Holden Astra SRi Turbo 2008 Review

Holden Astra SRi Turbo 2008 Review

Holden Astra SRi turbo fq

Like Marshall Bruce Mathers III, the Holden Astra suffered hardship as a child. The first generation was a rebadged Nissan Pulsar and therefore was beaten up by other cars on the block; primarily at the traffic light freestyle battles. While Mathers grew up to be Eminem, the Astra grew up to be the SRi Turbo.

Now with much less chance of being bullied (and much more respec’, as they say in the ‘hood), Holden’s most sporty Astra competes with the likes of the Ford Focus XR5, Peugeot 207 GTI and the Mini Cooper S in the front-wheel drive hot hatch market — some quite capable contenders, all with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Hot hatches should be designed for maximum driving pleasure, and the Astra SRi Turbo does not disappoint. Lose yourself in the music the engine creates — a harmonious distortion of force-fed cylinders and exhaust resonance that rises quickly until punctuated by a faint hint of blow-off valve as you snatch another one of the six gears. It doesn’t have the annoying turbo whistle that the Ford Focus XR5 has, but it does have the punch. The gearshift action could be slightly shorter, but is precise and slick enough to make quick changes to keep that turbo spinning.

Using the inbuilt stopwatch you could attempt a 0-100kph measurement. I would guess a low seven-second pass — good, but not enough to leave you uttering expletives like a Detroit rapper.

The tasty sports pedals are not quite set up right for efficient heel-toe action on the downshifts you’ll want to make on your favourite piece of winding blacktop, so be careful bringing that clutch back up under brakes that the engine braking doesn’t unsettle the car too much. Not that it should have too much effect because the Astra SRi comes with Electronic Stability Program (ESP) as standard, which controls the brake force to each wheel in the event of a skid, correcting ham-fisted over-enthusiastic cornering.

You really have to push the SRi Turbo into a corner to invoke this, though. The 225/40ZR18 tyres stretched around 18-inch five-spoke alloys bite hard into the tarmac. On the other side of the corner traction control stops the fronts from spinning up. Couple this with the IDS+ (Interactive Driving System Plus) sports chassis pack with Continuous Damping Control and there’s some joy to be had switching directions.

Now, I’m assuming that the ‘Sport’ button on the dashboard somehow changes the car’s attitude but, unlike the Mercedes-Benz C320 CDi I collected after the Astra, which has a similar sport button, I couldn’t detect it. The IDS+ system works towards reducing body roll, and if the Sport button accentuates this, it’s subtle, because it already seemed to be working fine.

Speaking of buttons, this is the major downfall of the Astra SRi. The heated seats are great (maybe not quite as good as a Focus XR5, but still very supportive laterally), pedals are nice, steering wheel is perfect (like wrestling a baby anaconda), and there’s plenty of safety in the form of front driver/passenger airbags and full-length curtain airbags, but there are some seriously unfunky things happening in the middle of the dashboard. Most Japanese and German cars have fairly standard ways of performing simple operations like changing the direction of the air from the vents. Not so for some of General Motors’ products. After four days of driving the Astra SRi Turbo I was still not quite sure how to consistently navigate the computer, and I definitely didn’t try it while driving.

If you decide to put some funky beats on the Blaupunkt six-disc, seven-speaker, 130W, MP3-compatible stereo you’ll find it’s acceptable but not stellar. Again, its operation is not as intuitive as most other marques.

Overall we have a car that’s optimised extremely well for the driving experience, but with some of the interior ergonomics left wanting some attention. I’m sure that with an instruction manual and a couple of hours an owner will master the controls. I never did find that stopwatch to do the 0-100kph time, though.

Price: from $40,990

What we like

  • All the driving bits are great — power, engine note, grip, gearshift action, steering wheel, seats

What we don’t like

  • The rest of the interior needs some work to make it user-friendly

Holden Astra SRi Turbo

Powertrain

1998cc, Turbo, DOHC 16 valve ECOTEC 4 cylinder engine

6-speed manual transmission

Four cylinders. Double overhead camshafts operate four valves per cylinder. Sequential multipoint fuel injection. Electronic Spark Timing (EST) with hall sensor. Cylinder selective knock control and direct ignition system (DIS). Electric cooling fan. Variable intake manifold.

