Holden is playing a game of Celebrity Heads with its newest Astra sedan. For Australia this new small sedan will become a part of the Astra family, but elsewhere in the world it will sell as the second-generation Chevrolet Cruze.
Holden has decided to abandon the Cruze name locally, hoping the stronger Astra badge recognition will give the new four-door a boost in the showroom - much in the same way Toyota applies the Corolla tag to fairly different sedan and hatch styles.
Where the five-door Astra is positioned as something a little bit sporty, Holden has decided that a more comfort-biased approach is right for the sedan without scrimping on comfort and technology.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $20,490-$29,790 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 110kW/240Nm (245Nm manual) 1.4-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp manual, 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.8 l/100km man, 6.1 l/100km auto| Tested: 6.9 l/100km man, 8.2 l/100km auto
Like the hatch, the 2017 Holden Astra sedan comes in a four-model range, but the variant names and specifications are a little different to the hatch. Those differences come down to where the sedan is made, unlike the European-sourced five-door the sedan comes from Korea, leading to a few important differences.
The biggest change is a lack of autonomous emergency braking for the sedan on any variant, something deemed too difficult to add for Australia, which was the only market that showed an interest in the tech. There’s also no 1.6-litre turbo engine option like the hatch, with the sedan sticking to the still-decent but less powerful 1.4-litre engine from the base model hatch.
The most obvious change is the styling. There are no visible panels shared with the hatch, and the dash design is also unique though still familiar with the same infotainment system used. There’s more space inside too, thanks to a slightly longer wheelbase.
The range opens with the entry-level LS with a of six-speed manual from $20,490 plus on-roads or an introductory $21,990 driveaway sticker while the six speed auto is priced from $21,490 plus on-roads or $23,990 driveaway. With auto-only LS+, LT and LTZ adding extra safety features and stepping-up equipment throughout, the range tops out with the still-reasonable LTZ at $29,790 plus on-road costs.
- LS: Cloth trim, manual air conditioning, urethane steering wheel, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel controls, remote central locking, auto headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels
- LS+: Leather steering wheel, LED running lights
- LT: Keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, leather-trimmed steering wheel 17-inch alloy wheels
- LTZ: Partial leather seat trim, heated mirrors, powered sunroof, 18-inch alloy wheels.
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Six-speaker audio, LT and LTZ add an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and DAB+ digital radio
- Cargo Volume: 445 litres, expandable via 60:40 folding rear seat
On the inside the Astra sedan really portrays itself as something different to the hatch. Where the hatch features a sophisticated looking interior, with Euro-style soft-touch plastics and a sporty instrument cluster, the sedan uses hard plastic on the dash and doors, and a busy-looking wave-form dash with lots of chrome splashed about inside.
The design is pure Chevrolet. And, as a result, the sedan has more in common with cars like the Holden Colorado and the outgoing Commodore than it does with hatch. Like the previous Cruze, the Astra sedan features fabric dash inserts (leather-look on LTZ) as something of a visual standout.
Unfortunately first-impressions weren’t good with drastically variable build quality between cars, in particular where the dash meets the console with some cars fitting tightly and others showing a yawning gap between panels.
Ergonomically, the interior works well as everything falls within easy reach of the driver while the high-set MyLink infotainment system is the same as other members of the Holden family and is clear and easy to use. All Astra sedans come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity too with a 7.0-inch touchscreen on the LS and LS+ or 8.0-inches on LT and LTZ.
The interior feels decently roomy for the small car class, although tall drivers may find the front seats a little on the petite side. Certainly in the rear the Astra sedan is more spacious than the hatch.
Standard kit for the LS includes auto headlights, cloth trim, manual air con, steering wheel audio and cruise controls and 16-inch alloy wheels. The LS+ adds a leather steering wheel and LED running lights.
The mid-grade LT plumps up with keyless entry and start, self-parking technology, rain-sensing wipers, standard satellite navigation and 17-inch alloys. Go for the top-of-the-range LTZ and heated leather seats, a sunroof, heated mirrors and 18-inch alloys join the list.
