Holden Launches Pivotal new Astra Hatch

MY17_Astra_RSV_Dynamic_F3Q (2)

MY17_Astra_RSV_Dynamic_Side

MY17_Astra_RSV_Detail_LightMY17_Astra_RSV_Detail_Rear Light

MY17_Astra_RSV_Interior_Detail_OdometerMY17_Astra_R_Interior_Screen

MY17_Astra_RSV_Interior_Detail_ScreenMY17_Astra_R_Interior

Much depends on Holden’s new baby. Astra replaces the aging Cruze sedan/hatch/wagon as well as the recently re-introduced Astra previously seen here as the Opel.

The svelte new Astra is 140kg lighter than her flabby old sister and bristles with shiny new tech. Holden’s fleet was starting to look a bit tired an emotional ,and Astra goes a long way to assuaging the justified unflattering critique of one of Australia’s founding fathers of automotive manufacture.

Astra is designed in Germany and manufactured in Gliwice, Poland. The designers have gone out of their way to be modern and innovative while maintaining the spirit of the old car.

From the outside, the change is subtle even though the car is completely new. Kurt Beyer, Opel’s chief interior designer, spoke at length of the intricacies of both exterior and interior attributes. The lines are crisp, and the roof floats thanks to the rear pillars that disappear into an air-spoiling rear fin. You’ll only notice it when you touch it, and that’s the way Kurt likes it. We’ll turn to the cabin shortly, meanwhile there is much outside to put an eye over.

The option of the uber-sexy IntelliLux adaptive LED matrix headlamps is by far the biggest news for the handsome face of Astra. They look like a Tiffany diamond ring display during the day, and look like fireworks once the starter is pressed. The system allows fully automatic high beam function, but in an unexpected way. The forward-facing camera and radar system assesses the light in front of the car. The blue-ish light is as near to daylight as is currently possible. As tail lights, head lights, street lights and MY17 Astra RS-V IntelliLux LED matrix headlightvarious other lights are detected, the system switches individual LEDs on and off. It doesn’t sound all that amazing until you see it in action. For example, the system sees an oncoming car, and switches the high beam off, but only the bit where the oncoming car is. This means either side of it remains fully ifully bathed in daylight. You can still see far ahead so street signs and gutters are bright and clear while the oncoming driver is subtly mood-lit.

Looking at the lights coming towards you is like being at a Bieber concert minus the dreadful music. As you approach, you can see the lights going on and off as you pass through the various points of reference but at no time are you dazzled. It is so amazing that Holden’s presser featured many references to the lights. Holden’s Comms Director, Sean Poppitt, said that these lights are the new big thing, and I reckon he is on to something. Previously these lights have been seen only on posh Euro barges but that’s about it. Currently this option is part of the $3,990 Innovations Pack but is not available until early next year thanks to those buggers in the northern hemisphere sucking up all the stock. GM has hugely underestimated the uptake of these super-cool must-have accessories. Adaptive Cruise Control (radar cruise control to you and me) is also part of the pack as is, meh… a sunroof. The cruise control also has a queue function which slows you in traffic. If you stop and don’t move off again in 3 seconds, the system pauses with the brake on. When the car in front moves, all you have to do is hit “resume” on the steering wheel, or tap the accelerator. You can also get active lane departure. Your car will gently guide you back into the lane. This is particularly handy if texting your bestie is more important than not mowing down sundry OAPs. Again, this is part of a pack. I’m sensing a pattern here.

MY17_Astra_RSV_Interior

Smart entry/start on the RS get you in to your car without a key, as long as the key is secreted about your person. There is a starter button instead of a key hole for the ignition, so Bob’s-your-uncle if your hand bag is like the Tardis.

No longer will you be left in Coles a car park, wet as a shag on a rock, searching frantically for keys as rain drips down your nose.

