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Holden Astra - Star of 1998

Small car, big impact: the baby Astra scored 40 out of a possible 50 points.

The best new car of 1998 is the Holden Astra. It easily topped a poll of Australia's leading motoring journalists this week, repeating Holden's 1997 victory with fresh success in the second annual Star Car judging.

Holden won for the first time with its new VT Commodore in 1997, but Ford was unable to repeat the family car success and only managed third place in 1998 with its AU Falcon.

The Astra was the top choice with three of the five Star Car judges, and a top-three car with the other two, scoring 40 points from a possible 50.

It was well clear of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class city car, which was runner-up with 21 points, the Falcon came home third with 14.

The Star Car judges - all daily newspaper motoring editors across the country - were each asked to pick their six best new cars for 1998, ranked in order, by judging them against the best cars in their class.

Their criteria included design, quality, value, safety and operating costs.

The 1998 judges were Mick Glasson from the West Australian in Perth, Bruce McMahon, of Brisbane's Courier Mail, Bob Jennings of The Advertiser in Adelaide, Wayne Webster from Sydney's Daily Telegraph and Paul Gover of the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

The Astra is a European compact car which sells from just $20,990, yet set a benchmark for small-car motoring and helped re-establish Holden - with the locally-made Vectra - as more than just the Commodore car company.

"In a year filled with exciting new small cars the imported Holden emerges as the one others are measured against," said Mick Glasson of the West Australian.

"A real surprise. A taut and terrific compact offering great driving at a great price," was the verdict from Bruce McMahon of the Courier Mail.

But not all the judges gave the baby Holden their top vote.

Wayne Webster, of the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, ranked the breakthrough Mercedes-Benz A-Class first and Bob Jennings of The Advertiser in Adelaide said the new Subaru Liberty wagon was his personal best for '98.

"It sets new standards in the small car class. It's ingenius and innovative but just a little expensive," Webster said of the A-Class.

"Whichever way you look at it - practicality, value for money, ride, handling, road manners and quality - the 4WD Liberty comes out as a car that is easy and sensible to own," was Jennings' verdict.

But none of the judges ignored the Astra.

"As good as the brilliant new Volkswagen Golf but far more affordable. Holden's best small offering ever," said Webster.

The 4x4 field was split in the 1998 voting, with the Subaru Liberty wagon finishing ahead of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Subaru's Forester GT.

The disappointment for '98 was the Falcon, which failed to take a single top score.

"No argument that it's a considerably better mousetrap, with the Forte brought in at a killer price. But the jury's still out on the styling," Jennings said.

How they voted

(Herald Sun)

1. Holden Astra
2. Mercedes A-Class
3. Ford Falcon AU
4. Subaru Liberty
5. Mazda MX-5
6. Mercedes-Benz E55

(Daily Telegraph, Sydney)

1. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
2. Holden Astra
3. Subaru Forester GT
4. Mazda MX-5
5. Mercedes ML320
6. Holden Vectra

(Courier-Mail, Brisbane)

1. Holden Astra
2. Mercedes ML320
3. Porsche 911 Cabriolet
4. Mercedes A-Class
5. Peugeot 406 Coupe
6. Ford Falcon AU

(The Advertiser, Adelaide)

1. Subaru Liberty Wagon
2. Ford Falcon AU
3. Holden Astra
4. BMW 3-Series
5. Volkswagen Golf
6. Daihatsu Sirion

(West Australian, Perth)

1. Holden Astra
2. BMW 3-Series
3. Daihatsu Sirion
4. Ford Falcon AU
5. Mercedes A-Class
6. Mazda MX-5

Cars were scored using the Formula One point system, with 10 for a first-place vote, 6 for second, and then 4, 3, 2, 1 for the remainder.

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