Holden Astra GTC Sport road test and review
EVERYONE loves a bargain.
More often than not, the idea that you are paying less for something than it is worth brings a sudden surge of adrenaline, the heart beats a tad faster, the butterflies take flight.
Now, for some people it is the idea of the bargain that is important, more so than the item on offer. It is those people, I am afraid, who take home 48 cans of baked beans, 32 pump bottles of sunscreen and enough foil to build a spaceship in the backyard.
With Christmas just a week away it is hard to tell a good bargain from one just dressed up as the next best thing, which is why we took the Holden Astra GTC Sport Coupe for a spin.
These three-door sporty numbers aren't to be confused with the all-new five-door hatchback Astras freshly imported from Opel in Europe a few months ago. The Astra Coupe is a generation old now if you like, but they're your only genuine sporty Astras for sale for now.
Three are available: a 1.6-litre GTC and GTC Sport, or a hotter 2.0-litre VXR. Holden's currently doing driveaway specials $1000 less than their RRPs, plus all come with $1000 cashback too. They're old models yes, but prices are pretty appealing: $25,990, $28,990 and $37,990 driveaway respectively, sweetened further with that cash in hand.
These European-sourced Astra Coupes were Opel badged when they first arrived in Australia (then scored the Holden lion in 2015 after Opel made a hasty retreat), and feature sporty lines and a modern enough gleam to keep them relevant. The interior though does feel a bit dated with a very busy centre console and dark hues that could benefit from a few more accent touches.
We had the mid-range GTC Sport in our garage for a week and it took almost that long to get acquainted with all the dials and buttons. It is a frustrating encumbrance that stands in stark contrast to the simplified consoles fitted by more recent offerings, Holden's all-new Astra five-door hatch for one.
The seats could do with a touch more side bolstering but are comfortable enough with rear head and leg room a sensible fit for two adults. There is room for coffee cups and water bottles too and the boot will take a fair sized weekly shop without complaint.
We managed to get in the nine-year-old's cello - no mean feat let me say - which won the little Astra Coupe a few more plaudits in my house. It is well appointed with the GTC Sport boasting 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, sports body kit, leather trim, parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, sat nav, MyLink infotainment system with bluetooth capability and voice recognition.
Our GTC Sport was powered by a 1.6-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder paired with a six-speed manual transmission. The coupling offers up 147kW and 280Nm which clearly indicates that we are talking here of a warmish hatch rather than a hot one, yet it has just enough go to keep things interesting.
This Coupe is nimble on its feet, quickish to react and the gearbox is lovingly smooth with a clutch well-suited for a feminine foot. The ride is balanced with decent body control and plenty of grip when cornering.
There is minimal road noise, it soaks up most bumps and is eager enough when overtaking. The steering lacks a bit of feel and the turning circle could be better but those are faults you can live with.
We averaged around 8l/100km during our week - official figures are 6.9l/100km - and it is a costly pain that it drinks premium fuel.
There are a handful of ergonomic challenges which is not unusual given that the Astra GTC Sport is quite low to the ground and has three doors.
While the large doors make it easier for back-seat passengers to enter and exit, they impede that same task for those in the front. You also have to stretch a long way to grip the seat belt on the B pillar so a seatbelt presenter, like those in Holden's own Cascada, wouldn't go astray.
The Astra Coupes are covered by Holden's three year/100,000km warranty and a lifetime capped-price servicing program which offers convenience as well as peace of mind.
Given that Holden has just released the five-door Astra in Australia, it is understandable that they are incentivising sales of the three-door version. Our week in the latter proved it to be a fun, dynamic drive with good inclusions and amenable road manners.
It is not the fastest or most cutting edge car in its segment but it is a solid alternative to rivals that include the Hyundai Veloster and Toyota 86, and we'd stick with the manual gearbox for real enjoyment.
A bit long in the tooth these days, but current Astra Coupe prices are sure to serve as decent tempters for many.
Model: Holden Astra GTC Sport
Details: Three-door warm hatch.
Engines: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 147kW and peak torque of 280Nm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual.
Consumption: 6.9 litres/100km.
Bottom line: from $28,990 drive away with $1000 cash back.
What matters most
What we liked: Room in the rear for a Coupe, cheaper pricing, easy drive.
What we'd like to see: More modern console, reverse camera.
Warranty and Servicing: 3 years/100,000km warranty with lifetime capped-price servicing.