We test drive the 2017 Holden Astra Hatch: too much for Nana

We test drive the 2017 Holden Astra Hatch: too much for Nana

I got involved with Carligious because I'm an enthusiast, I do it because I love it. When it comes to the cars we review, if I had it my way it would only be sports cars, exotics and the odd muscle car to satisfy the inner bogan.

But in the real world, just like people, cars come in all shapes and sizes. Some people want the practical family hatch, not only do they want it but they love it. Go figure!

That brings me to our test drive of the all new 2017 Astra hatch. We popped in and picked one up from the guys at City Holden Adelaide. If you're in the market for a new Astra in Adelaide, go see the team at City Holden, they're top notch and their sevice is always personal - cheers guys.

What does the all-new Astra mean for Holden? Well, they're betting hard that they finally have a mid-sized offering to compete with the likes of the Toyota Corolla or VW Golf.

The question we want to answer, have they finally gone and done it? The Astra badge has been a bit of a mixed bag for Holden, with over thirty years of history, it's seen the platform sourced from both Europe and Japan, at one stage it was a rebadged Nissan Pulsar. While there's been some highs and lows, it's never been a car to set the world on fire.

You know what, that's ok, the Astra was never that sort of car to begin with, but as times rolled on the highest volume selling car on the planet has become the mid-size family hatch. If your competitors are doing it better, it doesn't take Einstein to work out the punters will go with that.

Holden knows they have to lift their game if they want to keep playing and they're telling us the all-new Astra is as good as if not better than benchmarks like the VW Golf. Big call.

Sitting here in the base model Astra R, I have to say it's a step up from the prior model, both in terms of presentation and spaciousness. It ticks the right boxes, it easy enough to get yourself comfortable straight away. The view out of the car is good and the cabin definitely doesn't feel cramped. Seating four adults shouldn't be a problem.

Fit and finish, yeah, it's good. It's heavy on the blacks for my tastes, and some of the plastics are a little scratchy, but overall, not bad. There are smatterings of piano black; I guess to add an air of class. Personally, I'm not a fan, while it does stand out, it's a bugger for finger marks.

Seating, especially the front pews, they're more than supportive, it looks like attention's been paid to make sure the Astra's a nice place to be and I think they've got it right.

The ergonomics, well, you can see the GM DNA, the dash looks familiar across the Holden range, it's nothing to write home about, but it's nicely laid out. The only real let down is the steering wheel, it's the right size and chunkiness, but the material used feels a little too cheap, in hot weather, it's not going to be fun to use.

As for Astra's exterior styling, again, it's softly-softly which Holden have tread here. It's a conservative market, let's not upset the apple cart eh! The Astra is no stunner, but then again neither are its competitors, on that front, it fits right in.

Visually the headlight treatment is the standout feature of the car; it's quite handsome from a front three-quarter view.

Also impressive is the base model R's standard kit, including, Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, a clear multi-function central display, Apple car play, Android Auto, digital radio, automatic lighting, DRL's, central locking, 17" alloys and the list goes on.

The infotainment system is better than good; it's easy to use, the sound fidelity produced by the stereo is crisp even at high volumes. It there enough tech present to keep the millennials happy? Yeah, I think so.

What about the drive you say? It's a mixed bag, for the most part, the entry-level Astra R makes a good account for itself. The 1.4litre turbo four is quite the surprise and probably the highlight of the drivetrain. Holden is quoting 110kW and 240Nm of torque. Seat of the pants driving tells a different story, I wonder if Holden is telling porkies, and there's more poke than's being quoted.

Suburban duties and the daily commute are a doddle, the power on tap makes keeping up with the traffic a stress-free experience, the steering is very direct and the controls are light, it also makes for a comfortable highway cruiser. The ride is perhaps a little harsh; it appears the suspension tune is aiming for a sportier feel rather than ride compliance, mind you, most current mid-size hatch offerings are tending to head that way.

It's the country backroad drive that cracks start to show for the base model R, when pushed past eight-tenths it's over lively dynamics make it quite the handful, and depending on your personal preference you'll either love or hate. The R can be skittish, the steering too quick, and the car will dance over rough/uneven road surfaces.

You also can't ignore when the turbo cuts in, full boost can make it quite the handful; the power delivery can overcome the chassis and if you're not prepared for it, it could see you in some trouble. It can also exert a fair amount of torque steer when you're really on it.

