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Holden Astra hatch 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.1
The last time I felt this way was as a kid when Mum got remarried. This time it wasn't another bloke swanning in and replacing my dad, it was an Astra taking the place of an Australian-made Cruze.

The last time I felt this way was as a kid when Mum got remarried. This time it wasn't another bloke swanning in and taking the place of my dad, it was the new generation Astra taking the place of the Australian-made Cruze. And despite Holden telling me the new guy, sorry, car was European and sophisticated I still gave it the death stare as I spotted our test vehicle across the car park. Sure the Cruze wasn't perfect, but it was our very own Australian-made small car.

Yep, Holden stopped making the Cruze hatch and sedan last year as part of it ending Australian vehicle production. And with the small car segment being the biggest in the entire market the Aussie brand would have had a huge hole in its line-up if it hadn't rebadged the Opel Astra from Europe as a Holden. That stopped the Corolla,  i30 and Mazda3 from having it all pretty much to themselves.

The new Astra hatch arrived in November 2016 and a sedan isn't far off. While this review takes in all grades in the hatch range, the car I tested and lived with for week was the top of the line RS-V with the automatic transmission. No problems there though – among the CarsGuide team we've driven a representative sample of the hatch range.

Stephen Corby drove the Astra R, Tim Robson tested the RS, while Vani Naidoo reviewed the RS-V with the manual transmission. Like some giant super computer I'll draw on their reviews to bring you the complete picture of the range. Amazing, I know.

So how does the new Astra compare with a Mazda3 or Corolla? Did it turn out to be as much of a legend as my stepfather?

Holden Astra 2017: R
Safety rating
Engine Type1.4L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.8L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$11,100

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Regardless which grade of Astra we drove, we all agreed that this seventh-generation car looks damn good. It's near-on impossible to tell different levels of Astra apart and the easiest way is to look at the wheels. However, the RS has a nice shiny metal blades on the grille and the RS-V gets that and the same trim around the windows for a more posh look.

We also all agreed that the cabin - regardless of grade - was not as premium feeling as the Astra's exterior looks. Don't get me wrong, the RS-V's interior is cool looking in that it's stylish but the use of glossy plastics and a lack of contrasting colour cheapens the vibe.

All Astra hatches have the same dimensions, it's 4386mm long, 1809mm wide and a height of 1485mm which makes it a smidge longer than the Corolla and a bit shorter than the Mazda3. The RS-V auto is the heaviest at 1363kg.

  • 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo) 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo) 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo) 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo) 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo) 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo) 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo) 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo) 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo) 2017 Holden Astra RS-V hatch (image credit: Vani Naidoo)

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

We felt the same way here, too – up front the Astra is roomy and there's good leg and headroom in the back, too. I bear more than a passing resemblance to a giant stick insect at 191cm tall and I can sit behind my driving position – just, there's about 5mm of space between my knees and the seatback.

That said, we all agreed that storage wasn't great. The centre console storage is tiny, the compartment under the radio is like one of those pockets that's not really a pocket but looks like one. There is a decent-sized pull-out bin on the driver's side but it's way over near the door, there's no cup holders in the back row or a fold down centre armrest, although there are two cup holders up front and big bottle holders in all the doors.

The Astra's boot is 360 litres in size but it's hard to compare that to the Corolla or Mazda3's cargo volume because those companies use VDA litres. What I can say is that our large CarsGuide pram just manages to fit into the boot of an Astra hatch.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Currently, there's three grades of Astra. The entry-level R lists for $21,990; then there's  the mid-spec $26,490 RS and at the top of the range is the RS-V for $30,990. These are all prices with a manual transmission, and it's another $2200 on top if you want an automatic. There's a sort of bonus level, too – the R+ which is an R with advanced safety equipment but costs $1250 more.

We reckon the level of standard features on R is pretty good, but keep in mind that the auto transmission hikes up the car's price quite a bit. There's seven-inch touch screen with reversing camera, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, and Holden's MyLink media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus Siri and digital radio.

The R+ brings AEB, lane keeping assistance along with forward distance indicator and collision warning. Trust me, for about $1200 bucks more, it's good value and if it was my mum/sister/dad/brother/wife buying the car I'd insist on it.

The RS bags all of the R's standard features, but adds front parking sensors, an auto parking function, proximity unlocking, auto lights and wipers, heated mirrors, engine stop-start, a leather steering wheel, sportier looking 17-inch wheels and as we should point out here – a bigger engine, but we'll get to that later.

  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Holden Astra RS hatch (image credit: Tim Robson)

The RS-V scores all the RS's loot but wears 18-inch alloys, has a larger eight-inch screen and sat nav, remote start function, dual-zone climate control, an electric handbrake, plus heated and leather steering wheel and front seats. The sat nav is great, because maps through Apple Carplay and Android Auto won't work if your phone isn't connected or if there's no signal. The dual-zone climate is also good, but $4500 for just these a few features is a lot to ask, and how often will you start the car remotely or use the heated steering wheel?

