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Astra K 0

Inside the Vauxhall Astra K…..

By Andrew Marsh, 09.11.15
Posted in: In-depth | New Model Information | Public

Only a few years ago, in the depth of the financial crisis that sent General Motors (GM) into bankruptcy there was a much bigger crisis developing in Europe. One division – Saab – was off loaded with much brand damage in the process only then to go bust – whilst Vauxhall Opel continued to lose huge amounts of money. And yet, in the automotive world product cycles are not always in sync with instantaneous profit snap shots – and this was the case for Vauxhall Opel.

From that dark time Vauxhall Opel took not only their own products but also those of other international divisions – and made them better. Following Ford, GM made Europe their effective global product development centre. The results were the Adam (cut down Corsa D), Viva (based on Adam), Mokka (lead was in South Korea but the European input made it even better), Insignia (which made an insane profit as a Buick in China) and…… Astra.

What we have seen is an evolution of European product into global product. The Corsa E uses most of the upper skin from Corsa D, but the platform was totally re-engineered to prepare for applications and build all over the world. Now it’s the turn of Astra, which in the former guise as the Buick Verano also made a huge profit in China. The Astra K ‘D2XX’ platform is going to appear as the next Chevrolet Volt PHEV, the new Chevrolet Bolt EV, the new Chevrolet Cruze / Aveo, the new Vauxhall Meriva, the replacement Antara and more.

The headline features of the Astra K include 120 kg minimum weight saving compared to Astra H (or 200 kg with the 1l three cylinder turbocharged engine), new engines, new transmissions and more high strength steel alloy in the body than ever before. We can see from above weight was shaved off every single system. Further the Astra K wheel base is 20mm shorter and the overall length reduced by 49mm, which in turn also saves weight. The trick? The interior is slightly bigger than the previous Astra J due to clever interior packaging. © Adam Opel AG

The systems featured on Astra K include:

Collision mitigation and lane keeping system, using a single windscreen mounted CMOS camera with a range of about 25m. Note the mounting panel bottom left is held to the windscreen via clips…. © Adam Opel AG

- New front seat frames with more ultra-high strength steel alloy to save 10kg – but with the option of electric adjustment, electric ventilation, electric heating and massage too. The latter functions have appeared on larger vehicles – and that’s the point. Astra K offers features which have not been offered in this sector before.

Another option – LED adaptive main and low beam headlights with 8 light sources per headlight. Whilst not new, and indeed Seat Leon MQB beat Astra K to the first LED application in this segment, this shows how headlight technology is reaching further down the market. © Adam Opel AG

- Avoiding full underbody cladding by tidying up the underside, including moving the rear torsion beam pickups higher into the body to reduce drag. The Cd factor for the 5 door hatch is 0.285, which combined with the frontal area reduction by 16% (0.643 m2) makes Astra K more efficient than Astra J.

- OnStar has the capability to report tyre pressures, engine oil condition and service alerts to the owner’s smart phone. Indeed the connectivity package covers both of the major operating systems – Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.  It also has some party tricks such as location of the vehicle via the owner’s smart phone….

Then there’s the body. The bare shell weight has been reduced from 357kg to 280kg, by use of a range of steel alloys. The following panels are made from steel alloys with yield strength in excess of 780 MPa:

  • A pillar reinforcement and inner panels
  • B pillar reinforcement and inner panels
  • Sill reinforcement and inner panels
  • Can rail reinforcement  panels

The front chassis legs, front upper longitudinal and ‘skeletal’ front strut tower are all made from high strength low alloy steel  (HSLA), with a yield strength in the region of 590 MPa. Given the Astra K went on sale during October 2015 the collision repair methods are not fully in place so that the front end structure methods apart from the front panel are missing for the moment.

The outer side skin is made from 0.65 mm thick mild steel, and in manufacturing is welded to the inner structure. However for repair the replacement is a bit more involved:

Astra K outer A pillar. Once the damaged area is removed, two MIG/MAG brazing slots are cut in the new panel, above left. Then 8 holes are drilled for rivets, above centre. Finally the joint faces are coated in structural adhesive, above right in ‘red’. The assembly requires 36 spot welds, 8 rivets and not only the slots MIG/MAG brazed but also the butt joints too, whilst remembering the adhesive must not be within 50 mm of heat during the assembly process. © Adam Opel AG

Astra K outer B pillar. There are two available sections – the full length version going right up into the can rail and down to the sill, or a version that is sectioned just below the cant rail. It is the latter that is shown here. Just as with the A pillar outer, once the damaged panel is removed the new panel will need three slots cut for MIG/MAG brazing – above left. Holes are drilled for 3 rivets (centre) and the structural adhesive applied above right, in ‘red’. Assembly requires the application of 38 spot welds, 3 rivets and the slots as well as the butt joints to be MIG/MAG brazed. © Adam Opel AG

The rear quarter panel is sectioned behind the exterior trim on the CD pillar – which is good. Once the damaged panel is removed the new panel will need 6 holes drilled for rivets, and then assembled. This requires 65 spot welds, 6 rivets and the butt joints are MIG/MAG brazed. © Adam Opel AG

The message is clear. Although the methods are a little intricate, they are not the same as for any previous generation of Astra. The reason is the addition of more ultra-high strength steel alloy in the whole body structure and especially in the side frame which allowed the body structure to lose 77kg and yet increase torsional stiffness as well as improve crash performance as well. Indeed the broader point is the Astra K is more sophisticated than the previous Astra J, and so if the right processes are not used things might not turn out too well.

Astra K 5 door hatch is already on sale and the Astra K Sport Tourer arrives in the UK show rooms by March 2016.

Astra K will be part of the TCR championship series during 2016, as revealed a few weeks after the vehicle was revealed in Frankfurt. Could the OnStar system help? Could the driver get directions during the race? Well of course the system is stripped off the vehicle to save even more weight! © Adam Opel AG







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