A preview of the General Motors answer to the Corolla shapes up well
IT’S a Holden Astra, but not as we know it. Overlook the Chevrolet Cruze badges and this car (or one very similar to it) will come to Australia as an Astra by the middle of the year.
It’s the General Motors global answer to the Toyota Corolla, the world’s biggest selling car.
It will have a slightly different face than what you see here but the shape and overall proportions are the same.
Holden gave media a preview drive of the Chevrolet Cruze in the US after the Detroit motor show.
The Astra sedan, as we will know it, is part of Holden’s rollout of 24 new models by 2020, in the wake of the factory closure on October 20.
The hatch comes from Poland but the sedan will be built in South Korea. Both were designed in the US but engineered in Germany. Welcome to the new world order. We mention the different sources because it explains why there are some crucial safety and technology differences between the hatch and sedan.
The sedan lacks automatic emergency braking — even as an option — and a suite of other safety aids that Holden boasts about on the Astra hatch, such as lane keeping technology.
The sedan also does not get massage seats and intelligent “Matrix” LED headlights.
For these sins of omission, Holden says the price for the Astra sedan will be sharper than the hatch (which was recently discounted by up to $1700 just six weeks after going on sale).
However, the price is yet to be confirmed. The recent backflip led to 450 early Astra hatch buyers getting a partial refund, so here’s hoping Holden has learned its lesson and sharpens the pencil on price.
The Australian small car market is far too sensitive to get the price wrong, even by $1000. If Holden plays fair, it could have a winner on its hands — the coming sedan is a smooth, roomy and refined car and early impressions are good.
The cabin is among the most spacious for a small sedan. The quality of the materials is a big step up from the locally made Cruze and the overall refinement and engine noise suppression is impressive.
But it’s difficult to rate properly without knowing the RRP. The Corolla and Mazda3 are hard to beat in the critical $20,000 to $25,000 range in the small-car segment.
The new Hyundai Elantra is also worthy of being put on shopping lists again, now that Hyundai has brought the price down from a laughable $27,000 drive-away to closer to $23,000.
Want European flair? The Volkswagen Golf is still a compelling proposition at its $25,000 drive-away (or thereabouts) special offer price.
The new Astra sedan is a step in the right direction. Driven in isolation it feels like a polished performer — the next step is to rate it against the class leaders.