Coil-at-plug ignition. Turbocharger with intercooler. Electronic Throttle Control. Aluminium cylinder head

147kW @ 5400rpm

262Nm @ 4200rpm

Mechanical

Electro-hydraulic rack and pinion power steering

4-wheel disc brakes, front ventilated

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). Four sensor/four channel

Brake Assist (BA)

Double-isolated front suspension, using subframe

Compound torsion beam and trailing arm rear suspension

IDSPlus Sports Chassis Pack with Continuous Damping Control (CDC)

Traction Control (TC)

Electronic Stability Program

Wheels

18″ x 7.5″ alloy wheels (five-spoke).

225/40R18 tyres

Tyre valve cap tool located behind fuel filler flap

Exterior

Body coloured, heated mirrors

Body coloured door handles

Body coloured bumpers, front and rear

Body coloured side protection mouldings

Chromed tailgate handle with electronic touch pad

Rear fog lamp

Front fog lamps

Turbo lower body kit (front, rear and side skirts)

Rear roof spoiler

Anti-corrosion: Galvanised body panels. Bodyshell dip-primed electrostatically

Driver

Steering wheel, height and reach adjust

Leather wrap sports steering wheel (standard for CDTi manual only)

Alloy-look sports pedals

Electric remote control mirrors. Heated glass with auto off

Intermittent wipers front and rear (front only on TwinTop)

Rear window demister

Cruise control

Variable instrument dimming

Tachometer

Graphic information display: Time. Date. Outside temperature. Warning messages.

Audio settings. Trip computer functions. Trip computer includes: Instant economy. Average economy.

Fuel used on trip. Average speed. Trip distance. Distance to empty. Stop watch

Check control: Remote control key batteries. Brake light bulb and circuit. Brake pads.

Washer fluid level. Coolant level

Headlight level adjust

Headlamps left on warning buzzer

Door ajar warning lamp

Seatbelt warning lamp

Foldable keys

Service reminder

Sound system

AM/FM stereo electronic tune radio. Seek. Preset station scan

6-disc in-dash CD player

Multi function or graphic display includes: Radio band. Preset station number. Frequency. CD/radio functions

Seven premium speakers. Total 130 watts

Sound system remote controls on steering wheel

Speed dependent volume control

Seating

Seat trim in woven cloth

Heatable front seats

Padded front seat head restraints. Height adjust

8-way adjustment of front sports seats. Recline. Slide. Height. Cushion tilt

Adjustable lumbar support — driver and front passenger

Driver and front passenger front airbags

Driver and front passenger side impact airbags

Curtain airbags

Three padded rear head restraints with height adjust

Pyrotechnic front seatbelt pretensioners. Lower belt mounts on seat frame for consistent fit when seat moved forward or back

Front seatbelt force limiters, controls maximum force on chest

Front seatbelt sash height adjust

Brake pedal (and clutch pedal on manual vehicles) release in serious frontal collision

Anti-submarining ramps in all seats reduce the risk of sliding under seatbelt in collision

All seatbelts retracting lap/sash

Rear seat child restraint anchor points located on back of rear seats

Cabin comfort

Electronic climate control air conditioning

Heating/ventilation system includes pollen filter

Power windows, front. Express down/up

Power windows auto reverse safety function (when power windows fitted)

Sunglasses storage

Interior lighting auto off when ignition switched on. Auto off timer if engine remains off

Tinted windows

Cup holders, one in each front door and glove box lid

Rear seat back 60:40 split, foldable

Split level glovebox for smaller items. Removable middle shelf. Pen holder. Lamp

Centre console storage tray

Compartment in centre console

Storage bins in all doors

Coat hooks

Lamp in boot or cargo area

Security

Radio frequency remote control key operates: Interior lighting. Central locking for keyless entry.

Door deadlocks. Boot or tailgate. Fuel filler door

Key has rolling security code

Engine immobilised automatically when key removed from ignition.

