- Sharp prices, strong value
- Great ride-handling balance
- Class-leading, peppy 1.4 turbo
- No AEB available at all
- Misses hatch's great 1.6 turbo
- LTZ wheels deteriorate the ride
Holden is a brand in transition. This Australian icon – think football, meat pies and Holden cars – has been something of a General Motors oddity in recent years. In the same showroom, you’ll find impressive locally-built models like the Commodore alongside fairly forgettable Asian models sourced from GM’s Korean arm and the odd Euro-built rebadged Opel, including the accomplished new Astra hatch. Mixed showroom, mixed reputation – but even as Holden has solidified arrangements for new European-built Astra and Commodore models, the product mix is going to keep changing. Local production shuts down in October and GM recently sold its European operations to Peugeot – so it’s really only the Korean plant that looks stable. So it’s appropriate that the newest car to wear the lion badge is the 2017 Holden Astra sedan – badged like the Euro hatch but built in South Korea, the four-door Astra needs to be the car to change perceptions that a Korean Holden means a subpar Holden.
Rebuilding faith in the Korean product is all part of a plan to re-establish Holden’s image in Australia – from local icon to full-line importer. It won’t be easy – especially with new European confusion that might see the new Astra and Commodore orphaned once Peugeot take over – but the backbone of the effort is Holden’s commitment to launch 24 new models by 2020. That’s a plan the brand recently affirmed, and the Astra sedan is one of those twenty-four.
It’s been over a decade since Holden last sold an Astra sedan – but that car, the ‘TS’ Astra that Opel built for Holden from 1998–2005 was highly successful. Opel no longer make a four-door Astra – hence why Holden had to look to GM Korea, who build a booted version on the hatch’s underpinnings. It’s supplied to the Americans as the Chevrolet Cruze. But the car is far from a reborn Cruze – thankfully, it’s far superior.
The new Astra sedan is equipped and priced attractively, and it arrives $1,000 cheaper than the Euro hatch, opening at $20,490 for a base LS with a manual. Standard inclusions look good: alloys, a 7-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring and automatic headlights mean the Astra is generous compared to a Toyota Corolla, or Mazda 3. The Astra’s standard 1.4-litre turbo also makes those rivals look fairly antique: the Holden feels quiet, sporty and polished.
Only the lack of autonomous emergency braking across the entire sedan lineup is a black mark in 2017 against a feature set that is otherwise hard to fault. Move up the range, though, and luxury inclusions like larger wheels, a sunroof, lane keep assist and forward collision warning fill out the Astra a little further.
On our first drive of the Astra sedan in northern New South Wales, we were keen to see whether the Astra sedan could hold a candle to the more expensively-built European hatch version. On first impressions, it can: the sedan is a good addition to the Holden lineup that should be a win with buyers.
As with all Holdens that are imported from other General Motors brands, the Astra sedan was locally tuned for our roads, and even immediately sitting in the driver’s seat, you can tell. The way the Astra sedan, especially on the smaller wheels of the LS model, rides is impressive.
The Astra sedan sits on the same Delta platform as the Astra hatchback, which was developed by General Motors’ European branch in Germany. The North American-focused version of the Delta platform underpins the Astra sedan, and is definitely softer and more comfort focussed than the Astra hatchback - not that the hatchback is uncomfortable in any way. Regardless, this slight softness is no bad thing as smaller sedans are typically associated with comfort compared to their hatchback equivalents.
Only on the LTZ with its 18-inch alloy wheels are smaller bumps felt in the cabin, and compared to the the Astra RS-V hatch on its same-sized wheels, the sedan can feel slightly more cumbersome and confused with changes in road surface. The LTZ also exhibits higher levels of road noise than lesser-wheeled variants - in our opinion, if you’re looking for the most dynamic Astra, the RS hatchback variant remains the best option, even in the small hatchback segment. The lesser Astra sedan variants drive better than the top-spec LTZ, which seems over-wheeled for its intended audience.
Of the Astra sedan, the entry-level LS remains the most dynamic companion. In the two days we attended the local launch, Byron Bay experienced its wettest month so far in 2017, with more than 240mm of rain falling in the days that we were there. As a result, many roads had turned to gravel and yet, the Astra sedan took it all in its stride, remaining confidence-inspiring and quiet the whole time. The car’s steering was tuned specifically for Australia and remains a high point - it’s not quite as sharp as the hatchback, but still offering good levels of feel and reasonable weighting as well. It’s a far more dynamic companion and rides better than its main rivals, especially the Toyota Corolla.
Only one engine option is available for the Astra sedan, which unfortunately misses out on the hatchback’s larger 1.6-litre turbo option. The same 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine produces 110kW of power and a strong 240-245Nm (manual - auto). Particularly pleasing is the engine’s low-down gutsiness, which ensures that there’s no need to rev it to get the most out of it.