Holden thinks the volumes will mainly favour the entry level R model. The RS, and RS-V add bits and bobs such as leather, auto climate and auto wipers. We shoved the list in down below for those who can’t be arsed going to Holden’s website.

Kurt Beyer took is on a tour of the cabin. He noted the edges of the infotainment screen he faceted so they don’t present a big ugly rectangle to the occupants. He impressed the importance of the subtle curves of the façade, and the quality of the metal trim snd other finishes. The subtle mood lighting is a little less “drag queen” than some of the opposition which is not a bad thing.

There is a small Iphone 7 sized rubber lined shelf. It is placed so that your phone and be plugged into the CarPLay system but still be seen easily. You can have both the main screen and your phone displaying data at the same time. Kurt tells me there are fuses behind the panel so the shelf also acts as a handle. They’re very thoughtful touches.

Mid and top range models have the more powerful 1.6 engine and with 147kw, has a bit more zing than the 110kw 1.4 of the R base model. The R is 80kg lighter than the RS-V at 1283kg VS 1363kg so the difference isn’t as great as you might first think.

The real test of a car comes with the drive. Astra competes against Corolla, Golf and other small/medium hatches. The competition is stiff with the VW Golf being just that bit ahead especially in the hot-hatch department. Holden was tightlipped on the subject of the high-performance models. Since there is a hot model in the old range, it’s reasonable to assume Holden will add some chili to the new one at some stage. Ironically, 147kw was once considered extremely hot.

The first part of the launch experience was at the driver education centre in Canberra. The skid pan was a perfect place to let rip in the motorcana. Sean Poppitt says Holden doesn’t hide from its cars. In other words, they’re happy to expose both the good and the bad.

Under extreme cornering, there was a quite bit of understeer. Grabbing a handful of lock mid corner used to be a recipe for disaster, but the nannies make sure the car is kept shiny side up. Later, on the road the manners were impeccable.

The ride even on harsh tarmac had a comfy sophistication thanks to McPherson Strut with Torsion bar

at the front, and Compound crank rear axle with Watts Link in the back. Rack mounted electric power steering is the preferred option for those wanting a more precise feel. Rack mounted allows finer calibration meaning the system is better able to simulate the road feel of old. Like all cars with electric steering, the feel, no matter how good, is artificial.

The drive feels competent, and above all, safe. Astra costs more than many of its competitors but has many more safety features as standard. There are even more features available as options. Some say options packs are too expensive and not worth it at any price. The alternate argument says the ability to customise a car according to budget and need is extremely important. Here’s a list, you decide:

All-new Holden Astra spec and features highlights

R highlights:

 1.4-litre turbo ECOTEC engine – all aluminum

 6-speed automatic/manual transmission

 Stop/start fuel saving (AT only)

 6 airbags

 Electronic Stability Control, ABS and Traction Control System

 Hill Start Assist

 Multi-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels (4)

 Sports styling: front and rear sports fascia,

 Electric Power Steering (EPS)

 Rear view camera

 Rear Park Assist

 ISOFIX child seat anchorage system (x2)

 Projector headlamps (halogen) with LED DRLs

 Cruise control and speed limiter

 Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 7-inch high-resolution colour touch-screen display

o Apple CarPlay® and Android® Auto phone projection

o DAB+

o Full iPod® integration including Siri Eyes Free*

 Bluetooth® audio streaming and auxiliary input jack

RS highlights over R:

 1.6-litre turbo ECOTEC engine – all aluminum

 6-speed automatic/manual transmission

 Stop/start fuel saving

 Sports 5-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels (4)

 Passive Entry and Push-button start

 Leather steering wheel

 Heated wing mirrors

 Advanced park assist (auto parallel and perpendicular reverse park)

 Front park assist

 Holden Eye forward facing camera

o Automatic Emergency Braking

o Lane Keep Assist

o Forward Distance Indicator

o Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning

 Blind Spot Alert

 Rain sensing wipers

RS-V highlights over RS:

