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.
Key specs (as tested)
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