HOLDEN AS­TRA R

Herald Sun - Motoring - - HEAD TO HEAD -

VALUE

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.

DE­SIGN-TECH

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.

EN­GINE

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

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