Holden's 2020 Astra R - the last of its kind - surprises in many ways, and provides plenty of value for those in the market for a budget hatchback. Concerns over the longevity of support for these vehicles will undoubtedly rank front and centre for buyers of this car, but there will always be some kind of sacrifice at this price-point.
I've owned this car for the better part of a month now, and as you would expect from a new vehicle, things have been running like clockwork. Although I'm unable to comment on the mechanical reliability of this car over the long term, I've still got plenty to say about every other aspect of this vehicle.
Given its base model 1.4-litre turbo 4-cylinder, I wasn't expecting much out of the Astra when I first took it for a drive. However, I was pleasantly surprised by its responsiveness, agility and appropriate power. Having taken the car through both flat city, highway, and more hilly terrain, I've never felt that the car's 110kW figure was under-powered, and am pleased to report that it doesn't feel like the car is struggling to keep up.
On the same note, handling and braking performance are great as well. Having transitioned only now from an older car with much less stopping power, the first time I tapped the brake pedal I pulled up about five metres before the lights! Granted, this is a feature shared by virtually all cars with four-wheel disc brakes, but it warrants a mentioning at the very least.
Matched with this is a light body with above average handling, making it great fun to take corners with. The six-speed auto changes gears as you might expect, and works fine – leading to a fuel consumption figure ranging anywhere from 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres to 7.5L/100km. Ride comfort and cabin noise are also better than expected. It feels like a larger car than it is (which is a good thing), and it’s smooth to drive even on lower quality roads.
When it comes to the styling of the vehicle – both interior and exterior – it is definitely more quaint then other cars in its class. It is much less muscular and angry-looking then something like the Honda Civic and is more akin to the Impreza Hatch in terms of looks. There is also a noticeable lack of continuity between front and rear styling. Still, the car is by no means ugly, either.
Moving inside, the cabin is simple, comfortable and utilitarian. I really do appreciate the dash and centre console setup. All of the buttons, switches and knobs are simple to understand and have a proper purpose. It’s refreshing to sit in a car that doesn’t feel like I’m Captain Kirk in the Starship Enterprise. Everything has a job and does it; No complaints.
Android Auto also works great (when it does), although I have had connectivity issues on occasion. I love the ‘Knight Rider’ feeling of telling my car to do things like navigate or play music. Believe me, the feeling doesn’t get old. This is paired however, with a disappointing speaker system. No matter how I tried to play with the levels and balance in the settings, I just can’t find a sound that I’m entirely happy with - although I’m a bit of an audiophile.
What is slightly odder is the absence of a centre armrest in the base model. There are two silly little trays that can’t hold anything useful, meaning it’s a bit of a struggle to fit your phone, keys and wallet in the cupholder spaces that remain. On that note, another negative is rearward visibility. The C-pillar is humungous, and it feels like I’m looking out of a porthole of The Love Boat when I’m trying to see anything in the back window. This isn’t helped by the rear reversing camera, which is pretty lacklustre, and looks like 1980’s CCTV footage. A single rear reverse light also strikes me as odd. Luckily, the poor quality of the camera doesn’t come over to the other safety features. Lane keep assist, front collision detection and autonomous braking seem to be working well despite a few false alarms, although I’m not keen to test them out!
Boot space is also acceptable, and the seats fold down easily enough to give extra room. It’s not a great struggle to fit tennis bags and other sports gear in the back, but the boot definitely does feel a bit shallow compared to other cars. Driver, passenger and even rear passenger room is also a great feature of this car. The exterior size is misleading, and there is acres of room in the front and back of this car – even for me at 186cm in my regular driving position.
Overall, the Astra presents a great value hatch, especially with the currently deep discounts. However, buyers should beware about a possible lack of support in future and a deep depreciation hit that is likely to be felt upon resale.
NOTE: We've used a CarAdvice 2018 Astra R+ photo for this story.