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Holden versus Ford is one of the great rivalries. But with the V8s headed for extinction, what’s next for the faithful?
IT’S a rivalry that has lasted for decades. But with the locally made Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon headed for extinction, which cars will carry the banner for future generations of the Red Team and Blue Team?
As Australians join the global shift to smaller vehicles, it will be hot hatches like these that will deliver bragging rights.
If the red car looks familiar, that’s because it has returned to PRICE $39,990 plus onroad costs WARRANTY 3 years/100,000 km CAPPED SERVICING $916 over 3 years SERVICE INTERVAL 9 months/15,000km RESALE 57 per cent SAFETY 5 stars ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 206kW/400Nm TRANSMISSION 6-speed man; FWD THIRST 8.0L/100km (98 premium recommended) DIMENSIONS 4466mm (L), 1840mm (W), 1482mm (H), 2695mm (WB) our shores wearing a Holden badge after a hiatus.
It was sold here briefly a couple of years ago as an Opel, the European division of General Motors.
But it was withdrawn from sale not long after it arrived after GM figured out Opel cars sell better in Australia with Holden badges.
Meanwhile the Ford Focus ST has just been given a minor facelift that has included some technology upgrades.
The Focus ST is not a wellknown model but, as we discovered, is highly capable and has a growing fan base.
The Ford has also given the benchmark Volkswagen Golf GTI the occasional black eye in contests here and overseas.
With the recent showroom arrival of this pair, we needed little excuse to conduct a newage Ford versus Holden contest.
HOLDEN ASTRA VXR
Holden has taken the knife to the Astra’s pricing, trimming it from $42,990 to $39,990 plus on-road costs.
It’s also added 20-inch alloy wheels as standard to help sharpen the deal and the driving experience.
In every other regard it remains unchanged apart from the badges.
Standard fare includes sports seats, adjustable suspension (via a button that chooses between three modes), and satellite navigation.
Unfortunately, the fussy arrangement of the cabin control buttons has not been changed.
And, rather incredibly for a car of this price, a rear view camera is not available at all, even though it is now standard on $14,990 hatchbacks.
The VXR’s 2.0litre turbo engine is one of the most powerful in the business but against our stopwatch it was just as quick in the industrystandard 0 to 100km/h dash as the Ford Focus ST.
In slightly damp conditions we managed to post a 0-100km/h time of 7.0 seconds in both cars, but performance magazines have clocked them both at 6.4 seconds on dry tarmac.
Translation: they’re not as fast as V8 Falcons and Commodores but they’re certainly just as much fun.
There is a delay in the VXR’s power delivery until about 3000rpm, at which point all hell breaks loose and a strange vacuum cleaner noise dominates the cabin.
It’s the engine sucking in as much air as it possibly can, which is the aim here, but it could do so with a little more aural finesse.
The six-speed gearshift feels a little long and imprecise compared to the Ford (and other hot hatches).
The VXR has ample grip but the steering doesn’t feel quite as linear as the Ford.
While the steering wheel doesn’t try to wriggle out of your hands like the Ford does under full power — even on smooth surfaces — the VXR can get upset by big bumps in the middle of a bend.
An unexpected ripple in the road nearly ripped the VXR’s wheel out of our hands. In the same bumpy corner the Ford was more composed.
TURNING CIRCLE WEIGHT SPARE 0-100KM/H