Holden covers bases with Astra sedan

HOLDEN ASTRA: Sedan fits well in comprehensive range.

When I look back through the long list of vehicles I’ve owned, it’s interesting to note that only two of them weren’t sedans.

I guess that is some kind of an indication that I like the booted car, more so when it’s a sport sedan.

It would be an exaggeration to classify Holden’s new Astra as a sport sedan, but it certainly is the latter. And full marks to Holden, and Opel, for making the Astra sedan available in New Zealand, it joins a hatchback and wagon range here and I certainly hope it does well against the market trend towards sport utility vehicles. Until I drive the wagon, which also appeals to me, I’d go as far as to say the sedan is the pick of the bunch.

One of the reasons is that its extra load space is generous – 445-litres against 360-litres in the hatch, at the same time losing nothing in vehicle dynamics; in fact, I think it’s handling is just a little better, a few kilograms towards the rear improves balance.

At the other end, the Astra sedan utilises much the same driveline as its stablemates, with six-speed manual and automatic gearbox options.

The test car was the
latter and it was coupled to a four-cylinder, turbocharged engine of 1399cc. Holden rates it with 110kW and 240Nm power outputs.

These figures are healthy enough in themselves, but it you also take into account the areas where they are maximised (6500rpm and 2400rpm all of the way to 4000rpm) there is a solid flow of energy all through the rev band.

I particularly like the way the engine picks up the gaps as it flows from gear to gear; the shifts are smooth, and with the low and close ratios under immediate acceleration there is a feisty type of feel from beneath the throttle pedal.

That’s also the case at all speeds, when the journey necessitates gentle throttle pressure, the Astra also feels quite at ease.

For interest’s sake, the Astra 1.4 turbo will accelerate from a standstill to 100km/h in 8.7sec, and it will complete a 80km/h to 120km/h overtaking time of 6.7sec.

On the subject of figures, Holden claims a 5.8-litre per 100km (48mpg) combined cycle fuel usage average which is quite bold, but I would suggest quite achievable nonetheless. During the five days the evaluation car was in my possession, the display graphics were constantly listing around 8l/100km (35mpg).

That figure is thanks to low fuel use at highway speed – 4.5l/100km (62mpg) at a steady 100km/h cruise, with the engine turning over very relaxed at 1800rpm.

I took the Astra sedan on a hill road I don’t often use, one which incorporates a lot of slow speed tight corners, the endless twists and turns certainly gave good indication of the Astra’s handling dynamics.

Providing the grip in the first instance are sport specification and low profile Kumho tyres (225/45 x 18in). By sheer nature of their profile they have a wide tenure with the road and high grip levels. The tyres also help promote strong steering feedback and accurate turn-in.

Astra hatchback models have the benefit of a Watts Linkage system across the rear axle to enhance stability; sadly, the sedan doesn’t get that, but nevertheless, suspension movement allows just enough wheel freedom to absorb the big hits along with arresting body movement.

The entire handling feel is balanced thanks to spring and damper rates which are firm, but not so much that they spoil the ride.

The evaluation car was an LTZ model which means it is high spec and lands here at $38,490. There are two other variants – LS and LT – which are priced at $29,490 and $34,490 respectively, the base specification non-leather model would probably be my choice.

Nevertheless, the LTZ wants for little, it has all the kit you’d expect from a range-topper such as full leather trim with heated front seats, electric sunroof, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, satellite navigation and an extensive safety package which easily meets the five-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program criteria.

Holden, on both sides of the Tasman, is undergoing substantial change with the recent closure of the Australian manufacturing operation.

That being the case, the company is reinventing itself and has a broad plan to fulfil its obligation to the car buying public. The Astra is just one part of an extensive line-up of models which will land here in the next year or so – all badged Holden and landing from many different global plants.

If you add in a tempting three-year free service and roadside assistance programme recently announced by Holden New Zealand, it would make a lot of sense to buy into the brand, and its good cars like the Astra, in all body styles, that are there to tempt.

Price – Holden Astra sedan LTZ, $38,490

Dimensions – Length, 4665mm; width, 1807mm; height, 1457mm

Configuration –  Four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, 1399cc, 110kW, 240Nm, six-speed automatic.

Performance –
0-100km/h, 7.7.sec

Fuel usage – 6.3l/100km