New Astra chief engineer Marc Schmidt confirmed with Australian journalists last week that a 1.6-litre engine was “at this point the ceiling on the [sports car] assignment”, seemingly foretelling a decrease in capacity from the current model’s 2.0-litre capacity.
Schmidt revealed a 1.6-litre was “the biggest engine that we would be capable of packaging” in the new Astra’s shrunken engine bay, which is one of the areas that has helped the company reduce the new model’s size by 50mm compared with its predecessor.
While a high-performance 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine appears to be the front-runner for the next GTC and OPC/VXR models, Schmidt said the rules could change for a “really special” project.
“You can always do something really special for something really special, but this time the something special would have to really bind itself into the architecture so that the basic efficiency is not compromised from the get-go, so it’s a slightly different philosophy.”
Opel’s engineers would seemingly be hard-pressed to extract more power and torque from a 1.6-litre than the current 206kW/400Nm 2.0-litre unit, though it’s likely to have a better power-to-weight ratio thanks to the new car’s lighter mass.
Most compact hot hatches, including the Ford Focus ST, Renault Sport Megane and Volkswagen Golf GTI, are powered by 2.0-litre turbo engines. French rival Peugeot has fitted a 1.6-litre turbo to its 308 GTi models, which will reach Australian showrooms early next year with peak outputs of 200kW and 330Nm.
The Astra’s chief engineer also revealed the HiPer Strut suspension employed by the current three-door performance models does not fit in the front-end of the new Astra, but said the significant weight savings achieved by the new car meant the more complex system may not be required in future sports versions.
“Take a look at the mass of the GTC and it’s pretty evident why we did it. We had to move to higher technology levels to deliver the performance that we desired.
“I think with the reduction in mass and the current setup of the suspension, from a performance perspective we are very close. Then you get in a discussion how much worse and how much is the customer really benefitting from what we do.
“The mass reduction in itself is amazing relative to how the vehicle feels and handles, and that is why the HiPer Strut at this point is not [necessary].”
There’s also a chance Opel could create performance versions of the new five-door body style, as previewed by the TCR racecar concept pictured here. There are few compact three-door hot hatches remaining, and will soon be one less with news that the Renault Sport Megane is shifting to a five-door shape in its next generation.
Schmidt also confirmed Opel was in the early stages of analysing and studying production of an Astra-based rival for the likes of the Ford Focus RS.
“The GTC will still be in production for a while because it’s pretty fresh, therefore at this point it’s not the most relevant discussion, but sure, we are studying the options.”