FLAIR DINKUM

Driven: Holden’s best small car in years

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

DE­TAIL­ING

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

DE­CID­ING

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.

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