Damien O’carroll explains the United Nations genesis of the new Astra sedan.
With the end of local manufacturing and the drastic shift in market demands (mainly away from large cars and towards SUVS), Holden has suddenly found itself a far more multicultural company, in terms of its model range, that is. With vehicles launched from all over the world, including Europe, North America and Asia, no car probably sums this world mix better than the Holden Astra, particularly the newly-launched sedan variant. You see, while the hatch is built in Poland, the sedan is built in Korea on the same German-developed platform. Also, while the hatch was designed in Europe, the sedan was designed in America. Oh, and Australia played a part as well – as well as having input into the sedan’s engineering, Holden also did its usual track of developing a specific local tune for the sedan, with tweaks to the steering and suspension to make them more suitable to local roads (for example, our crowning and camber is far more aggressive than most other countries) as well as Holden’s decision to take the sedan in a more comfort-oriented direction than the hatch’s more overtly sporty nature. The Astra sedan is available in New Zealand in three guises, all powered by the 1.4-litre engine hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. The LS kicks off the range at $30,990 and comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, cruise control, automatic headlights, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system rear parking sensors and a backing camera. The $34,490 LS adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel, LED daytime running lights, blind spot alert, keyless entry and start, auto parking, rain sensing wipers and satellite navigation. The top-spec LTZ then adds 18inch alloy wheels, an electric sunroof, heated leather-appointed seats, climate control air conditioning and heated wing mirrors for $38,490. The LT and LTZ also get Holden’s new “Holden Eye” forward facing camera driver assist system that includes lane keep assist, a forward distance indicator and forward collision alert. Unfortunately this doesn’t include autonomous emergency braking, a feature Holden engineers admit they would have liked, but simply wasn’t available for RHD cars. While it is distinctly more comfort-biased than the hatch, the sedan still feels nicely planted, confident and nimble, much like the hatch. The steering is lighter, but still nicely direct, although it does lack the ultimate communication of the hatch. But in terms of comfort Holden engineers have got it spot on, with a fantastically resolved ride that would seem more in keeping with a car at least one segment up. Like the hatch, the 1.4-litre engine is a brilliantly strong unit, with a fantastically flexible nature that is equally happy to be revved to the limiter or lugged in high gears with no complaints. Equally, the six-speed automatic is a slick and remarkably smooth unit that is nicely matched to the engine’s characteristics. On the inside the Astra sedan is modern and nicely laid out with the only real downside being that it doesn’t match the hatch in terms of fit and finish or material quality. There are quite a few areas of hard plastics in the sedan and while that is to be expected in a car of this size and price, the hatch did set the bar higher than the sedan could reach. While the lack of AEB (which the hatch does have) and lower interior quality count against the sedan, the handsome looks, good levels of standard equipment and high levels of comfort still make the Astra a strong package.