2007 Holden Astra Twin Top Review
Recommended Retail Price: $45,490
Options Fitted: Automatic transmission - $2000.
- by Karl Peskett
I don’t get it. Why are these things called hairdresser’s cars, when no hairdresser would drive one?
I mean, if you really cared about your hair, driving with the top down would be the last thing you’d want to do. Chop the roof off your car, and instantly you have a whooshing, swirling, vortex of air that conspires to undo your ‘do as soon as you get above 20km/h.
And depending on which convertible you have, the advection can send an anemometer off the clock. So, you put the windows up. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Not in winter. Crank up the heater, whack on the bum-warmers, and away you go, with a hint of cool, just above your noggin.
But in summer, it’s sunburn city. Glasses and hat are mandatory, which takes me back to my first point. Which hairdresser is going to wear a hat? Hence, drop-tops are more a lifestyle choice. A way of getting about with the wind in your hair, admiring the scenery as you go by.
And for the week, we were handed the keys to the Holden Astra Twin Top, so we could experience this way of living. Seeing the Twin Top for the first time in the metal, it’s easy to fall for it.
The proportions are just right, with good looks, roof up, or down. Unlike competitor’s coupe-cabriolets, there’s a good balance between the cab and the boot. It doesn’t look awkward from any angle, like some kind of compromise had to be reached when it was decided the roof had to sink into the back somewhere.
The 17-inch wheels sit nicely at each corner with grippy 225/45 Continental Sport Contact2s ensuring the handling balance stays as neutral as possible, but it will understeer when really pushed. However, let’s put this car into context. We are talking a car built solely for looks. Back off, and just cruise.
Suspension is typically Euro-firm, but not overly so. Rebound damping from the rear could use a little bit of strengthening, as it oscillates a bit more than it should. This serves to unload the rear slightly, especially when braking hard around a corner, but I guess now we’re just being picky.
Criticism could be justifiably levelled at the engine, though. On light throttle applications, it’s reasonably quiet, and seems to match well with the four-speed auto. However as the revs rise, so does the noise and coarseness.
The gaps in the ratios then become blindingly obvious, as it struggles to accelerate. Kickdown is only achieved by busting your foot through the firewall, and even then it still doesn’t have enough pull.
The 2.2-litre engine makes 110kW and only 210Nm of torque, meaning shifting its 1620kg mass is an exercise in demonstrating patience. But once you get into the groove of cruising, all is good.
However fuel economy could be either be improved, or the 52-litre tank could be increased, so that visits to the servo aren’t as often as you blink your eyes.
Opening the very heavy doors (not ideal for tight parking spots) reveals a nicely built interior, with decent plastics, and robust (read: hard) leather. The seat heaters, and HVAC system work superbly, allowing for comfortable winter driving. Steering is accurate and weighted nicely too.
But the seats project your hips forward a little, meaning the ideal driving position doesn't quite occur naturally. And if you put the seat back further, you end up cutting of the circulation in the legs of anyone seated rearward.
Footroom in the back is adequate. Not so knee and legroom. You tend to sit with your legs splayed, but a short cruise along the coast somewhere wouldn't be too much of a stretch (pun intended).
With the roof up, creaks and groans from the roof-mechanism are audible, as the chassis tries to wobble its way free. To be fair, it's not the worst convertible for scuttle shake, but the bracing (which adds weight) hasn't halted vibrations.
The extra weight doesn't detract from its braking potential either, with firm, confident stops and good pedal feel. The typical Euro "good braking/bad brakedust" syndrome continues, with wheel and sill cleaning necessary every few days. But I guess that's the price you pay for safety.
Mention must be made of the indicators. Similar to the BMW M5 and M6, the action takes some getting used to. To explain: To turn corners, you push past the springy detent to, let's say, the left position. Once you've done that, and the indicators switch on, the stalk springs back to the home position.
That's fine when it self-cancels, but when you just want to change lanes and you've gone past the left-hand detent, you have to pull it down to the right-hand detent to switch it off. Confused? So am I.
Apart from that, the IDrive-like menu system is far too complex for daily use, and you end up giving up and just listening to the one CD, or one radio station. Surely there was no need to make it that difficult.
Plus the test car's glovebox kept opening when going over bumps, and the rear driver's side window lost its home position.
The problem with the Astra Twin Top is it's overpriced and underdone. It costs double what the base model Astra does, yet doesn't give you any surprise-and-delight features that (apart from a chopped-off roof) would make the extra spend worthwhile.
Yes, the roof mechanism is slick. Yes, it looks smart. But, no, it doesn't do it for me.