Car Review: 2018 Holden Astra LS/LT/LT-Z Sedan

It’s back to the future for Holden as the Astra nameplate on a sedan resurfaces with the sedans developed in Europe and built in Korea. The name replaces the Cruze, itself a resurrection of a previously used nomenclature. We’ve had the European sourced Astra hatch for a while and there’s also a new wagon version on the way. A Wheel Thing spends time with the mid-spec LT, top spec LT-Z, and entry level LS (there’s also a LS+), all fitted with the same engine and transmission combination.Up front, and the sole choice for a powerplant in the Astra sedan, is a 1.4L petrol engine, complete with turbo and good for 110 kilowatts. There’s 240 torques available between 2000 to 4000 rpm, with an extra five if you go for the six speed manual which is available in the LS only. Recommended go-go juice for the 52 litre tank is 91RON, of which it’ll drink at over eight litres per one hundred kilometres in an urban environment. On the freeway AWT saw a best of 6.3 in the LS and 7.1L/100 km in the LT-Z. Holden’s Astra sedan brochure doesn’t appear to specify weight, however elsewhere it’s quoted as being just under 1300 kilograms.The engine itself is a willing revver, especially so when the torque is on tap…for the most part. What was noticeable was the lag between a hard prod of the go-pedal, the change down a cog or two, and the resulting leap forward. In tighter Sydney traffic when a quick response was needed in changing lanes, that hesitation could potentially result in a safe move not being as safe as it should be. Also, in the LS, a noticeable whine, an unusual note at that, was audible and not found in the LT or LT-Z. Otherwise, once warmed up, the six speed auto had invisible gear changes up and down on a flat road, and downshifted nicely, holding gears, on the bigger downward slopes out west.It’s a trim, lithe, almost handsome car to look at though. It’s a longish 4665 mm in length and hides a boot of good depth and breadth at 465 litres. The rear deck lid does have old school hinges that swing down into the boot space though. The boot on the LT and LT-Z gain a small, discreet, lip spoiler as well. It’s also broad, with over 1800 mm in total width, and stands 1457 mm tall. What this gives you is 1003 mm front headroom, 1068 mm legroom, 1394 mm shoulder room, and in the rear 1350 mm shoulder room. 939 mm and 951 mm are the numbers in the rear for leg and head room.Up front, the three are virtually identical, bar chrome strips in the lower corners of the front bar for the LT/LT-Z. The headlights are LED DRL backed from the LS+ upwards and provide quite a decent spread of light. The headlight surrounds themselves gleam in the sunlight and add a solid measure of presence to the look. Wheels wise they’re all alloys, with a 16/17/18 inch and appropriate tyre size to match. There’s 205/55/16, 225/45/17, and 225/40/18s. And each of these contribute to the ride quality to the differing models…The LS is undoubtably the most plush, soft, of the three, but by no means does it lack grip when pushed. The rubber on the LS is from Hankook, the LT and LT-Z have Kumho Ecsta. Both brands provide more than enough grip and even occasionally chirp when when hard acceleration is given and both brands do provide a rumble, a somewhat intrusive rumble, on the coarser chip tarmac in Sydney. The LT and LT-Z also benefit from the fettling the Australia engineers have given, with a firmer and more sporting ride, less rebound but a small measure of more harshness.All three are brilliant freeway cruisers but it’s around town that the suspension tune really shines. In the varied road conditions that Sydney throws up, from table flat to mildly pockmarked to rutted and broken tarmac, all three dealt with them adroitly and with the words “sure footed” writ large. Only occasionally would the LT-Z, with the stiffest feel, skip and that was more so on the more ragged undulations that some corners have. There’s plenty of conversation from the steering wheel vinyl in the LS, leather in the LT/LT-Z), with an almost tactile amount of constant feedback through to the driver.Speaking of steering, the design of the wheel itself has your hands feeling as if they’re sitting between ten & two and eleven & one. The horizontal spokes sit just that little too high for a totally comfortable feel. You’ll also dip out on electric seats, even in the LT-Z, however there is more manual adjustment than in the LS. Across the range you’ll get auto headlights (which have an overly sensitive sensor), parking sensors, reverse camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, along with a seven inch and eight inch touchscreen for LS and the LT models.

