SPANKING yellow. Or for those who wish to be more accurate, the car is coloured Sunny Melon. Either way it’s spanking yellow, and in a weird, wow that’s different kind of way, that was our introduction to the new look Holden Astra GTC.
The Astra GTC forms part of Holden’s much touted European invasion, that also includes the incredibly potent Insignia VXR (the expected replacement for the stalwart Holden Commodore SS – sans V8), and is in essence a re-badged Opel.
The German car maker had a brief but ultimately failed stint of its own into Australia, but with the global brand strategy of General Motors shifting and twisting, the new model Astra has landed down under with a Holden badge on it (despite being due for a face-lift next year).
It forms part of a three model family, that also includes the GTC Sport and the superstar of the trio – the 2L turbo-charged 206 kW VXR (which we’ve reviewed). Powered by a 1.6-litre turbo-charged engine which generates a still impressive 125kW and 260Nm of torque when butted up against the automatic we tested (the manual punches out a slightly hotter 141kW).
It drives well, actually it drives very well, the handling is exceptional, it’s nimble through corners, it holds the road well and there is just subtle body roll in high speed cornering. Put simply, it’s actually nice to drive.
But, and there is a but, the automatic gearbox and the power difference between the auto and the manual make the base model auto option somewhat drone like in engine sound, more sluggish in terms of pick up and less focused in terms of driving dynamics.
There’s a lot to like about the Astra, and a lot to dislike – with the GTC polarising our test team – with disagreement over certain aspects of the cars features, as easy to use, or a pain in the proverbial. We’ll try and compare the two opinions as best we can.
The three door hatch is curvaceous in its design and features a nice wide rear seat, in fact it’s very roomy inside overall and reasonably comfortable front seats (but the driving position is not fantastic, in fact one of our testers found herself with a sore back after driving it). It could do a seat belt presenter too (there’s one in the sister convertible – the Holden Cascada – which we are currently driving).
The boot space is more than adequate (no arguments there) and family friendliness of the vehicle is also generally good (again no arguments there). The big doors, which are very long and definitely solid if not heavy, make it difficult to get in and out in some parking situations.
The one negative we all agreed on inside the car was the epic fail that is the infotainment system. There’s no touch screen. Controls are accessed through a difficult to use joystick and press button system that occasionally had a mind of its own as well. The SatNav component of this push button knob system was virtually unusable if you needed to input a significant address.
The Bluetooth mobile phone and audio streaming connectivity is simple and easy to use (despite the infotainment controls), and the Astra GTC comes with air conditioning, cruise control, cloth seats with bolsters, fog lights, front and rear parking sensors, daytime running lights, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, split folding rear seats, remote central locking, power windows and heated mirrors, and tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment.
Overall, if you can cope with the infotainment system, the Astra and its point and click style of power delivery is a nice car to drive. It’s got a great price point, it’s big for a 3 door, and it’s worth checking out.
Pricing starts for $26,990 for the GTC manual or $29,190 for the auto (as tested), which is pretty good against some stiff competition. It’s available in a range of colours (with their own unique set of names) that includes Silver Lake, Sunny Melon, Summit White, Buzz Blue, Power Red and Carbon Flash Black.
Our test vehicle was provided by Holden Australia. To find out more about the 2015 Holden Astra GTC, contact your local Holden dealer.