The entry-model Astra R ($21,490 manual/$22,490 auto) is equipped with a new all-aluminium 1.4-litre direct-injection turbo-petrol engine delivering 110kW and 240Nm, and with a government fuel economy figure of 5.8L/100km on 91 RON fuel. The Astra RS ($26,240 manual/ $27,240 auto) and RS-V ($30,740/$31,740) models are fitted with a higher-output 1.6-litre engine, which delivers a more spirited 147kW and 300Nm with its turbocharger over-boost function. This engine, however, requires premium fuel, and official consumption is 6.3-6.5L/100km, with the auto interestingly delivering the better figure.
Strong on safety
A notable aspect of the new Astra is its strong safety specification across the range, although its five-star ANCAP safety rating at this stage applies only to the RS and RS-V. Both have advanced park assist, blind-spot alert, rain-sensing wipers and Holden Eye, a forward-facing camera that facilitates autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and forward distance indicator with head-up warning. The base R model is not rated, however the Holden Eye features are available in a new Astra R-Plus model, for an extra $1250.
For RS-V Astra only, a Touring Pack comprising adaptive cruise control and an electric sunroof costs $1900. A standout option is the adaptive LED matrix headlights, available in an Innovation Pack. These can automatically block dazzle for oncoming vehicles while fully illuminating the surrounding landscape. It’s pricey at $3990 but that also includes the Touring Pack.
The new sports hatch body design brings clean lines and an elegant presentation in traditional European style, while the first thing that strikes you on entry to our RS-V test car is the quality of trim materials, the premium presentation and sharp detail. In practicality, design and appearance, it’s up there with the best in class. There’s good access and space for four adults, and extra-long seat travel for tall drivers who also get reach and height-adjustable steering. A substantial rear pillar will restrict vision, but a rear camera and sensors alleviate most concerns.
Somewhat disappointing in a top-spec model is the lack of rear seat accessories, such as ventilation and power outlets. Astra also carries a small space-saver spare wheel and the boot is somewhat shallow, but beyond that it’s all good. Easy split-fold rear seats provide a versatile load space with a hard and almost flat floor, child seat anchorages and ISOFIX are easy to access, and the boot space is not compromised by awkward shapes or intrusions.
Strong and flexible performance
Performance from the 1.4-litre engine is surprisingly competent, due to turbo-produced pulling power in the mid rev range, but the 1.6-litre adds extra sparkle and a broader spread of torque. These models deliver strong and flexible performance, which complements Astra’s overall feeling of substance and dynamic agility. The turbo-charged 1.6 produces maximum engine torque from just 1700rpm, giving that sustained launch feel, and it’s mated to a conventional and notably smooth-shifting six-speed automatic with early lock-up function. This configuration, combined with 140 kilograms pared from the previous model’s kerb weight, ensures Astra has a spirited and dynamic feel in all situations.
Equally surprising from a driver’s perspective are the chassis dynamics and steering refinement, which are also endowed with the typically European feel for high-speed stability, surefooted balance and steering accuracy. Astra features the latest Bosch chassis electronics and torque vectoring to deliver optimum chassis balance and wheel grip. The ride also possesses that unique combination of being firm and well-controlled, yet well-insulated from typical road shock, and the steering is sharp with good road feel and feedback.
While the new Astra retains a standard three-year/100,000-kilometre warranty, it does come with Holden’s lifetime capped-price servicing, and to ensure buyers appreciate the advancement over previous models there is a Take Your Time extended test-drive offer.
The new Astra hatch comes at a modest price premium but without question it’s the best small car Holden has had for a long time. Fresh styling and interior presentation are underpinned by impressive European-derived chassis dynamics and turbo engine performance.