Holden: 2015 Astra VXR review

Holden: 2015 Astra VXR review

With the V8 Commodore being phased out and Ford bringing a very capable hot hatch (the Focus ST) to the market, Holden needed to launch a car that gives you a temporary facelift when mashing the accelerator to the pedal into the carpet. Of course, the public now wants either an SUV or a small hatch; large sedans are (unfortunately) not so popular and therefore Holden has appropriated the Opel Astra from Europe.

Holden Astra VXR 2015 wheelIt has thrown on a set of 20-inch wheels that partially obscure some dinner plate-sized cross-drilled brake rotors and created a pint-sized spiritual successor to the V8 Commodore SS-V, albeit not quite as quick.

The Astra VXR produces 206kW at 5300rpm and that means a 0-100kph time in the mid 6-second range, and plenty of work for the limited slip differential to do to prevent one front wheel wheel from trying to get ahead of the other one.

Holden Astra VXR 2015 front interiorTransmitting that power to the tarmac are Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres in 245/35ZR20 guise. They’ve got great feel on the road when coupled with the Astra’s clever Hiperstrut front suspension but if the road is rough there’s a lot of noise from them.

A turbo 2-litre isn’t a substitute for the big cubic inches of Holden’s famed V8s, but a large portion of the devil’s realm breaks loose as the revs approach 3000, accompanied by an enormous whoosh from air being sucked in to satisfy the blower. You only need to be able Holden Astra VXR 2015 dashboardto swap one gear up to 100kph, which is fortunate because the gear shift is long and imprecise; a short-shift kit would be a must if you really want to have some fun. There’s actually enough torque that you don’t need to change gear much at all if you’re lazy.

You’re not going to buy a hot hatch like this unless you’re a fan of driving it either on track days or on some scenic and winding roads. I chose the Awhitu Peninsula just outside of Auckland. With plenty of 25-35kph corners there was plenty of opportunity to prove the brakes and handling, and you really can’t fault the VXR, with one caveat: while you can push it through corners, it can become a bit unsettled if the road is bumpy.

Holden’s MyLink infotainment system is installed. This is quite a good system when implemented in Commodores, but the execution and button layout in the Astra is unintuitive and frequently frustrating as there’s no touchscreen and the layout with the jog wheel is jumbled. The 7-inch screen doesn’t double as reversing camera screen because, peculiarly for a fifty grand car, you can’t have a reversing camera.

While it’s only a two door, there are functional back seats with enough legroom for short journeys. The boot was big enough for a good chunk of overnight luggage and a chilly bin. The front seats are racing-style with holes for a proper harness to pass through. They are partially electrically adjustable.

There’s plenty of competition in this segment. Not only is the Ford Focus ST a worthwhile competitor, but you could have all-wheel drive and better acceleration in a Subaru WRX, or a true race car feel (but a lot of inconvenience) in a Toyota GT86. In this price range there are bound to be compromises – things like poor rear visibility and a seat belt that’s a long way behind the seat. Strong engine performance and handling are let down by a frustrating infotainment system and lots of road noise on coarse surfaces, but the Astra is the best looking of the bunch, and you’ll have a lot of fun.

Price: $49,990

Pros:

  • Lots of power
  • Handles well, if you’re holding on

Cons:

  • Road noise
  • No rear view camera
  • A button explosion all over the dashboard


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