Holden_Astra_frontIt’s no secret that when it comes to performance and low fuel consumption and emissions in cars, weight is the enemy. So it was with the development of the new Holden Astra hatchback, which is an impressive 140 kg lighter than the previous model, despite the take-up of more kit.

Australia took the Astra into its heart when first launched here in 1996. Since then, motorists’ feelings for the small Holden, with its European looks and dynamics have not waned.

Designers and engineers were given a clean sheet by Opel / Vauxhall vice-president – design Mark Adams, with the challenge to come up with a vehicle that exhibits the sleek, “sculptural artistry meets German precision” design philosophy introduced in the stunning Monza concept in 2013.

Holden engineers were involved in the Astra program from the word ‘go’, identifying what Australian customers expect from their vehicles. Their input resulted in a unique Australian chassis tune.


Astra has collected a variety of awards in Europe and UK, including 2016 European Car of the Year and the Golden Steering Wheel. Six variants are up for grabs Down Under powered by a 1.4-litre or 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Prices start at $21,990, plus on road costs, for the 1.4-litre turbo R manual and top out at $33,190 for the 1.6-litre turbo RS-V automatic.

On test was the RS-V six-speed manual.

Holden recently announced that the Astra sedan, based on the US-designed Chevrolet Cruze, with key local input, will be launched in Australia in May.

European styling, with clean, flowing lines, a ‘floating’ roof, interesting treatment of the C-pillars, and reduction in length and height ensure a lean, streamlined body.

A sporty front fascia and grille that blends seamlessly with the front LED headlamp design, give Astra an unmistakable road presence.


Despite a trimmed-down exterior, inside the cabin there is increased rear-seat legroom. A contemporary cockpit design adds to the stylish interior decor.

Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 8-inch high-resolution colour touch-screen display integrates the latest smartphone technology via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Full iPod integration includes Sri Eyes Free, while satellite navigation incorporates full colour maps with live traffic updates, traffic management control and points of interest. DAB+ digital radio and colour digital instrument display bring up the rear in a comprehensive list of equipment.

Thanks to turbocharging the 1.6-litre four-cylinder Ecotec direct injection engine puts out maximum power of 147 kW between 4750 and 6000 rpm and top torque of 300 Nm all the way from1650 to 5000 revs

Mated with a six-speed manual transmission, on 95 RON petrol, combined fuel cycle economy is put at 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres, with carbon dioxide emissions 149 grams per kilometre.

Technology plays no small part in safety with the new Astra hatch, with rear-view camera standard across the range. Up front there is also technology keeping an eye on things with Holden Eye forward facing camera making possible key features such as Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist and Automatic Emergency Braking. All aimed at avoiding or at least reducing the effects of crashes. Blind Spot Alert completes the list.

The Astra hatchback carries Holden’s (Opel’s) small car hopes at a steady pace without producing the performance edge of some of its rivals. The cabin is comfortable, added rear-seat leg room being a welcome addition. Flat seats are on the firm side.

The 8-inch full colour touch screen is at a comfortable height too to avoid the driver’s attention being taken off the road for too long. Brightly lit, operation of the screen to access information is not stressful as with some systems.

A marvellously minimalist sat nav map is easy to follow, with info limited to vital facts such as street names in clear print – no cluttering the screen with little-used info.

Acceleration is no great shakes off the mark but the 300 Nm of torque on tap over a wide rev range makes for confidence when overtaking.

Thanks to Aussie input, there is little to unsettle the car in normal day-to-day driving conditions. Pushing it harder still makes for plenty of confidence.

The real bonus under the bonnet is fuel economy, which on the test vehicle turned out a skinny 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres in town traffic and a positively frugal 4.5 on a motorway run, which really illustrates the advantages of saving weight.

With the new Astra, Holden is half way to delivering 24 new models by the end of 2020, replacing or refreshing every example in its vehicle line-up. In an increasingly congested small passenger car market the Astra is certainly good enough to make its mark.


1.4L turbo R: $21,990 (manual), $24,190 (automatic)
1.6L turbo RS: $26,490 (manual), $28,690 (automatic)
1.6L turbo RS-V: $30,990(manual), $33,190 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local GM Holden dealer for drive-away prices.

Two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels
LED tail lamps
Remote start
Adaptive Cruise control
Heated leather appointed sports seats
Leather, heated steering wheel
Rear view camera
Leather steering wheel
Heated wing mirrors
Advanced park assist (auto parallel and perpendicular reverse park)
Front park assist
Holden Eye forward facing camera
Automatic Emergency Braking
Lane Keep Assist
Forward Distance Indicator and Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning
Blind Spot Alert
Rain sensing wipers
Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 8-inch high-resolution colour touch-screen display
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone projection
DAB+ digital radio
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

SPECIFICATIONS (Holden Astra RS-V 1.6-litre Ecotec turbo-petrol five-door hatchback)

Capacity: 1.598 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 147 kW @ 4750-6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 300 Nm @ 1650-5000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 95 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.5 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 149 g/km

DRIVELINE: Six-speed manual

Length: 4386 mm
Wheelbase: 2662 mm
Width: 1809 mm
Height: 1003 mm
Turning Circle: 10.9 metres
Kerb Mass: 1344 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 48 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Disc

Five years / 100,000 km

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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