Base model Holden Astra R boasts impressive refinement, style and road manners but it’s a little basic
What is it?
The Holden Astra is back, and it’s here for a couple of reasons: to replace the underdone and underwhelming Cruze, to appeal younger buyers with its style, technology and European sophistication and of course to have a real crack – it’s a little questionable as to whether the Cruze was able to do this – at the likes of the Mazda3, Kia Cerato, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
Holden is also picking new models from the international General Motors catalogue to inject its range with some much needed appeal before local production ends in October.
What’s it cost?
The new Holden Astra hatch is available in three different variants: the base R which starts at $22,490, the RS from $26,240 and the top of the range RS-V from $30,740. A six-speed automatic transmission adds $1,000 over the standard six-speed manual.
Standard equipment on the base Astra R includes a colour touchscreen with Holden’s MyLink operating system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera, a suite of airbags, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights and automatic stop/start fuel-saving technology.
What’s it go like?
Astra R models are powered by a 1.4 litre turbo and intercooled petrol engine – the RS and RS-V versions are powered by a gruntier 1.6 litre unit – that develops 110kW @ 5600rpm and 240Nm @ 2400-4800rpm.
Holden claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres, but we found 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres to be more realistic, despite making use of the stop/start system.
Performance from that 1.4 litre engine is best described as adequate. We wouldn’t describe it as sluggish and that 240Nm is delivered over a relatively wide power band, but you get the impression that the engine doesn’t like being hurried along.
The six-speed auto is fine, and stirs the engine along satisfactorily.
Hit the road, and the first thing you notice about the new Astra is its refinement. It insulates occupants from road and engine noise brilliantly, and it feels like a larger, more expensive offering.
Steering feedback is positive and the Astra R rides comfortably, and during our test week the ride never lost composition.
Overall, a very capable tool to drive on a daily basis.
What we like:
- The base Astra R has relatively stingy equipment levels, but the driving experience (almost makes up for it)
- Interior space. The new Holden Astra will seat five adults easily, and there is a surprisingly amount of head, leg and shoulder room for all five occupants. It is almost as commodious as a full-size sedan
- Fit and finish. Most plastics are of a decent calibre and everything is well screwed together
- Standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto are a smart move.
- It looks great
What we don’t:
- The seats are a little too hard for our liking and that plastic steering wheel feels horrible to the touch
- Air conditioning and heater control buttons are a little too small and can be difficult to fathom without glancing away from the road
- It needs to be cheaper to lure consumers away from key rivals
- Reversing camera is mounted too low, and it can be difficult to correctly judge the space behind the car with the images provided.
- Rivals have a better brand images.
Sale or no sale?
We’d ponder a new Astra, but not necessarily the new Astra R. As a car the new Astra is worth a look, but the entry level model just feels too basic.