HOLDEN ASTRA R
The Astra was priced bravely when it first arrived but Holden has since cut $1700 from the asking price for the cheapest automatic model. There’s an electric park brake and the lights will come on automatically but on the base model you don’t get front parking sensors, auto wipers or keyless entry with push-button start. Warranty is average at three years/100,000km. Service intervals are 9 months/15,000km and are better value than the Honda at $910 over three years.
The Astra is a smart-looking hatch with a modern cabin layout and — for the most part — quality materials and finishes. It is let down by a cheap rubber steering wheel and an old style flip-key instead of push-button start. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is digital radio. Knee and headroom are good for rear passengers and the rear load area is average for a small hatch at 380 litres. There are single 12-volt and USB outlets.
The 1.4-litre turbo is a willing unit, with good response off the mark and strong urge for freeway overtaking. Power is average for the class but a healthy 240Nm of torque means it shades most competitors for performance. It’s also quiet and refined, while the six-speed auto shifts swiftly and smoothly. Claimed fuel use is impressive at 5.8 litres per 100km — partly thanks to stop-start technology — and it uses standard unleaded.
The R model hasn’t been crash tested but the more expensive models received five stars from Euro NCAP. Automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assistance and forward collision alert are not available at the moment, but an optional $1000 pack (bundled with a leather steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers) will be released in April. Six airbags and a reversing camera are standard.
The Astra has been tweaked for local roads and it shows. The suspension deals with lumps and bumps admirably at both low and high speeds, yet remains composed and confidence-inspiring through the corners. The steering is sharp and provides good feedback, while the punchy engine and slick transmission add up to an engaging, sporty driving experience.