Driven: Holden’s best small car in years
THE German designed hatchback is the best small Holden in years, a dramatic improvement on the locally built and Korean designed Cruze.
Holden has shifted the Astra up into an arena of sophistication.
It’s a handsome car with a solid feel to its interior fittings and on the road.
However, it is early days in the sales campaign for the car, with modest figures so far.
The move up- market has resulted in a price hike. This is no $19,990 drive away proposition.
The cheapest Astra starts at $ 24,906 on the road and it’s another $ 10K for the range topper, the RSV at $34,435.
Ireland Holden has a RSV six speed manual demonstrator available for $ 34,990 with options, down from $36,125.
Earlier this week Holden cut the prices of the Astra and will refund those who have already bought the new model too.
Up to $1700 has been sliced from the price tags.
The RSV review vehicle has had a price cut of $250 for the manual while the automatic is down by $1450.
On looks alone the Astra will sell well. It’s a sleek, attractive car, with a sweeping belt line to the rear C-pillar, creating coupelike style.
Standard on the Astra R is a rear camera and rear park assist, Holden’s MyLink infotainment system and seven-inch touchscreen, cruise control and speed limiter, six air bags, electronic stability control, ABS and traction control and LED daytime running lights.
The RSV adds a bigger eightinch touchscreen, sat- nav, a push button start, self-parking, heated side mirrors and leather front seats, dual zone climate control, automatic emergency braking , lane keep assist, forward distance indicator, forward collision alert with heads- up waring, blind spot alert and automatic wipers.
There are option packs available on top of that for those wanting adaptive cruise control and sunroof.
Cabin storage is OK with a small glovebox and centre console storage housing just one USB outlet. Lovely des ign touches, such as the integrated 8in touchscreen in the RSV, are welcome, while all controls and dials are visually appealing, easy to reach and use. The indicator stalk on the right hand side is great, given it is from Europe.
Other cute touches include a useful place for mobile phones in a slot integrated into the centre stack.
Despite smaller exterior dimensions than the model it replaces, there is plenty of room in the Astra cabin, with ample head, leg, shoulder and elbow room upfront, while visibility is excellent through the heavily raked windscreen and rear window.
Scalloped sections of the car’s ceiling and trimmed down front seats ensure ample space for rear-seat passengers too.
Smaller occupants will feel as though they are sitting low due to the high shoulder line but the wonderfully comfortable and supportive seats mean any time spent in the second row is pleasant time.
The potent 147kW/300Nm 1.6litre turbo- petrol engine is a goer.
There is turbo-lag at the start but when it gets wound up it takes off.
The manual gearbox is easy to use but I was having trouble smoothly driving the car as the turbo comes on song suddenly.
Practice will make perfect but perhaps the auto is worth the extra outlay. Overtaking is marvellous. I passed a B-double at Mareeba with ease and a worry when I glanced at the speedo.
The taut chassis is perfect for punting the Astra into corners at surprising pace on the Kuranda Range and twisty bits between Atherton and Herberton.
The well sorted suspension set up (MacPherson upfront and Watts link at the rear) minimises bodyroll and ensures a smooth ride over a variety of surfaces.
The roads in and around the Far North range from perfect blacktop in town, to shoddy Broads and unsealed surfaces.
The Astra maintained its cool and didn’t skip on the loser surfaces, providing loads of confidence in its capabilities.
The steering set up — tweaked by Australian engineers — is a real highlight, offering a perfect weight and precision that is up there with the best in class.
Another highlight was the cabin noise which, aside from a road roar on coarse bitumen surfaces, is one of the best in the mainstream small-car sector.
Economy was great too. I achieved 6.6L/ 100km over 300km, admittedly mainly on the open road, but including range and hilly roads as well as around town. Holden suggests 6.5, an excellent result.
There are few things to complain about with the Astra and a lot to like.
The new Astra is the best small car from Holden in decades and given its new pricing, strong packaging and impressive ride, handling and performance, it is sure to nab more than a few sales from those big-hitting rivals.
It’s a welcome return for the popular nameplate.
CHECK IT OUT AT IRELAND HOLDEN, CAIRNS.