ASTRA KING OF THE WORLD
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.