Euro vi­sion no con­test

It was an ace when new, but be care­ful not to be dealt a dud now

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Review -

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.

AND­NOW

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.

SMITHY SAYS

Great look­ing, good driv­ing small car, but it is blighted by cam belt break­ages. Be warned.

$25,100

$20,840 to

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 gra­ham.smith@cars­guide.com.au or Cars­guide, PO Box 4245, Syd­ney, NSW, 2010.

Age alert: As­tra TS mod­els have wear and

tear risks

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