Interior storage space isn’t as useful as it should be. There’s some room at the base of the centre stack, right where you plug your phone in for access to CarPlay or Android Auto but the space itself isn’t big enough to securely store a phone. The console’s not as big as it should be either, but at least the boot is a big one at 445 litres.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: Turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol, 110kW @6500rpm, 240Nm (245Nm manual) @2000-4000rpm
- Transmission: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, ‘compound crank’ torsion mean rear
- Brakes: 276mm ventilated front discs, 264mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Eectric power steering, 11.9m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1200kg braked, 750Nm unbraked
Under the bonnet the Astra sedan shares its 1.4-litre turbo engine with the Astra R hatch. Rated at 110kW its power output is around the small car class-average, but with 245Nm (or 240Nm for the manual) it’s a little stronger than most competitors for pulling power..
Although it may not be built in Australia like the last generation Cruze was, Holden has been able to tailor the Astra sedan to local conditions, setting up a specific steering and suspension tune, and even offering some input into the setup of the automatic transmission.
To prove a point, Holden introduced Australia’s motoring media to the Astra sedan on some less than flattering roads in Northern NSW, still scarred from recent storm damage and as far from smooth as you’re likely to find - an ideal representation of what real motorists are likely to encounter.
Despite the rough roads, the Astra sedan kept its composure with only the very biggest thumps and bumps working their way into the cabin. The ride has been set to a comfort biased setting, but the steering has a more agile setup which works well, feeling alert without being too nervous.
Holden benchmarked the control of the Cruze SRi-V and the ride comfort of the Calais when engineering the Astra sedan’s ride characteristics, and on the base-model LS with 16-inch wheels it has done a great job.
The larger 18-inch wheel package of the LTZ on the other hand transfers more of what the road surface is like. Hardly uncomfortable, but less composed when the going gets rough.
Refinement is surprisingly high. The 1.4-litre engine runs at low speeds in near-silence, but if you push it there’s a rise in engine noise. It’s faintly thrashy rather than all-out noise though and surprisingly refined where cars like the Corolla and Elantra still lack composure.
Tyre noise isn’t so well suppressed, and it varies a little as depending on the fitment of 16-, 17-, or 18-inch wheels. Part of that may come down the rough-shod roads of the launch route, and part may be due to the otherwise serene cabin making tyre roar more noticeable, but we’ll investigate further with a longer drive in the future.
The corporate decision (one that’s out of Holden’s hands) to stick with a traditional six-speed auto instead of a CVT is also a good one as the transmission is smooth and can comfortably deals with stop-start traffic crawls, but out of town it can feel lazy, often being reluctant to downshift for a burst of speed.
The six-speed manual available in the Astra LS is only expected to sell in small numbers as manual small cars fall off the buyer radar, but with a solid shift that isn't too heavy, and an easy-as-pie clutch action, the six-speed manual is a decent option.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Holden Astra Sedan scored 34.94 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2017. This rating applies to the sedan only with the hatch rated separately.
Safety Features: All Astra sedans come equipped with six airbags, electronic stability and traction control, rear park sensors and a rearview camera, The LS+ adds Holden Eya camera-based safety systems including lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and forward collision alert.
The LT and LTZ also add blind spot monitoring, and automated self-parking. Unlike the Astra hatch, the Astra sedan is not available with autonomous emergency braking on any variant, either standard or as an option.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years: 100,000km
Servicing: Holden will offer capped-price servicing on the Astra sedan range for the life of the vehicle, with intervals set every nine months or 15,000km (whichever comes first). Your Holden dealer can explain pricing, terms and conditions of the program.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Holden has resisted the urge to pack the Astra sedan full of wow factor that doesn’t hold up over the long term. This is a car that’s deliberately conservative, giving the brand a two-pronged small car approach with the sporty Euro hatch and a more comfy and subtle sedan.
Certainly the work done to tune the ride and handling for Australian conditions is top-notch, making the Astra sedan ride like a traditional large car. The refinement is where it needs to be too, which apart from some tyre noise, sees the engine operate at barely above a whisper.
The biggest omission, obviously, is the lack of autonomous emergency braking, something Holden has at least attempted to address with its other safety systems for all but the base model.
Small sedans never quite share the success of their hatch counterparts in Australia, but at least Holden has its bases covered for fans of either body style. While the Astra sedan may not have the flair of the hatch, its space, comfort, and infotainment spec should keep most buyers happy.
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