Joel Helmes road tests and reviews the 2015 Holden Astra.
The last time I drove a Holden Astra, I mean an Opel Astra, it was 2012 and while I’m scratching my head over where those three years went, I’m also still scratching my head about the Opel Australia experiment!
General Motors sank a fortune into trying to get Opel established here, then did a swift 180 degree turnaround and decided to can the project. Now we get Opel products with Holden badges and sold from Holden dealerships (which is how things were about ten years ago when the Astra was quite a popular model here).
As with the Opel Astra model that I drove in 2012, there are a couple of things about the current Opel/Holden Astra that disappoint me, though overall I reckon I enjoyed the three-door version I had this week more than the five-door hatch from three years ago.
The main reason for this is that the automatic transmission in the 2012 car managed to completely dull the 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol engine.
With a manual transmission, as with the test car I had this week, things are a lot more interesting. Sure, there is a stack of turbo-lag (that dull feeling when the revs are down and the turbocharger isn’t giving assistance), but keep the revs up and it’s actually quite an enjoyable car to drive.
The engine gives a respectable 147kW and 280Nm and this means it gets along quite well, especially if you take the engine out of ‘Eco’ mode.
Fuel consumption is listed at 6.9L/100km, though around town I averaged 9.3L/100km. An engine stop/start system features, no real complaints here in its function.
So, it goes pretty well, but how’s the rest of the drive experience? Actually, pretty darn good. The Holden Astra GTC ride is skewed towards sporty handling, though the ride is actually quite comfortable.
I liked the steering and the brakes too.
Inside the cabin, hmm there are a couple of things for you to take note of and test whether they will be an issue for you. First of all, I really think the centre control area is way too busy, complicated and distracting.
Thankfully it looks like the next-generation Holden Astra, which will be in Holden dealerships early next year, features a much more user-friendly interface.
There are three other issues, first of all, being a three-door hatch the front seat-belts are located a fair way behind the front seats on the B pillar and these can be really hard to get hold of. Secondly, the A pillars and low roofline combine to give you a terrible field of vision to the front ¾’s and even the left as you negotiate intersections.
There isn’t a reversing camera available anywhere in the 2015 Holden Astra range, even the flagship Astra VXR, and this means you are stuck with front and rear parking sensors. The only issue is that they are extremely sensitive, loud and neurotic!
For example, I had the parking sensors screaming at me because the car was detecting the median strip that I was stopped next to at a set of lights. Yes, you can turn them off at the push of a button but I reckon the parking sensors might just drive you a little crazy, they did with me.
I’m about a regular-sized Australian male and I was quite uncomfortable in the driver’s seat. Yes, you get an under-thigh extension and they are designed to be sporty, I just always felt there was not enough support for shoulders/upper back.
The Astra turning-circle is also nothing to write home about.
A few more positive points though for you; yes, you get the impressive MyLink infotainment system with sat-nav, the gauges are clear and attractive, access to the rear seat is actually pretty good (for a three-door hatch) and the Astra boasts an electronic handbrake (though it takes a but of getting used to with a manual transmission).
Five star safety is also a bonus and pricing, which starts from just $26,990, is super-sharp. Holden charges a $550 premium for three paint colours – Carbon Flash, Buzz Blue and Silver Lake.
Summing it up; The 2015 Holden Astra GTC drives extremely well (just keep the revs up), is a good looking offering and offers a sporty feel without breaking the bank or giving up ride quality.
The little quirks and imperfections, especially the seat-belt location, visibility issues and overly-sensitive parking sensors sadly take off the shine.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2015 Holden Astra GTC
Engine: 1.6 litre turbo-petrol producing 147kW and 280Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $26,990