A weight loss of over 120kg compared to the Cruze ensures that the Astra sedan feels relatively spritely in all situations, even with little to no revs on board. Holden claims a 0-100km/h sprint of around eight seconds, which feels about right and is certainly quicker than competitors.
The Astra sedan is available with two six-speed gearboxes - a manual that’s reserved for the entry-level LS and an automatic that features across the rest of the range. The manual is a fun experience, with a well-weighted clutch and long but precise throw ensuring that it remains the enthusiast’s pick of the range for now. The six-speed automatic is a fine gearbox as well - it’s clever in its operation and although it lacks the sports mode of the hatchback, it will still downshift whilst braking and its manual mode won’t upshift on the redline either, giving the driver almost full control.
With such a competent ride and handling balance, we can’t help but think that the lack of a 1.6-litre turbo model (as in the Astra hatchback) is a missed opportunity for the Astra brand and hopefully Holden is able to rectify this in the future, especially with the success of Mazda’s 3 SP25 models and the overall ability of the Hyundai Elantra SR.
Differences between the Astra hatch and Astra sedan are evident across the two cabins. While the two share elements such as windows and light controls, the sedan has a varied dashboard layout. The four-door is less stylish inside, but it’s more practical and pragmatic than the hatchback. Disappointingly, many of the hatch’s soft touch plastics are deleted about the cabin, with the seat trim instead being substituted in on the lower dashboard and door trims provide the only yielding materials in the cabin. A Mazda 3 certainly has a superior interior finish, especially in high-spec models.
Despite driving pre-production examples that had some loose trim on the lower console (such issues shouldn’t carry over to production models), the Astra sedan’s cabin is well built, overall. Everything is solid, and feels like it could last many years of abuse. We’re also pleased with the seat trims Holden have selected for the Astra sedan: lower models get attractive cloth, while the LTZ picks up higher-quality leather.
Central to the Astra sedan’s interior is a seven-inch touchscreen which features high-resolution graphics as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. Unlike the Mazda 3, a reversing camera is standard across the Astra range. Once on the move, the screen is easy to use with large icons and simple menu instructions. LT and LTZ models have a larger eight-inch screen with DAB+ digital radio and integrated satellite navigation, though those who buy the LS and LS+ shouldn’t feel short changed with their smaller screen: it’s still one of the best in the small car class.
It’s comfortable in both front and back. Despite a lack of lumbar or electric adjustment in any grade, the front seats are supportive enough for longer road-trips while providing good lateral support in harder cornering. Some under-thigh angle adjustment would be appreciated, however, and the top-spec LTZ should really have full-electric adjustment as a Mazda 3 SP25 GT does. The driving position, though, is spot on. A wide range of reach and rake steering wheel adjustment, good pedal positioning for heel and toe-ing in the manual and great visibility allows drivers of all sizes to get comfortable. Only the sleek A-pillars can impede forward vision slightly.
Although not a usual point that motoring journalists touch on, of particular note were how good the Astra sedan’s windscreen wipers are. The rain barely stopped for the entire launch, and the wipers continued the whole time without fuss. Like the Ford Focus, they use a butterfly pattern - which means more efficient wiping, a greater area of the screen being covered and easier transferring for left- and right-hand drive markets.
The clearest difference most people will find between the Astra hatch and sedan – despite both sitting on GM’s Delta platform – is practicality. Dimensionally, the Astra sedan is quite a bit larger than the five-door: the sedan looks almost medium-sized from outside.
Inside, the Astra sedan is easily one of the most spacious and practical competitors in the small sedan segment - and naturally it’s roomier than the Astra hatchback. The front seat is spacious, with ample space in all directions for front occupants. There’s also reasonable storage as well, with large unlined door bins, three centre cupholders, an adjustable centre armrest with a reasonable centre box, a large glovebox and a tray in front of the gearbox which houses the car’s USB, AUX and 12V sockets.
Sitting behind my six-foot self, there is more than ample room in the sedan - great legroom, good headroom and even good footroom as well, something that cannot be said of the hatchback. The sedan also includes a rear centre armrest with two cupholders across the range, as well as large door bins and a 12V socket on the rear of the centre console - both features are unavailable across the whole hatchback range. But like the hatchback, there are no rear air vents.
The Astra sedan’s boot is also much more useful than the hatchback, with 445-litres of available space. Despite using space-robbing gooseneck hinge arms, the opening is wide and the available space is square and flat. Clever touches absent from the Mazda 3 are included with the Astra sedan, such as a shopping bag hook and bottle holder. Despite a reasonably high load lip, the Astra sedan’s boot remains one of the largest and most practical in the class - if that’s not enough, the rear seats split-fold to create even more space.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
Holden Astra sedan service costs
Holden are heavily promoting their enhanced after-sales care program, which includes an average three-year/100,000km warranty and lifetime capped-price servicing for all Holden models.
