the first place than have to rely on the car's safety systems after you've had it.
We all think we're the greatest driver in the world with the reactions of a startled cat and the car control of Jason Plato. In reality, we've all developed bad habits and as cars have got safer and stronger, we're taking our safety for granted. Hence we drive too close to the car in front, we get distracted too easily; New Astra sets out to point out your errors before thay can bite you, and will even lessen the bite if it can.
YOM benefits from Vauxhall's Driving Assistance Pack One, which gives us Forward Collision Alert with automatic city emergency braking, Traffic Sign Recognition, Following Distance Indicator & Lane Departure Warning with lane assist. It's a suite of tech that really does keep you on the straight and narrow - Lane Assist will steer the car back into your lane if you drift or cross the white lines without indicating! If you're too close to the car in front you'll get a warning on the dash and in extremis the car will put the brakes on to make you drop back (at low speed). If the car senses that you're driving at speed towards an object that is going much slower than you are you'll get a very loud audible warning and a rather unmissable set of red LEDs flash on the windscreen. Finally, Traffic Sign Recognition flashes up the last speed limit sign you passed then keeps a smaller version of it on the driver's dash. All of which combines to try and make you leave bigger gaps, concentrate on your driving and obey the speed limits. Which will stop the cry of 'Dad!! You're too close/driving too fast/weaving about' from your passengers.
If you'd like to book a test drive, give us a call on 01978 290077