The flagship Holden Astra sedan could be the pick of the range, though it misses out on safety tech offered in the hatch.
The 2017 Holden Astra sedan is German-engineered, designed in North America, built in Korea, and Australian-tuned. Add to the fact it's badged as the Chevrolet Cruze in other markets, you'd think that it may have some form of an identity crisis.
While it shares its 'D2' underpinnings and 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine with the Polish-built Astra hatch, the sedan is a different car – it has its own look inside and out, and focuses more on comfort than sportiness, unlike its hatchback sibling.
Later this year, the Astra family will also welcome the more practical wagon to the range, which will be sourced from Vauxhall's factory just outside of Liverpool in the UK – bringing the current duo to a trio.
For this test, we have the top-spec LTZ sedan, which kicks off at $29,790 plus on-road costs. The Satin Steel Grey metallic paint on our tester adds $550, taking the as-tested price to $30,340 before on-roads.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a power tilt/slide moonroof, leather-appointed seats, climate control air-conditioning, heated front seats, push-button start, automatic parking assistant, LED daytime-running lights, an 8.0-inch MyLink infotainment system with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, along with automatic headlights and wipers.
Other kit like DAB+ digital radio, automatic high beam, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, forward collision warning, rear-view camera and rear parking sensors all feature, as does a rear lip spoiler and chrome exterior highlights.
In terms of its design, the sedan is very understated, almost generic. The Australian version gets a unique frontal treatment compared to the Chevrolet model offered overseas, which looks handsome, if a little boring.
Our LTZ tester's 18-inch alloys fill the wheel arches nicely, while the sloping roofline and short rear overhang give the sedan an almost coupe-like aesthetic.
Inside, the cabin's fit and finish is an improvement over the previous-generation Cruze, though it isn't quite up there with the Euro-sourced Astra hatch.
The dash and doors are finished with hard plastics, though there are more yielding surfaces in the form of leatherette highlights on the dash and inserts in the doors – which double up as elbow rests.
Gloss-black trim adorns the centre facia and gearshift surround, which add a nice contrast in conjunction with the blue stitching throughout the seats, dash and doors.
Lower down, though, the centre tunnel has harder, scratchy plastics that aren't as nice to touch, while also looking as if they'll be susceptible to marks.
In addition to the 8.0-inch central display, the driver is treated to a TFT information display between the analogue dials, which include digital speedo, trip computer and odometer functions.
The leather-trimmed steering wheel feels nice in the hand, though the rim may feel a little thin for some. Interestingly, instead of paddle-shifters, the Astra sedan has two-tier audio controls for skipping tracks on the left and volume on the right.
Other steering-mounted controls include buttons for the cruise control, along with lane keep assist, voice control and toggles for the driver's information display.
Speaking of displays, the 8.0-inch central unit is a great system, offering native satellite navigation along with smartphone mirroring technologies. It's a familiar system if you've spent time with other models in Holden's range, and is easy to navigate and responds quickly to inputs – no glitches or gripes to note.
Meanwhile, the leather-trimmed front seats are pretty comfy, offering good back and thigh support, which is great for longer journeys – which we will touch on later.
Hopping into the back, there's plenty of room even for taller passengers, with healthy amounts of leg- and headroom. Even behind my six-foot-one-ish driving position, there's plenty of space – it's comparable to vehicles in the class above.
There are no rear air vents, however, which may pose an issue during summer – particularly in lower grades that don't get the climate control air-conditioning of the LTZ variant.
A fold-down centre armrest in the middle seat reveals two cupholders, while an additional bottle holder resides in each door.
The area is nice and square, while the rear seats can be folded down to allow for longer items. Under the boot floor is a space-saver spare wheel.
For the driving component of this review, we took the Astra LTZ sedan on a roadtrip from Melbourne to Shepparton to attend a birthday party, which is a two-and-a-half hour drive each way.
Three passengers and all their overnight luggage were stuffed into the Astra's cabin and boot, and a long stint up and down the Hume Highway awaited.
All luggage and occupants were catered for with little fuss, with our non-car-journo passengers all impressed with the levels of space and comfort the Astra sedan offered despite its relatively small size.
What we were also looking to test was the Astra's long-distance comfort in terms of its seating, ride and noise suppression, along with the 1.4-litre engine's power and efficiency.
Speaking of the engine, all versions of the sedan are powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, pumping out 110kW of power at 6500rpm and 240Nm of torque at 2000 to 4000rpm. Drive is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
While those outputs seem modest, especially when compared to something like the similarly-priced 150kW/265Nm Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo, the Astra's relatively light 1318-kilogram kerb weight means it never feels underpowered. Holden claims the Astra sedan can sprint from 0-100km/h in 8.9 seconds. For those who like to tow, the Astra claims a maximum capacity of 1200 kilograms.
At 110km/h on the Hume, the little petrol unit was sitting at just over 2000rpm and barely audible in the cabin. That also meant that if any sort of incline or overtake needed to be dealt with, all 240 Newton meters were readily available the moment you pressed the accelerator – or not if you just let the cruise control do all the work.
It's quite the effortless cruiser, with little engine and wind noise heard in the cabin at any speed. However, the roar from the lower-profile 225/40 R18 tyres was pretty noticeable over coarser surfaces, but it was nothing our Spotify playlist couldn't address.
The Astra's seats proved to be superbly comfortable during our long stint to and from Shepparton, while the ride was great over the ever-changing surfaces and potholes scattered throughout the Hume and Goulburn Valley Highways – which is a credit to the extensive local engineering program the vehicle went through prior to its release.
All three passengers were impressed with the Astra's seats and ride, and also loved using Apple CarPlay – as they all drive older cars that lack the infotainment that we take for granted in new cars these days.
During our 452km journey to and from our destination, which included stints around town, the Astra sipped an indicated 6.5L/100km, though it did drop as low as 5.2L/100km. As a guide, Holden claims 6.1L/100km combined and 4.8L/100km for extra urban environments.
For real-world consumption, and adding to the fact we had the car filled with four adults and their luggage, it's quite frugal. We still had a little over a quarter of the 48-litre fuel tank left – which we filled to the brim shortly before heading off.
With that in mind, you could realistically achieve around 700 kilometres a tank if you do mostly highway driving, and 500-600km with mixed conditions.
Ownership-wise, the Astra sedan range is covered by Holden's three-year, 100,000km warranty with up to three years of roadside assistance – the latter provided you service your Astra at a Holden dealership.
While the warranty period is fairly average to the longer programs offered by the Korean marques, Holden does offer lifetime capped-price servicing, with scheduled maintenance required every nine months or 15,000km – whichever comes first.
For the first four visits (36 months/60,000km) services are priced at $249 a pop, while the following three (up to 63 months/105,000km) will set you back $309 each – taking the total cost over the first five or so years of ownership to $1923.
The Holden Astra sedan provides affordable, comfortable, fuss-free motoring – that alone will appeal to a lot of prospective buyers.
It offers more space and is cheaper than the equivalent Astra hatch, though the lack of high-end safety features like AEB and adaptive cruise control put dents in the armour of what is otherwise quite a solid offering.
While it may not be that engaging to drive, or knock your socks off with its interior presentation and technology suite, it's a very easy car to live with, it's economical, has a decent equipment list and sports a handsome design.
Is it the new class leader? No. Should you take one for a test drive? Absolutely.
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