The Astra sedan falls about average in servicing requirements, with a long 15,000km distance interval, but a less impressive nine-monthly time interval. Despite more frequent visits than the Hyundai Elantra, over 60,000km and four years, the Astra sedan costs just $916 or $229 per service. A Hyundai Elantra, despite having more convenient yearly/15,000km service intervals, costs $1,136 over the same four-year period.
Holden Astra sedan fuel economy
Holden claims an average of 5.8L/100km for the LS manual, and 6.1L/100km for automatic variants, which puts it just above the Mazda 3 but less thirsty than the Hyundai Elantra, both with 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engines.
On the Astra launch we saw numbers as low as 6.8L/100km whilst driving them hard. The Astra will run comfortably on 91-RON fuel as well, aiding spending at the fuel pump further.
Holden Astra depreciation
Glass’ Guide predicts that the Astra sedan will depreciate at the same rate as its hatchback sibling, with a 55.6% predicted resale rating over three years and 40,000km (the average Australian driving distance), or about $13,100 for the $22,740 Astra LS+. This compares well to the Hyundai Elantra Active, which will retain only 50.2% or about $12,300 of its original value after the same distance, but just below the Mazda 3 Maxx, which will retain 57% or $14,200 of its original value.
The Astra sedan presents good running costs for the class. Its servicing, whilst on shorter intervals, is almost the least expensive in class and both fuel economy and depreciation are sound compared with rivals.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Astra sedan is priced sharply across the various grades, with a long equipment list on all grades surpassing most competitors.
The $20,490 LS opener is priced like a Mazda 3 Neo but aside from AEB, the Holden includes significantly more equipment, including 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, six airbags and stability control, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, a high-resolution rear-view camera, light and rain-activated automatic headlights, a rear foglamp, as well as the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual. A six-speed auto is another $1,000.
Stepping up to the $22,740 LS+ adds safety tech, including the Holden Eye forward-facing camera from the hatch with lane keep assist, forward collision alert and a forward distance indicator. You also get niceties like a leather-wrapped steering wheel and projector-beam headlights with LED daytime running lights.
The $25,790 LT is the sweet spot of the range, with larger 17-inch alloy wheels, remote start, blind-spot monitoring, keyless entry and start, automatic parking, rain-sensing wipers and a larger eight-inch touchscreen with inbuilt satellite navigation and DAB+ digital radio.
The top-shelf $29,790 Astra LTZ has everything that Holden could throw at it. Included on the LTZ are 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic high beam headlamps, single-zone climate control, an electric sunroof, leather trim, heated front seats and heated mirrors.
Metallic paint - any hue that isn’t white or red - is $550 across the Astra sedan range.
While the Astra sedan strikes a good balance between price and standard equipment, there are some equipment oversights that opting for an Astra hatchback fixes. Autonomous emergency braking - which is standard on the Mazda 3 and available on the Toyota Corolla – is disappointingly not available on the Astra sedan; nor is adaptive cruise control.
Equipment such as the adaptive Matrix LED headlamps, electric lumbar adjustment for front seat occupants, dual-zone climate control and electric-folding mirrors from the hatchback also remain unavailable. Granted, the Astra hatchback is European-sourced and more expensive, but buyers will surely question why the Astra hatchback has more available equipment, especially at the higher-end of the range.
Holden are targeting three main rivals with the Astra sedan - the much-improved Hyundai Elantra, as well as the ever popular Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla.
The Hyundai Elantra (from $21,490) strikes hard with its long equipment list, great value for money and in this generation, significantly better driving dynamics that were, like the Astra sedan, Australian tuned. The Elantra remains an option that you’d certainly buy with your head but perhaps not your heart.
Mazda 3 sedan
The Mazda 3 (from $20,490) includes more available active safety across its very wide range and unlike the Astra sedan, is available with a more powerful engine variant though is starting to look and feel dated in this generation, with higher-than-average road noise levels and lesser 10,000km service intervals.
Toyota Corolla sedan
The Toyota Corolla sedan (from $21,240) utilises a dated 1.8-litre four and available CVT automatic combination, with inferior drivability and performance compared to the Astra’s turbo four combination. Six-monthly servicing is the only negative of the ownership experience, with good fuel economy and the usual fantastic Toyota resale value.
|Power||110kW at 6,500rpm|
|Torque||240Nm at 2,000–4,000rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||85.6kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||6.1L/100km|
|Fuel capacity||48 litres|
|Average range||787 kilometres|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||Front wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Unoccupied weight||1,285 kilograms|
|Cargo space (seats up)||445 litres|
|Cargo space (seats down)||Not listed|