If you're a lead foot, you'll probably love it; but it may be just too much for Nana. The base Astra is supposed to be the every person's car; I can't help but think if Holden dropped the turbo, shaved some dollars off the price, would it appeal to a wider market?

So while the base model R is lively, if that's not enough for you, you need to consider the top spec RS-V.

Woah! Almost immediately you realise it's the difference between night and day. The RS-V offers a bigger engine, more performance, more features, bigger wheels and astoundingly is loads more comfortable.

The Astra in RS-V spec is a car transformed, while the base Astra R will see you drive away for just under $25K AUD, the RS-V will set you back $30K AUD plus, depending on options and you can tell.

The R/R+ overall is a good package, no doubt about it. However, the RS/RS-V feels like an entirely different animal. Visually there's not much in it, apart from the 18" alloys and twin exhausts. A wolf in sheep's clothing.

The RS-V's interior is more upmarket, featuring a full faux leather interior which looks pretty convincing. On the tech front, you get more of everything, bigger central display, lots more doo-dads. Nowhere is that more evident than on the now leather steering wheel, adorned with so many buttons and switches, it wouldn't look out of place in a video arcade.

The extra features the RS-V brings to the mix are nice, but it does add complexity. The R models controls are the more intuitive; I reckon more time with the RS-V would overcome that.

Other goodies over the R/R+, SAT NAV is standard, keyless entry, push start/stop engine button, dual zone air con, heated front seats, heated leather steering wheel. Heated, really? Not sure we need that in Aus but it sounds good. Powered front seats.

There's a tonne of safety tech, like crash avoidance, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring and parking assist.

Parking assist, I have to say I was a little sceptical, it's the first time I've tried it on any car. It blew me away just how easy it was to use and how well it worked. It certainly did a better job of reverse parking than I could.

It's the driving; however, that really sets the RS-V apart; we got to test both the six-speed auto and the six-speed manual.

Both units work well, the manuals clutch is very light, the gear change, a tad rubbery. I can't believe I'm saying it, but I think the automatic is the better daily driver. You can put the auto in manual mode, while it works, you feel the RS-V is worthy of paddle shift.

I find myself continually questioning the RS-V's driving prowess while I'm punting along, not because I don't like it. Quite the opposite, it's doing my head in. It's the ranges sporting model; it's supposed to be harder riding right? But it's not. Not only is it more compliant than the R model, but it also rides better, is more poised and handles rough surfaces with ease.

There's no slap or thump over road joins or broken surfaces which come through in the R, yet it has bigger 18" wheels, how do they do that?

The RS-V, fitted with a 1.6litre turbo 4, power is up 37kW over the R for a total of 147kW; peak torque is now 280Nm over the R's 240. When you do sink the boot in, wow, what a difference, the power delivery is so much more linear, it builds progressively, you're not wrestling with turbo boost once it kicks in.

There's also a decided difference between Sports mode on and off, it definitely ups the throttle response, tightens the suspension and in the auto's case, changes gears quicker and holds onto them longer when putting the power down. Tromp the RS-V from a standing start, there's no melodramatics, almost no torque steer that you find in a lot of front wheel drives, including the R, it just gets on with it.

Same goes for cornering, feed the power in, you can point and shoot with confidence, it doesn't dance around, it's a very predictable, it makes for a very entertaining drive. Braking is also very progressive, the feel via the brake pedal is sweetly modulated.

Holden quotes a 0 to 100km/h time of 7.5 seconds for the Astra in RS-V spec. While not quite in hot hatch territory it's better than warm, and under real-world driving conditions, the 1.6-litre turbo punches well above its weight.

Having now driven the entire 2017 Astra range back to back, I think Holden have clearly answered our question, is the BK series Astra, a worthy alternative to the regular mid-size hatch offerings? The answer, especially in RS/RS-V spec is a resounding yes!

If you're in the market for a mid-sized family hatch, you should consider the Astra, if your budget allows it go for the RS-V, trust me it's worth it.

N.B. HSV take note, the new Astra is worthy of your attention, we'd like nothing better than to see them work their magic and turn it into a real hot hatch Aussie style. HSV producing a hot hatch that could soundly paste a VW GTI, that would be epic. Call it an Astra RS-R, go on do it!

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk: The school run...
Venturi 400 Trophy/400GT

Related Posts

Please login to comment
  • No comments found