There's two packages available on the RS-V: the $1900 Touring Pack which adds an electric sun roof and adaptive cruise control; and the $3990 Innovations Pack which has those two features plus LED Headlights.

I feel the best value in the range is the $26,490 RS, and compared to rivals such as the $27,290 Mazda3 Touring and $29,570 Toyota Corolla ZR it's competitive in price, too.

My RS-V looked good in its Deep Sky Blue colour which is a $550 prestige paint option. Other prestige paints include Mineral Black, Carragreen Green, Cosmic Grey and Coconut. Summit White and Absolute Red won't cost you extra.

Oh, my RS-V had no mats and the little pegs sticking out of the floor made me feel like a cheapskate.  Yep, an option if you want them, which I've always thought is outrageous.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

There are two engines in the Astra range – a 110kW/245Nm 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine which powers the R grade and a 147kW/300Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol which is in the RS and RS-V.

As the CarsGuide test pilot in the R grade pointed out the 0-100km/h time of the base spec Astra is listed at "n/a" which pretty much says it all, while the drivers of the RS and RS-V, including myself found the 1.6-litre to have good acceleration off the mark (7.8s to 100km/h claimed).

I was the only one to drive the 1.6 with the six-speed auto and found the transmission to be a bit slow and emotionless, while the six-speed manual seems to be the way to go according to others who liked its short gear ratios to keep that turbo going hard.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Sure the 1.4-litre engine was the least powerful but it also uses less fuel with Holden's official an average combined rate figure being 5.8L/100km in both the manual and automatic. The 1.4-litre also only requires cheaper 91 RON fuel. The 1.6-litre engine needs 95RON and the official figure is 6.5L/100km in the manual and 6.3L/100km.

These are low claims and the stop-start tech would help achieve those figures. Our own driving found that real-world consumption is higher with the RS recording 8.6L/100km on the dash computer. While the manual RS-V scored 7.1L/100km.

After 250km in my RS-V auto my trip computer was reporting 10.2L/100km. I also found that the fuel gauge needle moved towards empty faster than I'd expect in comparison to the rivals I've driven. I don't think the Astra's efficiency is the core issue here, more my driving style and it could be down to the Astra's 48 litre fuel tank which is three litres smaller than the Mazda3's and two litres less than the Corolla's and i30's.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The three of us drove three different versions of the Astra, and it's pretty clear the R didn't impress in the same way the RS and RS-V did. While the chassis felt great, the issue was put down comes to the 1.4-litre engine which had to work hard while the automatic droned on.

I took the RS-V on my 150km country road test loop and found the chassis to be taut and well balanced  and, by the feel of the firm dampers, set-up for more sporty driving and handling rather than comfort. The RS-V's 18-inch wheels with low-profile 225/40 R18 92W Bridgestone Turanza tyres felt almost every crack and bump in the road and while they have great grip the ride isn't comfortable.

I felt the six-speed automatic didn't match that great 1.6-litre engine's perky personality, in that it was a little slow to change gears. Shifting paddles on the steering wheel would have added a bit more connection to the driving experience, too.

Vani's RS-V was a six-speed manual and she loved how quick that gear box responded. All agreed the steering was accurate, but I felt it was a little artificial and light, although the sport mode gave it more weight along with changing the throttle response to be more sporty.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The new Astra has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but that is the new norm and should be where the safety discussion begins.

These days AEB and lane keeping systems are becoming common even on $30 grand hatches, and advanced safety equipment including those plus forward collision alert is standard on the RV and RS-V.

The R grade doesn't come standard with this equipment but you can option it by upgrading to the R+.

For child seats there's two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchor mounts across the back row.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The Astra is covered by Holden's three-year/100,000km warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or annually.  The Astra also comes with Holden's life-time capped-price servicing. You'll pay $229 for each of the first four services, then $289 each for the next three before stepping up higher as the car ages.

Verdict

The new-generation Holden Astra's looks won us all over, so did the good acceleration of the 1.6-litre engine and impressive dynamics of all the car.

Did the Astra turn out to be a bloody legend like my step-father? I'm afraid not. The cabin's feel doesn't match its posh exterior, there's a lack of storage in there too, the automatic transmission isn't engaging and if you happen to combine it with the 1.4-litre engine in the base-spec R grade the driving experience will be dull.

The sweet spot in the range definitely is the the RS because it comes with the larger 1.6-litre engine, the advanced safety equipment and many of the features on the top-spec RS-V which is $4500 more.

Would you choose a Holden Astra over one of it's fierce small hatch rivals? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Pricing guides

$18,990
Based on 284 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$13,499
Highest Price
$26,295

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GTC 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $13,200 – 19,140 2017 Holden Astra 2017 GTC Pricing and Specs
GTC Sport 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $13,600 – 19,690 2017 Holden Astra 2017 GTC Sport Pricing and Specs
R 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,100 – 16,280 2017 Holden Astra 2017 R Pricing and Specs
R+ 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,300 – 17,820 2017 Holden Astra 2017 R+ Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership7
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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