Digital radio is also on board the LT and LT-Z to take advantage of the quite decent speakers on board. Also available in the LT and LT-Z are parking assist and with front parking sensors, Blind Spot Alert, auto headlights with tunnel detection, whilst the LS+ joins the party with Lane Keep Assist, following distance indicator, and Forward Collision Alert. However, window wise, only the LT-Z gets auto up and down for the driver’s window.Trim wise it’s cloth seats or machine made leather, soft-ish touch plastic on the dash, a grey coloured surround for the touchscreen and a frankly boring look for that in the LS, versus a higher sense of appeal and presence in the LT/LT-Z with chrome and piano black. Aircon in the LS is dialled in whereas the others get dials but with LEDs in the centre to show temperature and add more visual pizzaz. There’s a colour info screen in the LT and LT-Z’s driver binnacle which mirrors that seen in the touchscreen. Both look fantastic and appeal greatly. The LS? Standard monochrome. There’s clearly a high level of quality in the build being based on a Korean sourced sedan, but inside the Astra sedan does lack visual appeal, even though it’s not a physically unpleasant place to be.At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing, just a few days before Holden ceases manufacturing, the company had announced a seven year warranty being made available for the Astra range. However, there are terms and conditions so please speak to your local Holden dealership. Also, again at the time of writing (October 2017), the LS Astra sedan was being offered from $20990 driveaway if you choose the manual. Pick the self shifter it’s from $21990. The LS+ auto is from $23490 with the LT and LT-Z from $26290 and $30290 respectively. Again, please check with your local dealer. Those prices include stamp duty, 12 months rego and compulsory third party insurance, by the way.

All three (of the four trim levels available) cars tested did not disappoint; the LT-Z for AWT would be the pick, if only for the more sporting feel of the ride, the higher trim level and the fact that DAB is included, as it is below this model. But as a model range intended to effectively assist in kickstarting the importation model for Holden from October 2017 onwards, it’s somehow slipped under the radar. And that, so far, is a shame because it’s a very capable vehicle and more than worthy of continuing the legacy of the Holden Astra name.
Here’s where to go for inforamtion: 2018 Holden Astra range

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Car Review: 2017 Holden Astra RS.

