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Astra TwinTop
Vauxhall Astra TwinTop
Looks Good Even With The Roof Up
Astra TwinTop
Astra TwinTop
Astra TwinTop
Astra TwinTop
Astra TwinTop

Great When The Weather’s Good, But Utility Limited
Wouldn’t “Triotop” Make More Sense?
*** out of 5 

The Vauxhall Astra Twin Top is the first coupe convertible I’ve seen that doesn’t have Jekyll and Hyde looks.

Most of these convertibles with removable steel roofs look delectable with the roof down and stowed in the boot, but as soon as the rain comes, or parking in a dodgy neighbourhood beckons and the roof needs to be reinstated, the good looks suddenly turn ugly.

The design compromises necessary for this engineering marvel to do its stuff just won’t allow for good looks too, until now that is.

Vauxhall-Opel engineers have used three sections for the removable roof instead of the two used by most rivals. This means it can fold into a smaller space, so there are fewer compromises to the car’s looks.

And the Astra TwinTop undoubtedly looks the business

Unfortunately, the design engineers haven’t been able to solve the other problem endemic to this type of car; there’s limited room in the boot, and there’s not much room in the rear seats for passengers either. To Vauxhall’s credit, it has engaged its brain to eke out the maximum space in the boot by using what it calls an “Easy Load” system. Instead of having to “post” items into the boot through a wheeny slot when the roof is stowed, at the touch of a button, the stowed parts in the boot are raised automatically at the touch of a button by around 250 mm or 10 inches.

Tested 20,000 times
Vauxhall claims proudly that the roof mechanism includes 5 electric motors, 8 hydraulic cylinders and 13 separate sensors. I’m afraid my reaction is, cynically, to wonder about the huge number of things that can go wrong. Vauxhall says though that the mechanism has been tested 20,000 times for durability.

The three-piece roof is a great idea which allows Vauxhall, and its Opel sibling, to boast about the new convertible’s good looks. So why is it called a TwinTop and not a TrioTop?

The roof can be opened or closed when the car is in motion, well up to 18 mph-28 km/h anyway, to avoid getting drenched while you are in slow traffic and can’t really stop.

VW Eos, Ford Vignale to come
Prices are good news too, starting at £17,000 (€24,900), and this compares with £17,600 (€25,800) for the Renault Megane CC and £17,350 (€25,400) for the Peugeot 307 CC. This is becoming a crowded market place, with VW launching its Eos CC across Europe shortly, and Ford expected to do likewise later this year with its Vignale concept car.

There is a choice of 3 petrol engines and 1 diesel in the TwinTop. The base model comes with a 105 bhp petrol engine, and includes air conditioning, CD-radio with six speakers, heated power mirrors, height and reach adjustable leather steering wheel, and a load-through hatch in the boot. The Sport version, at £17,800 (€26,100), adds a remote control for the roof, sports steering wheel with built-in audio controls, and trip computer, as well as a choice engine options - a 1.8 litre 140 bhp petrol and 1.9 litre 150 bhp diesel.

The range topping Design version includes automatic pop-up roll-over protection, in place of fixed hoops, bigger wheels, rain-sensitive wipers for those too dim to figure out when it’s raining, automatic headlamps (ditto) and a windbreak. Prices in this category start at £19,000 (€27,800) and engine choices include the 2.0 litre turbo motor which produces 200 bhp.

Quiet, sophisticated
The turbo petrol and the diesel come with 6-speed manual gearboxes. There will be an automatic version available later. The TwinTop drives well, with precise, easy steering and absorbent suspension. Quality of the interior is excellent, much better than Vauxhalls of yore. The dashboard is classy and utilitarian. There’s a hint of the dreaded scuttle shake with the roof stowed, but with the roof up, progress is quiet and sophisticated.

As usual, the diesel version makes the most sense, providing quite, urgent performance with economy. But in the real world, where your purchases can’t just be made on a whim, these coupe convertibles are really a hard-to-justify extravagance because luggage space is usually pathetic, while rear seat passengers - well forget them.

Neil Winton – June 21, 2006

 Vauxhall Astra TwinTop 1.9CDTI Design
1.9 litre diesel
150 bhp
6-speed manual
0-60/100 km/h 9.5 seconds
Top Speed:
132 mph-212 km/h
Fuel Consumption:
claimed combined – 47.9 mpg-5.9 l/100km
CO2 Emissions:
165 g/km
4,476 mm
Weight: 1,628 kg
McPherson wishbone/torsion beam
Insurance Group: 12E
Renault Megane CC, Peugeot 307 CC
Would I buy one?
*** out of 5
great on a summer’s day
no luggage space, little rear passenger room, CC’s don’t give value for money

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