Not hot, but a sporty ride

The latest in­car­na­tion of this hatch­back is more in tune with Aussie con­di­tions, CHRIS RI­LEY finds.

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE -

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.

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