Holden’s move to bring in its range of vehicles from Europe has already paid off with the fully European sourced Astra. With an all turbocharged engine range, the 2017 Astra family, which starts at $23990 driveaway, offers power, performance, and plenty of tech, as A Wheel Thing drives the 2017 Holden Astra 1.6L RS manual.It’s the 1.6L four here, with an immensely handy 280 torques between 1650 to 3500 revs and rolls off to the 147 kW peak output at 5500. So far it’s a numbers game, including six, six being how many forward ratios in the manual transmission supplied. It’s a delight, this transmission, with a beautifully progressive clutch pedal and a pickup point that feels natural. The gear selector is also well weighted, with no indecision in the close throw and tautly sprung lever. Reverse is across to the left and up, easily selected by a pistol grip trigger on the selecter’s front. It’s a delightfully refined package, one worth investigating, and a prime reason why we should move away from automatics as our primary transmission. Economy? A Wheel Thing finished on a sub 7.0L per 100L of 95 RON from the 48 litre tank.It’s a sweet looking machine too. A sharp yet slimline nose, with striking silver accents, rolls into a steeply raked front window, with good side vision before finishing with a somewhat odd looking C pillar design incorporating a pyramidical motif. There’s a black sheet between this and the roofline and there’s further eyeball catching with the deep scallops in the doors. Beautifully styled tail lights finish off what really is a handsome vehicle.¬† Inside you’ll find a well sculpted office. There’s piano black highlights that contrast with charcoal grey black plastic and cloth trim on the seats in a checkerboard pattern. The dash design itself is organic, flowing, and evokes the design ethos of higher end luxury cars. The pews front and rear are wonderfully supportive and have just the right amount of give and bolstering. Rear seat passengers get enough leg room for comfort also and there’s no problem with head room for front or rear with 1003 mm and 971 mm respectively. The driver and passenger do not get electric seats, though, however there is DAB for the high quality audio system that’s part of the GM family’s MyLink set. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with streaming apps. For those that like to carry kids and shopping, there’s 360L pf cargo space with the seats folded up, cupholders front and rear, USB charger point, seatback pockets, and door pockets as well.The driver and passenger do not get electric seats, though as they’re reserved for the RS-V, however there is DAB for the high quality audio system that’s part of the GM family’s MyLink set. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with streaming apps and the leather clad tiller has audio and cruise controls that are pure GM in their ease of use. For those that like to carry kids and shopping, there’s 360L pf cargo space with the seats folded up, cupholders front and rear, USB charger point, seatback pockets, and door pockets as well.It’s its road manners and driveability where the Astra RS really shines. The six speed manual is fluid, smooth, and completely complements the torque delivery of the 1.6L powerplant. What makes the Astra RS a delight to drive is the beautifully balanced suspension. It really is one of the best ride packages you’ll find. Period. The suppleness of the suspension is deft in its ability to change with road surface changes, whilst it firms up to provide a sporting feel when required. Rubber is from France, with lightning bolt 17 inch alloys wrapped in Michelin 225/45 tyres.From smooth freeway surfaces such as those found in western Sydney where some areas have been freshly resurfaced, to gravelled and rutted entrance roads, the Astra RS feels comfortable and poised across these and every surface in between. Thrown into off camber turns the hatch sits flat and under control and rarely does the rear end feel as if it’s not attached to the front. The steering itself is weighted just so, with a fine balance of effort versus connection to the front. There’s a bare hint of understeer being a front wheel drive car and while hint ar torque steer when the go pedal is given a hard push from standstill.Holden will give you a three year or one hundred thousand kilometre warranty, which, given the levels of warranty offered by others is starting to look a little dated. However they do offer Lifetime Capped Price Servicing plus you can take the car for a twenty four hour test drive to make up your own mind. Yes, you’ll find driver aids on board and the RS gets Automatic Emergency Braking in the suite of aids.

At The End Of The Drive.

The RS Astra, priced in the mid twenty thousand dollar range, is perhaps one of the most complete packages you can buy as a driver’s car. A torquey engine, a slick manual transmission, a comfortable office and with enough tech on board for emjoyment and safety, plus a beautifully tuned chassis add up to provide one of the most pleasureable drive experiences available. And that price makes it a competitive package in regards to value as well. Go here to check it out plus look at the new sedan: 2017 Holden Astra hatch range

Car Review: 2015 Holden Astra VXR Coupe

With Holden due to source more cars from Opel than ever before, they’re telling us via a solid marketing campaign. One of the nameplates we’ve had and that has returned in force is Astra. A Wheel Thing sampled the latest Astra VXR six speed manual, a model due to be completly revamped for late 2016 or early 2017.2015 Holden Astra VXR engineIt’s a stylish looking beast, with the test vehicle clad in a flat, not metallic, red and riding on 20 inch alloys. The two doors, framed at the top in chrome,¬† open wide and allow access to a surprisingly capacious rear seat and cargo section. In profile it’s amost a continuous curve, with the roof coppinga¬† discrete spolier and the front a sharpish, almost rakish look.2015 Holden Astra VXR front
Under the long bonnet lies Opel’s 2.0L turbo four, one with punch and verve, mated to a six speed manual, the car’s Achille’s heel. There’s a hefty 206 kilowatts on tap at 5300 revs but more impressive is the mesa flast torque delivery between 2450 to 5000. Besting most two litres by fifty torques, Sir will enjoy 400 of them across that range. It makes for immense mid range go and flexibility aplenty on the freeway.

Need to overtake? Depending on where you are, it’s either a measure of flexing the right foot just a bit more or dropping back a cog or two and launching the rocket. There’s a buzz from the front, not unpleasantly so, and a soul bending surge as the speedo does silly things. The seats (which have air powered bolsters, by the way), sigh gently as they support the driver’s mass being pushed into them.

