2015 Holden Astra and Cascada review | European flavour
CONSIDER the Commodore meat and veg. This new trio is fine dining.
Aimed to add some sophistication to the Holden range, sitting in the arrivals hall are the three-door Astra GTC and VXR hatches along with the convertible Cascada.
All have been sourced from Opel, which is within the General Motors stable. Some will remember that Opel tried to make it here as a stand-alone brand before making a hasty retreat in 2013 after less than year.
Astras were part of the stable, and the Cascada was close to getting on the boat before the German marque did an about-face.
Now wearing Holden badges, the Astras are better value, with a lower sticker price and improved specification - starting from $26,990 plus on-roads. Especially impressive is the $39,990 VXR hot hatch - down about $3k when it wore the lightning strike moniker.
Meanwhile the Cascada drop-top pricing is at $41,990, aimed at doing battle with the VW Golf Cabriolet and Renault Megane Coupe-Cabriolet.
Across all variants there is a similar look and feel, refined finishes and enticing trims within the cabin.
Hard plastics are hidden down on the console base, and all the areas touched most are covered with thoughtful choice of materials.
Not much has changed from when we sampled the Opels a couple of years back, and there is still a busy dash arrangement.
Whereas many of the upmarket modern offerings have adopted a minimalist approach, these Europeans have a raft of operations that can be confronting initially. Once you become accustomed to the positioning of various dials and buttons, everything is essentially straightforward, and there is the familiar Holden MyLink colour display.
Head and legroom are reasonable, but like most hatches and convertibles, the amount of real estate in the back is reliant on the generosity of those up front. The drop-top is actually better than many in this size, and it can cope with four adults.
On the road
Turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines are at the heart of the new range.
Both the Astra GTC and Cascada have a 1.6-litre under the bonnet, while the fire-breathing VXR gets a 2.0-litre donk that pumps out 206 kilowatts and 400 Newton metres.
The 1.6-litre is a serviceable and responsive unit, although doesn't pack an insane punch. Differing maximum power and torque levels between the manual and automatic transmission mean three-pedal versions are the pick for keen steerers.
Acceleration is linear and strong, which will suit many drivers who like some shunt without anything hardcore. As expected, the convertible feels more "floaty", with more reverberations through the steering, and being mated exclusively to an automatic means its more cruiser than sports car.
But for those who want fun, you'll struggle to find better than the VXR. We loved it when
it was first launched here back in February 2013, and nothing has changed.
Despite having so much power and torque pushed through the front wheels, it remains remarkably composed and easy to drive fast. Steering is direct and nicely weighted, and the acceleration has an ability to pin you against the seat.
Unlike the subdued exhaust tune in the convertible and GTC models, the VXR has an awesome sound and burble from start-up.
What do you get?
The GTC comes with 18-inch alloys, sports seats, sat nav, air-con, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control automatic wipers and lights, leather-trimmed steering wheel, a MyLink infotainment CD stereo system, which includes integrated music and radio apps along with a 17.7cm colour display, sat nav and Bluetooth connectivity.
GTC Sport models also come with larger 19-inch alloys, eight-way electrical adjustment of the driver seats, heated front pews, dual-zone climate-controlled air-con, as well as the full external body kit, alloy pedals and sports steering wheel and seats trimmed in perforated leather.
Key changes in the VXR come via the 20-inch alloys, big Brembo brakes, continuous damping control with various drive modes, rear park assist, performance chassis, roof spoiler and special sports seats in Nappa trim.
Cascada variants have similar specification to the GTC Sport with the addition of a rear-view camera, but there is also a "Launch Edition" which is limited to 50 units and comes with 20-inch alloys, beautiful Nappa leather seats, flat-bottom steering wheel along with bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lamps.
There is lifetime capped-price servicing available, and with more than 230 dealers Australia-wide, getting access to parts and expertise is easy.
Fuel consumption should be about eight litres for every 100km in the 1.6-litre engine and about one litre more for the VXR - depending on how you drive it. That figure climbs fast with carefree use of the right foot.
The turbocharging may also cause higher insurance premiums for younger drivers.
All variants have easy access to cup-holders, and thoughtful storage spots including an area in front of the shifter near the USB point for phones and other gear.
Cascadas have reasonable cabin space, and the boot, too, is good for a drop-top. With the roof up, it's a handy 380 litres (the same as Astras), but you lose 100 of that when it's off.
The star is the VXR. Squat and muscular with big 20-inch wheels that nicely fill out the arches, it's a mean-looking hot hatch.
Both the Cascada and GTC also have some nice lines and certainly fit the bill as distinguished Europeans.
Holden calls this the entrée of things to come. There will be 24 new vehicle launches for the brand over five years as the company winds up local production by 2017 and picks from the General Motors smorgasbord for new models.
With some brand cache via the Astra nameplate, it is hard to fathom why the Cascada wasn't simply called the Astra Convertible like it was previously. Nevertheless, this trio adds some quality and panache to the marque's line-up.
What matters most
What we liked: True hot hatch ability and looks of the VXR, pricing and specification, responsive engines.
What we'd like to see: Cascada called Astra Convertible, improved exhaust tune on 1.6-litre engines, rear view camera on Astra models.
Warranty and servicing: Three years/100km warranty with one-year roadside assist. Servicing is at 15,000km or nine-month intervals. Average price is estimated to be $254 over seven services.
Verdict: 4 stars
Model: Holden Astra GTC and VXR.
Details: Three-door five-seat front-wheel drive hatchback.
Engines: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 147kW @ 4750-6000rpm (automatic 125kW) and peak torque of 280Nm @ 1650-5000rpm (auto 260Nm); 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol 206kW @ 5300rpm and 400Nm @ 2400-4800rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 1.6-litre - 6.9 litres/100km (combined average, manual), 7.5L/100km (auto). 2.0-litre - 8.0L/100km.
Bottom line: GTC $26,990 (m), GTC $29,190 (a), GTC Sport $29,990 (m), GTC Sport $32,190 (a), VXR $39,990 (m).
Model: Holden Cascada.
Details: Two-door front-wheel-drive four-seat convertible.
Engines: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of automatic 125kW @ 4750-6000rpm and peak torque of auto 260Nm @ 1650-4500rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.5 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $41,990, Launch Edition $44,990.