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by Matt Campbell

The all-new 2017 Holden Astra has received a five-star ANCAP safety rating – but only for the top two versions in the range.

The Holden Astra RS and RSV get Holden Eye autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard, as well as lane-keeping assistance, forward distance indicator and forward collision alert. But the base model R misses out on that tech.

That means the Astra R doesn’t attract the same five-star ANCAP rating that has been awarded to the higher-spec models. But Holden wants to assure potential purchasers that the stuff that matters – the passive safety kit that will only be called upon in the event of an accident, such as the safety structure and the six airbags (dual front, front side and full-length curtain) – ensures that the new Astra boasts a high safety standard.

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Ian Butler, director of vehicle performance Holden engineering, said that the cars may not all be classified as five-star performers, but that the essential safety kit is there.

“The simple way to say it would be – if a customer is looking at an R model, it is identical to the models that are tested in terms of its passive performance. So if being protected in a crash is important to you, you’re getting effectively the same car,” Butler said.

“The R model – all the passive equipment is identical,” he said. “We’ve got a rating that applies to more than half the model line-up, and the base car has got all the same passive content. So we weren’t that hung up on it.

“Euro NCAP and ANCAP are converging from now to 2018. So at the moment in the transition from 2015 to 2018 you have two choices when you want to get your car rated: you go the Euro NCAP pathway and you can re-use all of their data provided the car is the same; or you can go the Australian NCAP pathway, test it for local compliance, then you’ve got to do all that physical testing.

“Our plan here was to go the Euro NCAP pathway. Because the car that was tested had the features and content of the RS and the RSV, the result that we get we can only apply to the RS and the RSV,” he said.

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“The way Euro NCAP worked when they did the Astra is that if you are offering that content at more than 50 per cent penetration, you would get a single rating for the car, because more than half the product line-up had that. That was the data we had to work with. Being rigorous, ANCAP is obviously applying that to the cars that are an exact match spec-wise.

“The alternative is going the ANCAP pathway, which is a lot of extra testing and because all the tests still aren’t converged – they’re still slightly different – so you’d have to do them all again. So it’s quite an expensive proposition, and when you’re launching 24 new models before 2020, where we can follow the Euro NCAP pathway and get a pretty compelling result, we just do that.

GM Holden director of communications, Sean Poppitt, indicated that equipment isn’t everything.

“AEB is a really important piece of technology, there’s no doubt about it. But it is definitely the shiny, happy toy that everyone kind of looks at at the moment. It’s the thing that everyone looks at,” he said.

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Holden staffers directly referenced the fact that the Mazda 3, one of its chief competitors, has AEB as standard in the base model Neo, but misses out on a rear-view camera in that spec. Further, the Volkswagen Golf – another car called out by Holden executives as a key rival vehicle – only offers the tech as an option on all but the entry-level variant as part of the Driver Assistance package.

The brand will add an optional pack to the Astra R, which will be available from March next year.

That pack will cost $1000, and will see the addition of AEB, lane-keeping assistance with active steering input, forward collision warning, forward distance indicator, and – weirdly – a heated steering wheel. That means it will push the price of the Astra R base model manual to $22,990 and the R auto to $25,190, well above competitors in the class.

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