No more egg, man

Sunny Melon custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye

ALEX INWOOD

IF YOU read last month’s report, you’ll know I finished it by planning an early morning mountain blast to properly tap into the Astra’s dynamic ability. I’d been scratching at what felt like a promising depth of talent, conveyed by the Astra’s taut, well-controlled ride and grippy front axle, but needed a proper dawn drive to see if things got better or worse when push came to shove.

Well, that didn’t happen.

The ink had barely dried on my previous report when the phone rang with bad news.

On the other end was Holden, telling me the Astra had to go back. “But,” I sighed into the receiver, “it’s not scheduled to return for another two months!”

The problem was the Astra’s registration, which was due to expire later that week.

“And we’re not renewing it,” was the stern message coming down the line.

So my time with the egg-shaped Astra was brutally and unexpectedly cut short. I barely had time to give it a tub and a tank of fuel before dropping the keys onto the countertop at Holden’s Port Melbourne HQ.

This left me with the task of signing off on our time together prematurely. And the twinge of sadness I felt as we parted ways showed there’s much to like about Holden’s ageing hatch.

Its design may not be as cohesive as the short-lived Opel Astra it replaced (see breakout), but its swoopy coupe profile and tough stance on 19-inch wheels still make it one of the best-looking hatches around. The new 1.6-litre turbo four, which will also feature in the all-new Astra fivedoor hatch that arrives here later this year, is also a highlight, especially when paired with the six-speed manual. It’s hardly the slickest shift around, but does provide a welcome 22kW/20Nm power hike over the 125kW/260Nm auto-equipped GTC Sport.

It also has oodles of personality, especially in that bright Sunny Melon hue.

It’s a surprisingly roomy and comfortable four-seater, and even sounds alright high in the rev range.

For buyers chasing the looks of a hot hatch with more manageable performance and a cushier ride, the GTC Sport offers a sweet, much more affordable, option. The harder, faster 206kW/400Nm Astra VXR costs 10 grand more.

This doesn’t mean there weren’t negatives. The doors are huge and heavy, rear visibility is poor, and the button-heavy dash really is starting to feel last-gen.

That said, the Astra was faultlessly reliable during its three-month stay, and the cabin quality is top-notch, unlike Damo’s Thai-built Focus, which has a flimsy gearshift boot and a self-detaching parcel shelf. Still, at least his Focus has rego…

COMFORT ZONE

Cabin is starting to look a little dated but the compensation is top-notch comfort and build quality

HOLDEN ASTRA GTC SPORT

Date acquired: November 2015 Price as tested: $29,990 This month: 375km @ 8.0L/100km Overall: 4797km @ 8.3L/100km

Euro vision

Its stint in Australia might have been short-lived, but I reckon the Opel Astra’s design is better than the Holden-badged version that has replaced it, especially around the nose. The Holden’s chrome badging looks heavy-headed in comparison and the grille, which has been cut into in order to fit the number plate and tow point, looks messy next to the Opel’s more cohesive design. Still, there’s no denying both are lookers. And the one carrying a Holden badge is cheaper and faster than its now-defunct Opel sibling.