EURO CHARMS: 2017 Holden Astra arrives in three specs and with choice of two turbocharged petrol engines. Entry level R costs $21,990 before on-road costs, and features standard kit including 17-inch alloys, rear camera, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto and digital radio.
EURO CHARMS: 2017 Holden Astra arrives in three specs and with choice of two turbocharged petrol engines. Entry level R costs $21,990 before on-road costs, and features standard kit including 17-inch alloys, rear camera, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto and digital radio.

2017 Holden Astra arrives: our road test and review

WELCOME to Australia, 2016 European Car of the Year.  

With Holden badge proudly emblazoned on its sculpted nose, the award-winning Astra goes on sale on December 1 hoping to be a shining light in Holden's ever-expanding imported new car range.  

Branded Opel in Continental Europe, the Astra has nevertheless seen Holden involved throughout its years of development, and the car for our market has the now commonplace and well-regarded Australia-specific steering tune by the finishing school of Holden engineers.  

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra

Three models are available - the Astra R from $21,990, Astra RS from $26,490 and Astra RS-V from $30,990 - all before on-roads and with six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed auto adds $2200 to your bill.   

Two turbocharged petrol engines are used. An all-new 110kW/240Nm 1.4-litre in the R model, and 147kW/300Nm 1.6-litre for the RS and RS-V. The latter, in particular, offers very tasty figures for the small car segment.  

Other aspects also look strong on paper. Lighter architecture sees this model up to 160kg lighter than the old Astra, all cars score 17 or 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, rear camera and desirable Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, while RS and RS-V come with comprehensive active safety gear.  

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra

Little wonder Holden sees the new Astra as a genuine rival to the VW Golf and Mazda3, or what it calls "the aspirational end of the small car market."  

As if those weren't competition enough, there's your Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Ford Focus amongst others, not to mention those pesky Koreans - Kia and Hyundai - with their long warranties and oft cut price driveaway deals.   

Aussie buyers may be in the eye of a giant SUV buying storm of late, but for now at least, we still buy more cars from the Small Passenger segment than any other. Holden needs the Astra to be a player, and a successful one at that.  


Step into the base level Astra R and it's best described as tastefully average.

The Astra may have upwardly mobile aspirations but it still feels a car for the everyman in here. That is, a blend of soft-ish touch plastics and the odd hard one, plus cloth seats that are very comfortable but not exactly premium. To be expected at this price though.  

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra R cloth interior

The dash design looks nicely sculpted with a modern flair, there's an easy-to-use switchgear layout and the classy flush-mounted touchscreen responses are quick.  

The mid-range RS offers a few more treats with its leather steering wheel and passive entry with button start feeling less "budget buy". The RS-V's leather ups the stakes again, and heated chairs and steering wheel remind you you've treated yourself.  

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra

On the road

Good. Very good in fact. My drive over a range of surfaces reminded me of living with a VW Golf: reassuringly talented if never really exciting, making it damn near perfect for the vast majority of buyers.  

The entry-level turbo 1.4-litre engine has decent pull - again, plenty enough for most buyers - with the 1.6-litre adding that extra oomph should you prefer the sportier life.   

I had a hoot stirring the six-speed manual gearbox - it's so light and easy to use - but the majority of you will go automatic, I know. More good news, the auto works away in the background near seamlessly, never hunting for the right gear, but I reckon it needs steering wheel paddles to boost the drive experience.  

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra

As I'm finding with all recent Holden-fettled imported cars, the team is doing a sterling job of setting these things up pretty spot on. All things to all Australians really. The Astra feels planted, safe and balanced, the steering is nicely weighted, while bump absorption is quite excellent.   

Cabin noise is kept to a minimum suggesting these things are well screwed together, with only tyre noise really being a bit intrusive at times. A symptom of those larger alloys and skinnier tyres I'd suggest.  

What do you get?

Decent inclusions from entry-level, but it's the mid-range RS which looks the best all-round package if you can stretch to it.  

The R model has 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear view camera with rear park assist, cruise control and a digital radio.  