 Two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels

 LED tail lamps

 Remote start

 Adaptive Cruise control^ Optional

 Electric park brake

 Heated leather appointed sports seats

 Heated steering wheel

 Power lumbar adjustment

 Dual zone climate control

 Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 8-inch high-resolution colour touch-screen display

o Apple CarPlay® and Android® Auto phone projection

o DAB+

o Full iPod® integration including Siri Eyes Free*

 Satellite Navigation with full colour mapping with live traffic updates, traffic management control and points of interest

 Colour digital instrument display: vehicle information menu, trip information menu, fuel economy menu, warning/messages

Special Packs

Driver Assistance Pack (optional on R, available April ‘17) – $1,000

 Leather steering wheel

 Electrochromatic rear view mirror

 Rain-sensing wipers

 Holden Eye forward facing camera

o Automatic Emergency Braking

o Lane Keep Assist

o Forward Distance Indicator

o Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning

Touring Pack (optional on RS-V) – $1,990

 Electric sunroof

 Adaptive Cruise Control

Innovations Pack (optional on RS-V) – $3,990

 Electric sunroof

 Adaptive Cruise Control

 IntelliLux adaptive LED matrix headlamps

ENGINE, FUEL ECONOMY AND EMISSIONS 1.4-litre turbo

(Astra R)

1.6-litre turbo

(Astra RS and RS-V)

MT

AT

MT

AT

Engine type

1.4-litre ECOTEC SIDI, 4-cylinder

1.6-litre ECOTEC SIDI, 4-cylinder

Transmission

6-speed MT

6-speed AT

6-speed MT

6-speed AT

Capacity (cc)

1399

1399

1598

1598

Compression ratio

10:1

10:1

9.5:1

9.5:1

Maximum power (kW)

110

110

147

147

Maximum torque

(Nm)

245

240

300 with overboost

300 with overboost

Bore x stroke

74 x 81.3

74 x 81.3

79 x 81.5

79 x 81.5

Fuel management system

Direct Injection

Direct Injection

Fuel requirement

91 RON

91 RON

95 RON

95 RON

Fuel tank capacity (L)

48

48

48

48

Fuel economy combined (l/100km)

5.8

5.8

6.5

6.3

Emissions (g/km)

135

133

149

146

Conclusion:

Astra has to work, it just has to. The consequences of failure are unconscionable. I like Astra very much. I like the sharp looks, the classy cabin and the great performance. Holden told me they won’t be chasing sales by discounting it, but is the price too high to start with? Cruze and Captiva were held too long in the portfolio, and Holden has some building to do if the new Insignia to be rebadged as Commodore is to be accepted by the public.

Astra was reintroduced after the disastrous Opel brand failed after only a year. Since then, Astra has not been a big seller against Corolla and i30. If Astra is to stand a ghost of a hope, the top model cannot have a “3” as the first number. Holden was flogging the top Cruze in the low 30’s but frankly the sales were dismal.

Yes, Astra is advanced and yes, it is “car of the year” in many Euro Mags, but many a good Eurocar failed here because they cost too much. If punters are going to pay over the odds, they’ll go the whole hog and by BMW. If Astra is to succeed, the proposed “packs” should be thrown in to the top model. It must represent good value as well as be a great handler..

I like Astra very much, but would I buy one? I’m torn and on this one, and I would have to wait and see. I would have to drive one back to back against Golf, i30 and possibly the aging Focus. This hotly contested segment has wafer thin profits, at least for the Australian arm of the overseas automakers. The competition is mighty fine and it would be a tough gig to knock off my current favourite, Golf. Unusually, I’m sorry not to have been more help.

PRICING

2017 Holden Astra Recommended Retail Pricing

1.4L turbo R manual $21,990

1.4L turbo R automatic $24,190

1.6L turbo RS manual $26,490

1.6L turbo RS automatic $28,690

1.6L turbo RS-V manual $30,990

1.6L turbo RS-V automatic $33,190

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