FIRST DRIVE: Holden Astra

FIRST DRIVE: Holden Astra

What is it?

Holden’s new small car to take on the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Mazda3 and, of course, the Volkswagen Golf.

Why “of course” the Golf? Because Holden is making much of the fact that the Astra is a European car – particularly the fact that it was the European Car of the Year last year – as part of its new “global” focus following the demise of the Aussie-built Commodore.

But the Astra has been here before and never really set the world on fire, so what – if anything – is different this time? As it turns out, quite a lot…

How much does it cost?

The Astra lands in New Zealand with a choice of two engines and two transmissions across three trim levels – R, RS and RS-V – and some seriously competitive pricing.

The R kicks off the range at $30,990 for the manual and $32,490 for the auto, while the RS drops at $33,990 for the manual and $35,490 for the self-shifter.

The top-tier RS-V costs $36,990 for the manual and $38,490 for the auto.

What is its opposition?

As mentioned earlier, the obvious ones are the Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf, along with the Hyundai i30, Kia Cerato and Mitsubishi Lancer.

But you also can’t forget the likes of the other Euros in the form of the Peugeot 308, Citroen C4 and Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

But the blue-shaded elephant in the room is Subaru’s just-launched Impreza that throws the entire segment into disarray with its high spec level and bargain-basement price of $29,990…

What powers it?

The R comes with a direct injection 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo engine that produces 110kW of power and 240Nm of torque (245Nm in manual form, with holden claiming a combined fuel consumption figure of 5.8L/100km with both transmissions.

The RS and RS-V get a direct injection 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo unit that ups the power ante to 147kW, with torque of 300Nm in both manual and automatic form.

Holden claims a fuel figure of 6.5L/100km for the manual and 6.3L/100km for the auto.

What’s it got?

The Astra R comes standard with a fairly healthy list of standard equipment, including 17-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker audio system that includes Holden’s MyLink touchscreen infotainment system that now incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear park assist and a backing camera, cruise control with a speed limiter function, automatic headlights and LED daytime running lights.

There is also an optional “Driver Assistance Pack” available on the R that adds a leather steering wheel, low speed autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, a forward distance indicator, forward collision alert, rain sensing wipers and an electrochromic rear view mirror for $1,500.

The Astra RS gets all the equipment from the R and the optional package, but also gets the larger engine, a different style of 17-inch alloy wheel, keyless entry and start, advanced park assist, heated external mirrors, side skirts, side blind spot alert and rear cross-traffic alert.

The RS-V then adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a higher-spec MyLink system with a larger 8-inch screen and integrated satellite navigation, LED taillights, heated leather sports seats, a heated leather steering wheel, dual zone climate control, chrome exterior detailing, ambient lighting, remote start and an electric parking brake.

The RS-V also has an optional “Touring Pack” that, for $1,900 adds adaptive cruise control with full speed autonomous emergency braking and an electric sunroof.

What’s good about it?

Both engines are brilliantly eager and happy to rev, with the 1.4 being particularly responsive and lively, particularly when hooked up to the manual transmission.

Brilliant ride quality, with a distinctly European feel to it, but not at the expense of handling, again with the lighter 1.4 coming in for particular praise here.

Interiors are of a high level of fit and finish, while also being comfortable and attractively modern.

And while it may look a little bland and uninspiring in photographs, it actually is rather handsome on the road.

And the Opel Shark is back!

What’s not so good?

It has taken so long to get here it is almost two years old now!

And while it does look good on the road, it is STILL a bit on the conservative side…

First impressions?

While it has taken its time getting here, the new Astra has certainly been worth the wait.

High quality with a great ride and some impressive handling characteristics, the Astra has certainly got what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the Golf and in many aspects easily outpoints the Focus and even the deeply impressive Mazda3.

And that’s just from the launch drive. I have a strong suspicion that spending more time with the Astra will prove it to be even more impressive.

The fact that Holden has seen fit to offer a manual transmission across the entire range is a bonus for the enthusiast driver (and one worth taking up if you are), but we suspect one that won’t get much uptake here.

But even then the six-speed auto is a great little transmission and, combined with all of the Astra’s good qualities make it a deeply compelling package, particularly at the price Holden have pitched it at.

Share This
  • Thank goodness Holden has seen fit to bring the Astra K in—and I’ll have a manual, thank you very much.