HOLDEN’S FAM­ILY SEDAN

The name con­jures stars but the virtues value, space, safety and com­fort

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - BILL McKIN­NON

Holden made its rep­u­ta­tion build­ing tough, spa­cious, com­fort­able fam­ily sedans that were rea­son­ably priced and en­gi­neered to make easy work of rugged Aus­tralian roads and long dis­tances. Its new As­tra sedan is a Korean im­port, it’s smaller than a Com­modore but it’s one of Holden’s bet­ter re­cent ef­forts with many at­tributes of the home­grown fam­ily Hold­ens that, once upon a time, we used to love.

VALUE

Chief among those at­tributes is value for money. At $21,990 drive-away for the base model LS man­ual, the As­tra sedan is a steal — if you want a man­ual, which most peo­ple don’t. The LS au­to­matic we’re test­ing to­day is $23,990 drive-away. That’s still great value.

The sedan is smaller than the hatch, which is made in Poland. Holden im­ports the sedan from South Korea. In the US, the As­tra sedan is a Chevro­let Cruze but Holden has dropped the Cruze name, which al­ways strug­gled in the Aus­tralian mar­ket, hop­ing the once pop­u­lar As­tra badge can do bet­ter busi­ness.

Its main sedan ri­vals — the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Cer­ato, Toy­ota Corolla and Honda Civic — are pretty big cars too and all five have ex­actly the same wheel­base, the dis­tance be­tween the front and rear wheels and the mea­sure­ment that re­ally counts when it comes to in­te­rior space, es­pe­cially in the rear seat.

The Holden is the widest, though, by a smidgen from the Hyundai and Honda, so it wins the who’s-got-the-big­gest-cabin con­test.

Its 445L boot is 33L smaller than the classlead­ing Civic but it’s still size­able, with much more car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity than any hatch­back.

At base LS level it’s not ex­actly loaded. You hold a plas­tic steer­ing wheel and face a sim­ple, un­clut­tered dash with monochrome ana­log in­stru­ments and sprin­kles of fake chrome to re­lieve the wall-to-wall grey plas­tics, fab­ric up­hol­stery and dash trim.

It’s rea­son­ably at­trac­tive — let’s gen­er­ously call it the in­dus­trial chic look — and the test car stayed squeak and rat­tle free over 900km of test­ing. Pre­vi­ous As­tra mod­els have caused some own­ers grief. Hope­fully this one will be as re­li­able as its Korean and Ja­panese brand ri­vals.

In­fo­tain­ment in­cludes a seven-inch colour touch­screen, An­droid Auto and Ap­ple CarPlay but its pro­cess­ing power is lim­ited so it can be slow to re­spond. There’s no sun­nies holder; oth­er­wise, you get plenty of handy stor­age, plus USB, 12V and aux sock­ets.

COM­FORT

It’s not quite as sup­ple as a Subaru Im­preza or Honda Civic, es­pe­cially around town where it can oc­ca­sion­ally jar, but on the open road As­tra feels al­most as com­fort­able and com­posed as a Com­modore.

Firm, flat and with ba­sic ad­just­ments, the driver’s seat is com­fort­able on long jour­neys, though if you like the back­rest up­right you may find the pro­trud­ing head re­straint in­tru­sive. Tall driv­ers en­joy am­ple legroom and steer­ing wheel ad­justa­bil­ity. A sim­i­larly firm, high rear bench has easy ac­cess and gen­er­ous legroom but there are no rear vents.

SAFETY

The As­tra scores five ANCAP stars and you get six airbags, a cam­era with mov­ing guide­lines and rear park­ing sen­sors.

That’s pretty much it in the base LS. Rear seat belt in­di­ca­tors are miss­ing and you have to go to higher model grades to get blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, lane keep­ing, auto head­lights and front park­ing sen­sors. Au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing is not avail­able at all.

In this small sedan class, only Mazda3 and Skoda Oc­tavia have AEB at base model level.

DRIV­ING

The sedan aces its ri­vals with the ad­van­tage of tur­bocharg­ing, which gives its 1.4-litre much bet­ter re­spon­sive­ness at lower revs than big­ger, non-turbo en­gines. It doesn’t have to work as hard, so it’s also smoother, qui­eter and de­spite the ab­sence of auto stop-start re­turns good fuel econ­omy around town — 7-8L/100km on reg­u­lar un­leaded. That’s a bonus, as tur­bos usu­ally re­quire pre­mium.

It’s a seam­less match with the six-speed au­to­matic, which shifts smoothly and quickly when you put your foot down, tap­ping the en­gine’s strong, will­ing de­liv­ery. On the high­way, it cruises ef­fort­lessly, re­turn­ing 5-6L/100km, and will eas­ily hold the cruise con­trol’s set speed.

There’s lit­tle fi­nesse to the dy­nam­ics but han­dling is safe and se­cure, the steer­ing more tac­tile than most ri­vals and Hankook tyres give rea­son­able grip. It feels solid and safe on the road.

HEART SAYS

As­tra. Isn’t that a Euro­pean im­port? I like the idea of driv­ing one of those. What? It’s re­ally from South Korea? Oh …

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.