ASTRA KING OF THE WORLD

Stirling Times - - Driveway - Bill Buys

AN Aus­tralian badge, a Ger­man brand – now owned by a French com­pany – and the prod­uct built in Poland?

We’re talk­ing about Holden’s lat­est Astra hatch, in this case the high-per­for­mance top-spec RS V.

My first ride in an Astra was with Bel­gian rally star Gre­goire de Me­vius in 1990, when he cam­paigned one in Rally Aus­tralia.

Much of the les­sons learnt in world cham­pi­onship ral­ly­ing sub­se­quently found their way into pro­duc­tion Opels and the As­tras sold in Aus­tralia.

The new­est one, which is in the small car seg­ment though it’s of a de­cent size, is an im­pres­sive pack­age, one of the best at its $31,240 drive-away price, and with a 7-year war­ranty if you get it be­fore year’s end.

The Astra fam­ily com­prises a strange mix of mod­els: the hatches of Euro des­cent and the sedans ex-Korea.

The $21,490 en­try-level Astra R has a 1.4litre turbo four-cylin­der while the $26,240 RS and the $5K ex­tra RS V get se­ri­ous 147kW/300Nm 1.6litre tur­bos.

Trans­mis­sion is a slick sixspeed man­ual or, for $1000 more, a six-speed auto.

Our man­ual RS V’s stan­dard kit in­cluded key­less en­try, push­but­ton start, LED day­time run­ning and tail­lights, re­vers­ing cam­era, halo­gen pro­jec­tor head­lights, cruise con­trol and semi­au­to­mated park­ing. There’s also dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, pow­er­fold­ing wing mir­rors, sports seats and a heated leather multi-func­tion steer­ing wheel.

In­fo­tain­ment in­cluded a 4.2inch data dis­play, eight-speaker stereo with DAB+ dig­i­tal ra­dio, an 8.0-inch touch­screen with sat­nav, Blue­tooth, au­dio stream­ing, voice com­mands, and Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto con­nec­tiv­ity.

The seat­ing and driv­ing po­si­tion are ex­cel­lent, the gearshift smooth and pre­cise and the cock­pit at night is a sight to be­hold. It re­minded me of Meat­loaf's song Par­adise by the dash­board light.

There is a mul­ti­tude of in­for­ma­tion at your fin­ger­tips, all well set out on a so­phis­ti­cated dash.

The car locks au­to­mat­i­cally when you walk away, so leav­ing a fam­ily mem­ber in it while you go to get milk will alert the sur­round­ing suburbs and dis­play a mes­sage that an at­tempted theft took place dur­ing your ab­sence.

The twin-piped RS V is an en­thu­si­ast’s de­light. It runs on 18inch al­loys with lo-pro rub­ber, launches well, runs to 100km/h in a star­tling 7 sec­onds, and swoops around hair­pins and through fast cor­ners as one would ex­pect of a rally-bred hot­tie.

In han­dling and road­hold­ing it’s lineball with ri­vals such as the Pug 208GTi and the Golf GTI.

But it’s equally happy cruis­ing the high­ways at our re­stricted speeds and we recorded a re­mark­able 5.4litres/100km on a coun­try run for an av­er­age of 6.6.

It has am­ple space for up to five, plus a 360litre cargo area, which can be vastly ex­panded by whack­ing down the split-fold rear seats.

It’s su­per-quiet in­side too: three Har­ley David­sons passed by and we heard noth­ing.

So it’s a lot of car, a lithe, his­pec good-looker with a de­cided per­for­mance bent. So why does it have an elec­tronic park­ing brake? One that needs the foot brake to be ap­plied be­fore you re­lease it?

It would be fine for Jake the Peg.

The myr­iad safety items in­clude ‘Hold­enEye’ au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, for­ward-col­li­sion alert, fol­low­ing dis­tance in­di­ca­tor and lane-keep as­sist.

Ver­dict: Hard to beat for equip­ment level and on road ca­pa­bil­ity at the price.

Holden's pleas­antly sur­pris­ing Astra RS V.

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