From 1996 the Astra was imported from the Opel in Europe but rebadged as a Holden. Holden Astra was sold as the AH Series from November 2004 until 2009. However, Holden chose to sell low-cost models of the otherwise-superseded TS series when the AH series was introduced. These had the title of Astra Classic.
A major makeover of the AH in March 2007 saw a facelift and improved engine performance. Then came the start of some marketing mistakes. The Astra AH models discontinued in 2010 to be replaced by cheaper Korean cars.
Australians weren’t impressed by the dynamics of the Koreans so the Astra made a welcome return in September 2012. Except that this time the Astra had Opel badges not Holden ones. The idea was to give Astra a more upmarket image – and sell it for higher prices.
The marketing exercise was a disaster and Opel Astra was pulled out of the Australian market less than a year later.
Astra returned in May 2015, with Holden badges again. However, what we got was the tail end of the Astra PJ Series, a model that had been sold on other markets for several years.
The virtually all-new Astra BK Series was launched in November 2016. Most are sourced from Europe (including the UK), but the sedan is produced in Korea. However, the sedan has suspension design from Germany, with the Aussies having a say in things, and build quality is much better than in the early days of Korean cars.
The new BK Astra is thoroughly up to date car both in technology and in driving dynamics. These are starting to appear on the secondhand market in relatively large numbers and are the ones to aim for if you’re budget is up to one.
As you expect from a European designed car, Astras offer excellent dynamic performance making them a delight to drive. Keen drivers looking for a small-medium family car love them. Interior room is fine for two adults and three children, four adults can be transported but there may have to be juggling on legroom front to rear.
Most Astras are five-door hatches but there are also three-door hatchbacks, four-door sedans and five-door wagons, even an Astra convertible. The latter was sold from 2002 until the end 2010. Convertibles from March 2007 were an all-new design and were given the tag of TwinTop due to the way the roof folded in two sections.
Sporting models include the Astra SRi Turbo, launched in the middle of 2003. It was withdrawn a year later only to make a return in 2006. A lower cost SRi (without the turbo engine) was introduced as part of the 2007 upgrade of the complete range. The sports model in the PJ Series is the GTC, it’s a real hotshot with 206 kW of power.
The great majority of Astras use four-cylinder petrol engines with capacities ranging from 1.6, through 1.8 to 2.0 litres.
An Astra turbo-diesel engine was sold from June 2006 until 2008. Some of these may not have been sold new till 2009. These days turbo-diesel engines are fading from favour, so may be able to pick one up at a good price. Just check it has a good service record as diesels can be more temperamental than petrols if not maintained strictly by the book.
Underbonnet accessibility in Astras is generally good and the car is relatively easy to work on. As always, some parts should not be repaired by a home mechanic.
There are Holden dealers in just about every corner of Australia, but some in more remote areas may not carry all parts for the Astra, so you may have to wait a day or so for them to be delivered. As an apology for the Opel fiasco Holden dealers also stock part for them.
Spare parts prices, in both Holden and Opel terms, are about average for this class.
Insurance rates are pretty reasonable when you consider that the Astra is a fully-imported European car. Get quotes in advance for the sporting variants, particularly the Turbo, as insurance costs can be substantially higher.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
There can be quality control niggles in the older cars, so have a professional look over the car to find out its exact condition.
Try to test the engine when it’s cold after an overnight stop. Start it up and make sure the oil-pressure light goes out promptly. At the same time listen for any rattling and feel for unevenness in the engine’s idle.
Accelerate the car hard after the engine is warm and feel for any hesitation under acceleration. Look for a puff of smoke from the exhaust at the same time.
If you suspect a turbocharged engine has been driven hard get it looked over by an expert.
Check for crash damage and previous body repairs. Looking at the finish of the paint, as well as for overspray on unpainted parts is often the best way to start.
Look over the cabin for seats, dashboard, door trim and carpets to make sure the car hasn’t been mistreated. Check the boot as well.
When braking hard the car shouldn’t pull to one side or the other and no one wheel should lock before the others. ABS, if fitted, will cause a vibration through the pedal as it operates.
Check for any tyres with uneven wear, particularly those at the front as they do the bulk of the work.
Expect to pay from $2000 to $35000 for a 2004 Holden Astra CDX; $4000 to $7000 for a 2005 Holden Astra Convertible; $6500 to $10,000 for a 2008 Holden Astra Twin Top; $7000 to $11,000 for a 2012 Opel Astra GTC; $9000 to $13,000 for a 2013 Opel Astra Sports Tourer; $11,000 to $17,000 for a 2013 Opel Astra CDTi; $14,000 to $20,000 for a 2015 Holden Astra GTC; $16,000 to $23,000 for a 2015 Holden AstraVXR; and $19,000 to $27,000 for 2017 Holden Astra VXR.
CAR BUYING TIP
Line up your insurance and finance in advance of looking seriously at used cars so that you don’t get up-sold on these items from the sales folks.