It’s time, time to get over the fact General Motors has dumped Australia as a manufacturing outpost. While Holden fans may find that statement about as easy to swallow as a golf ball, there is life after the Commodore et al. Over the coming years Holden has 24 vehicle launches, all imports, all with the little lion still up front. If the Holden Astra VXR is anything to go by, the future of this Aussie institution still has legs.
Engine / Transmission: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol. 6-speed manual, FWD
Vital Stats: 206kW @5300rpm / 400Nm @2400
Holden Claimed Fuel Economy: 8.0L / 100km
EFTM Claimed Fuel Economy: 12.6L/ 100km
Price: From $39,990
Wow Factor: Any 3-door hatch with 206kW on tap and capable of 0-100km/h in 6 seconds is bound to excite. The Astra VXR re-invigorates a nameplate that has come and gone like a neglectful friend since 1996. HSV even once had a crack at injecting some spark, but the Opel sourced flyer is a genuine excitement machine. With VXR or even Sport mode activated you could even dare to enter a track day, it’s a simply brutal drive when pushed. A FlexRide system stiffens the chassis, sharpens the throttle and provides for more direct steering. It’s a car that commands respect, the power and easily tapable torque pulls and tugs on the steering wheel via the front driven 20’’ tyres quite violently at times. Brembo brakes give further track cred, inspiring supreme confidence with excellent bite and reliable stopping power time and time again.
Most Impressive: The German designed Astra VXR is a pleasant change from some of the more below par offerings, for example the Chevrolet designed but locally assembled Cruze. In no way does it feel like a Holden, which is a good thing. Build quality is hard to criticise with an inherently solid granite-like feel. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. The MyLink infotainment system is one of the better offerings from any manufacturer. Little things like the seamless transmission from DAB+ radio to standard FM when entering a tunnel impress. What about those leather appointed front sports seats? They wouldn’t look out-of-place in a very high-end gaming console setup at home so aggressive is their design.
Least Impressive: Being a rebadged German designed and Polish built Opel Astra OPC means it’s actually a 6 year-old design, also one actually sold under the Opel brand briefly here in 2013/14. A seventh generation model is currently being rolled out, so the Holden badged Astra has already been superseded. A five-door Astra will go on sale in late 2016. Where the aging design really shows is the fact there seems to be more centre console buttons than dates on a calendar. A more cohesive central style controller would go a long way. The 6-speed manual is not the sharpest offering around and doesn’t completely match the otherwise sharp dynamics.
The Sweeping Statement:
We’ve seen it before but now it scores the famous lion badge. The Holden Astra VXR is more than a hot hatch, it’s a rocket and the modern-day alternative to a big, fat old school Aussie V8.