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra

The RS also includes passive entry, push-button start and impressive active safety gear including autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist (which is superb) and forward collision alert. The thing even self parks (both parallel and perpendicular reverse) at the touch of a button.  

Range topping RS-V also add 18-inch alloys, leather appointed seats (heated at front), heated steering wheel, 8-inch touchscreen, embedded sat nav, LED tail lamps and dual zone climate control. Hard to fault for the price.  

You can add the RS's active safety kit to the R model for $1000 from April next year, while options for the RS-V include an electric sunroof and adaptive cruise ($1990) or for another $2000 on top of that you can add adaptive LED matrix headlamps - a clever system we tested which negates the need to turn off your high beam lights at night. It detects other vehicles and illuminates all of the road and surrounds but not other moving road users. 

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra


A 360-litre boot makes it slightly larger than a Mazda3's but 20-litres down on a VW Golf. A small family would find it suitable though; modern "small" cars can easily pass as family cars these days.  

Rear seating space isn't bad at all. Despite the sloping rear roof line my six-foot frame was well accommodated both in the head and leg room stakes.  

Storage options in the main cabin are okay if not great, with the R model missing out on a centre console bin due to its handbrake lever (RS and RS-V score electric handbrakes).  

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra RS-V leather interior

Other options

The aforementioned large cast, but as Holden is targeting Mazda3 and VW Golf - both undisputed brilliant offerings - we'll look there.   

Entry-level Astra R challenges Mazda3 Maxx ($22,890) which lacks the Holden's desirable Apple CarPlay, while the VW Golf 92TSI ($22,840) is lumbered with 15-inch steel wheels and is significantly down in power to the Astra.

As ever, take the time to drive as many rivals as possible and you'll see the quality in this segment for the prices asked.   

Funky factor

Unmistakably European in design, Astra has nice sporting touches seen in the sharp creases for the bonnet and flanks, and the unusual C-pillar shape gives a sloping, athletic look to the back end.  

Looking head-on it appears wide for a small car thanks to the chrome grille leading into those sculpted and flowing front lights.  

It's elegant certainly, and to my eyes at least, less vanilla than some rivals.  

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra

The lowdown

Holden has lofty goals in pitching the new Astra in the more "aspirational" end of the small car segment, namely against VW Golf and Mazda3, but deserves its shot.  

Punchy turbo engines, excellent chassis and ride quality plus specification elements this market is asking for (Apple CarPlay, auto emergency braking) often not found in rivals for this sort of money.  

Competition is brutal here though.

Quality product at a good price abounds in the segment, but don't overlook the Holden badge when shopping: the Astra deserves some love and attention.

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra

What matters most

What we liked: Impressive tech and safety range-wide with some innovations unique in class, ease and comfort to drive, lusty engines, Australia-specific steering tune, pretty design in and out.  

What we'd like to see: Steering wheel shift paddles for the autos especially the RS and RS-V, slightly less tyre noise, price may be seen as too high against some rivals despite the included kit.  

Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty, Holden lifetime capped price servicing, service intervals are every 9 months/15,000km with a total price of $916 over the first three years.  

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra

Vital statistics

Model: Holden Astra.   

Details: Five-door front-wheel drive small hatchback.  

Engines: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 110kW and peak torque of 245Nm (manual) or 240Nm (auto) for Astra R; 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with 147kW and 280Nm (300Nm with overboost) for Astra RS and RS-V.  

Transmission: Six-speed manual or optional six-speed auto.  

Consumption: 5.8L/100km (Astra R); 6.3L/100km - 6.5L/100km (Astra RS and RS-V).  

Bottom line plus on-roads: $21,990 (Astra R); $26,490 (Astra RS); $30,990 (Astra RS-V). Auto gearbox adds $2200 on each model.      

2017 Holden Astra
2017 Holden Astra

The verdict

Driving experience  18/20  

Features and equipment  17/20  

Functionality and comfort  17/20  

Value for money  15/20  

Style and design 16/20  

Total 83/100