Left leg goes in,, left leg goes out and in between the lever is moved, the revs drop and the turbo spins idly for a moment (turbo lag is noticeable only at low speeds and off boost) before huffing and puffing again. It’s flexible, usable, enjoyable to drive, but…

Downside? Always one, minimum. The tank is small, almost too small at 56 litres (with a preferred taste of 98 RON, ta very much) to provide a sense of true comfort. Although the VXR isn’t excessively thirsty, at around 9.0L/100 km average, in city use the figures rise well above 10.0L/100 km. Holden quotes a combined cyle of 8.0L/100 km, which in the most ideal of ideal worlds would provide 700 kilometres of travel….

Although the shift is light it also lacks precision. The gate movement is sloppy, loose (and yet only around 9000 kays on the odometer), at odds with the well weighted clutch pedal, the lightning fast response of the engine to throttle and the wondrous brakes. Fast changes are nigh impossible without repeat practice and the possibility of finding the slot you don’t want is high.

These are the brakes that should be standard in the Ford Everest and Ranger; sensitive enough to tell you when the pad is just nipping the disc, the progressive bite as they compress and the feel of the pedal as it latches on as soon as you touch it and tightens up in the travel. Superb. Or, in a word, Brembo.

What isn’t superb is the woefully out of date centre stack design. The updated version can’t come quick enough to dispatch those buttons and dials to the bin of history. See the picture to gauge for yourself. At least the surround looks nice.2015 Holden Astra VXR consoleApart from the console, there’s not much else to worry about; hugely confortable and supportive seats (three settings for heat, great for a cold day but no cooling on hot ones) with the front section of the squab adjustable for extra under thigh support, wide opening doors (remember, only two of ’em) to access the back seat and yes, there is leg room, rather than feeling as if one must be a contortionist by nature. Boot size is a decent 380L. There’s the General’s MyLink satnav infotainment system to play with, suitably aluminised trim on the centre console and subtle lighting at the base of the console stack.2015 Holden Astra VXR cabinThe audio system was beyond superb in such a small car. Complete with a sensitive DAB tuner, the clarity of the sound, the range and depth was simply brilliant and a real punch to the low end notes. It’s backed out by the hands free Bluetooth system, audio streaming and Apple’s Siri EyesFree. You’ll also get rain sensing wipers, Hill Start Assist, curtain airbags and tyre pressure monitoring at each corner.2015 Holden Astra VXR dashIt’s nice to have a luxury feel inside but what if the ride is bad enough that it dulls the presentation? Thankfully the VXR’s ride is surprisingly compliant, even with the 20 inch alloys and licorice thin rubber (245/35 Michelin Pilot Super Sport) with a massive, for the size of the VXR, wheelbase of 2695 mm, helping to soak up the smaller ripples. Size is just 4466 mm overall, making both ride and internal space (rear legroom is 870 mm) so much more impressive.2015 Holden Astra VXR wheelIt’s a cozy ride on the flat and dispatches any minor irregularities to the bin. Go slow over shopping centre speedbumps and that’s where the sports suspension settings make themselves known, with spine and teeth receiving a belting. Point it at some corners and tightening radius turns, there’s barely a hint of roll and you can feel the chassis readying itself to be punted hard….the response? More please. It’s the auto equivalent of trim, taut, terrific as the initial give (and there’s enough to be surprisingly comfortable) turns up the harden up factor, keeping the VXR level all the way through. It also means dive and squat (acceleration and braking) is almost negligible. You can thank something Opel calls HiPerStrut technology.2015 Holden Astra VXR rearThe Wrap.
It’s roomier than expected, handles as if it’s superglued to velcro and has a wonderful engine. But it’s undertanked and had a substandard gear change mechanism, possibly a couple of things people consider to be pretty damned important. It’s a delight to sit in, bar the dog’s breakfast console, looks pretty enough still (the new model looks sensational) and from $39990 driveaway (at the time of writing) is incredible value for the performance.
Check with your Holden dealer (or your Opel/Vauxhall etc dealer overseas) for warranty and service conditions. Online brochure available here: Astra brochure2015 Holden Astra VXR profile