The new b

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 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.


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