Not hot, but a sporty ride
The latest incarnation of this hatchback is more in tune with Aussie conditions, CHRIS RILEY finds.
I FIRST drove this car a couple of years ago when it wore an Opel badge. Didn’t like it at first, but warmed to it in a couple of weeks.
Two years later it was much the same experience with the latest model, the Astra GTC, this time with a Holden badge bringing the car full circle.
It’s cheaper, though, with prices starting at $26,990 for the manual and $29,190 for an auto.
Back then the 1.6-litre turbo delivered a handy 132kW of power and 230Nm of torque. This time around the auto pumps out 125kW and 260Nm, while the manual is good for 147kW and 280Nm.
Although the base model delivers less power, it is outweighed by the benefits of extra torque — the stuff that gets you off the line quickly.
The car feels a little detuned from what it was but it’s obviously to make way for spicier offerings, like the more powerful manual and the fire-breathing 206kW VXR.
It’s a well equipped model, with airconditioning and cloth upholstery plus sports seats, 18-inch alloys, auto lights and wipers and front and rear parking sensors.
The MyLink infotainment system features a seven-inch colour touchscreen with digital radio and satellite navigation along with the Pandora, Stitcher and TuneIn Radio apps. There’s also a single CD player and the Bluetooth supports audio streaming.
The more expensive Sport model adds 19-inch alloys, alloy sports pedals, leather sports seats and a sports body kit.
On the road, this Astra is a revelation. Holden has obviously had a hand in tuning the suspension for our roads because the ride is impressive.
Even on back roads it remained supple, soaking up the odd pothole with the aplomb of a Commodore.
The six-speed auto is not as good, bucking occasionally for no apparent reason. It was the same with the Cascada convertible we drove, which has the same powertrain.
In full auto, the car tends to get into high gear as quickly as possible to reduce fuel consumption. But it can be sleepy and slow to respond.
Flicking the transmission lever across to manual mode brings the car to life.
The chassis feels well sorted, with what they call “HiPerStrut” premium front suspension and a Watts link rear setup — like the sportier Cruze variants.
The electric steering is responsive, too, though perhaps not class leading.
Inside the finish is a bit dull and European. The doors are large and heavy and you need to be careful opening them in confined spaces.
Rear leg room is OK but the luggage area is generous.
The MyLink infotainment system is a huge step up over the previous system that originally came with the car.
If you decide to go with the manual, auto engine stop-start is standard, which shuts down the engine at traffic lights and in traffic to save fuel. The auto misses out on this feature.
Rated at 6.9 litres/100km, we were getting 8.4 after 360km.
But with a 56-litre tank, bear in mind that 98 RON fuel is recommended.
The Astra is a nice looking car, not quite a hot hatch but sporty nevertheless — 3½ stars out of five.