Euro vision no contest
It was an ace when new, but be careful not to be dealt a dud now
AFTER struggling to find a small car that worked for it, Holden struck gold with the Astra it sourced from Opel in Germany.
Holden had attempted to market rebadged Nissans and Toyotas before the Astra, but with little or no success. Now Holden had a car all its own; even better it was from Europe at a time Australians were turning to Euros.
The Astra was an attractive small car and an immediate popular and critical hit. There was a wide choice of models and body styles, including three and five-door hatches and a fourdoor sedan.
Inside, the Astra was typically Euro, with bold patterned upholstery and door trims, and the fit, finish and materials quality were of a high standard.
The cabin was quite roomy for its compact dimensions and two adults could sit in the rear with reasonable leg room, while the boot was a good size and there was a 60/40 split-fold rear seat for added flexibility.
Models ranged from the City entry through to the sporty SRI, a kind of Golf GTI clone. Most models had the power of a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine that with a decent 90kw/ 165Nm gave it plenty of zip on the road. It was a free-revving engine, although it became a little tinny as the revs rose.
Behind the engine was either a smooth-shifting four-speed auto or a five-speed manual, with the final drive directed to the front wheels. The SRI came with a 2.0-litre fourcylinder engine that put out 108kw/203nm.
The Astra’s ride was a little firm around town, but with a rigid body, wide track and long wheelbase and a suspension locally tuned to our roads, it was agile and nimble with a stability that allowed it to be hustled along quite quickly.
Good build quality has meant the Astra has stood up quite well and generally hasn’t developed body rattles, squeaks or other noises that can be annoying.
A degree of caution is needed when buying an Astra, however, for while they are an attractive and affordable little car, they are now getting on in years and that means more risk of trouble from wear and tear.
And the TS suffered from some serious issues. Most notably they break cam timing belts, and when they do, the damage to the engine’s internals can be severe and expensive. The cam belt tensioner was at the root of the problem. It would fail, the belt would loosen and either break or jump teeth on the drive gears throwing the cam timing out. Either way there would be heavy contact between the valves and the pistons and it’s goodnight nurse for the engine. Holden overcame the issue by reducing the belt change interval from 120,000 km to 60,000 km.
The message is that anyone owning an Astra needs to be diligent about changing the belt. Let it slip and you could be up for big bills.
When the belt is changed it’s a good idea to check the water pump, as it’s most likely that it will be leaking.
A Carsguide reader recently told us about the experience his daughter had when her Astra overheated on a trip, to the point the engine had to be replaced.
It turned out that the cause of the problem was a pinhole in a hose at the rear of the engine and out of sight, that caused a leak and eventually the engine to overheat.
Great looking, good driving small car, but it is blighted by cam belt breakages. Be warned.
1.8-litre 4-cylinder petrol, 90 kw/165 Nm; 2.0-litre 4- cylinder petrol, 108 kw/203nm
4-speed auto, 5-speedman
6.4 L/100km(1.8) Body: 4-door sedan, 3-door hatch, 5-door hatch. Variants: City, CD, CDX, Equipe, SRI
Dual-airbags across the range, CDX had side airbags, SRI had ABS brakes
Pay $7500 to $11,500 for the CD; $9000 to $11,500 for the CDX; $7000 to $10,500 for the City; $8500 to $13,000 for the Equipe; $8500 to $13,000 for the Astra SRI.
Pay $6500-$11,000. 3 stars Solid performer was the pick of the small car bunch before the Astra arrived. Will do the job with little trouble. Pay $5000-$11,500. 3.5 stars. Do you own a Subaru Impreza? If so tell us what you think of it by sending your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or Carsguide, PO Box 4245, Sydney, NSW, 2010.
Age alert: Astra TS models have wear and