As­tra’ll travel

A pre­view of the Gen­eral Motors an­swer to the Corolla shapes up well

Herald Sun - Motoring - - NEWS - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowl­

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.

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