Holden is having a big year. It started with the launch of the new Spark, then the Astra Hatch, followed closely by a new member to the Astra family, the Sedan.
The new Astra Sedan, which replaces the formerly Australian-built Cruze, has had a serious update and rebrand as part of the company's new strategy to have a more uniform look and experience across its vehicles.
Externally the sedan is sleek and streamlined, with a sporty look that by far surpasses its more staid-looking predecessor. It's easy to imagine yourself behind the wheel, cruising the highways and travelling long distances in comfort.
With a range from a manual base model LS to a top-of-the-line LTZ auto, this car has been built with touring in mind. The suspension and steering have been tuned for Australia's unique road surfaces and while the hatch is a more sporty drive, this one is smooth as silk.
We certainly had a chance to try out the suspension and steering during our launch drive from Coolangatta to Byron Bay via the spectacular hinterland both sides of the Queensland/New South Wales border. This area had seen large rainfalls in the preceding weeks and the roads were washed away in places, with deep potholes and cracks in others. The Astra handled these quite smoothly, all things considered, and I felt very comfortable and in control as we wound our way through the forests and sugar cane fields. On the highway, the drive was altogether different, with very little to do but test out the technology that has been added to the new vehicle.
Holden has incorporated several new features across the range, including automatic headlights, reversing camera and sensors, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a 7" colour touch screen in the LS, which is available in both six-speed manual and auto. However, if possible I'd stretch to the LS+ auto, which adds "Holden Eye" technology such as forward collision alert and forward distance indicator, as well as lane keep assist/lane departure warning, leather steering wheel, LED DRLs and auto high beam assist for an extra $1350 (RRP) on the LS auto.
Hopping into the top-of-the-range LTZ, it was easy to see where the money has been spent. You can add passive entry/push start, electric sunroof, forward collision alert, side blind spot alert, rain-sensing wipers, heated leather seats, advanced park assist and heated outside mirrors to the already extensive list. You also get a larger 8" touch screen and 18" alloy wheels.
Holden has also incorporated most of the technology controls on the steering wheel and column, and combined with a central display instrument cluster giving you a range of details such as following distance, fuel economy and safety warnings in the higher-spec models, it is a much safer prospect than fiddling with controls in the centre dashboard.
The sedan received a 5-star ANCAP safety rating late last month, in spite of the lack of autonomous emergency breaking (AEB) across the range. ANCAP is upgrading its safety requirements next year, and it will not be possible for new models to achieve a 5-star rating without an effective AEB system fitted as standard, so this is something Holden will need to consider in its next upgrade if it is to maintain its top safety rating.
Unlike the German-built hatchback, which has a choice of 1.4 or 1.6L turbo engines depending on the spec, the entire sedan range is fitted with the 1.4L four-cylinder turbo engine, producing 110kW and 245Nm MT 240Nm AT. This healthy torque output led to consistent performance during our drive, with a pleasing response when planting the foot in uphill sections. Combined fuel economy on the official cycle is listed as 5.8L/100km for the manual and 6.1L/100km for the auto. Holden has introduced lifetime capped price servicing across the range, adding value to an already competitive proposition.
Launching with pricing from $21,990 drive away, this car is sure to prove popular with those perhaps looking to downsize from a larger sedan, or try a different style of vehicle on for size.
The Astra family will also get a new member later this year with the introduction of a Sportwagon. It will be very interesting to drive all three family members on Tassie's challenging roads to compare.
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