Ignition lock cylinder ‘freewheels’ if anything other than correct key is inserted

Door lock in driver’s door only. Lock cylinder ‘freewheels’ if anything other than correct key is inserted

Hinged, removable cargo cover, with colour keyed fabric

Audio display in multi function display separate from sound system unit to deter theft. Security PIN coding

Specification

Fuel tank (litres) 52

4 wheel disc brakes, Front ventilated,

4-channel ABS with brake assist

Suspension: IDSplus Suspension. Independent. MacPherson strut. Decoupled strut mounts. Continuously Controlled Dampers. Coil springs. Stabiliser bar

Steering: Electro-hydraulic power rack and pinion

Front track (mm):  1484

Rear track (mm): 1481

Turning circle (m): 10.85

Dimensions and weights

Length: 4290

Width (inc mirrors): 2033

Width (exc mirrors): 1753

Height: 1460

Cargo volume: rear seats up 302 litres, rear seats down 1030 litres

Kerb weight: 1401kg

Towing capacity: 630 unbraked, 1300 braked.

Warranty/service

3,000km (at no cost) inspection, then every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. Holden Dealer ‘Tech 2’ latest computerized analysis system available for engine management system. Spark plug replacement every 60,000km. Cartridgeless paper oil filter. Audible disc pad replacement warning.

Engine timing belt replacement every 120,000km.

Words and photos Darren Cottingham


Holden Astra SRi turbo fq

Like Marshall Bruce Mathers III, the Holden Astra suffered hardship as a child. The first generation was a rebadged Nissan Pulsar and therefore was beaten up by other cars on the block; primarily at the traffic light freestyle battles. While Mathers grew up to be Eminem, the Astra grew up to be the SRi Turbo.

Now with much less chance of being bullied (and much more respec’, as they say in the ‘hood), Holden’s most sporty Astra competes with the likes of the Ford Focus XR5, Peugeot 207 GTI and the Mini Cooper S in the front-wheel drive hot hatch market — some quite capable contenders, all with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Hot hatches should be designed for maximum driving pleasure, and the Astra SRi Turbo does not disappoint. Lose yourself in the music the engine creates — a harmonious distortion of force-fed cylinders and exhaust resonance that rises quickly until punctuated by a faint hint of blow-off valve as you snatch another one of the six gears. It doesn’t have the annoying turbo whistle that the Ford Focus XR5 has, but it does have the punch. The gearshift action could be slightly shorter, but is precise and slick enough to make quick changes to keep that turbo spinning.

Using the inbuilt stopwatch you could attempt a 0-100kph measurement. I would guess a low seven-second pass — good, but not enough to leave you uttering expletives like a Detroit rapper.

The tasty sports pedals are not quite set up right for efficient heel-toe action on the downshifts you’ll want to make on your favourite piece of winding blacktop, so be careful bringing that clutch back up under brakes that the engine braking doesn’t unsettle the car too much. Not that it should have too much effect because the Astra SRi comes with Electronic Stability Program (ESP) as standard, which controls the brake force to each wheel in the event of a skid, correcting ham-fisted over-enthusiastic cornering.

You really have to push the SRi Turbo into a corner to invoke this, though. The 225/40ZR18 tyres stretched around 18-inch five-spoke alloys bite hard into the tarmac. On the other side of the corner traction control stops the fronts from spinning up. Couple this with the IDS+ (Interactive Driving System Plus) sports chassis pack with Continuous Damping Control and there’s some joy to be had switching directions.

Now, I’m assuming that the ‘Sport’ button on the dashboard somehow changes the car’s attitude but, unlike the Mercedes-Benz C320 CDi I collected after the Astra, which has a similar sport button, I couldn’t detect it. The IDS+ system works towards reducing body roll, and if the Sport button accentuates this, it’s subtle, because it already seemed to be working fine.

Speaking of buttons, this is the major downfall of the Astra SRi. The heated seats are great (maybe not quite as good as a Focus XR5, but still very supportive laterally), pedals are nice, steering wheel is perfect (like wrestling a baby anaconda), and there’s plenty of safety in the form of front driver/passenger airbags and full-length curtain airbags, but there are some seriously unfunky things happening in the middle of the dashboard. Most Japanese and German cars have fairly standard ways of performing simple operations like changing the direction of the air from the vents. Not so for some of General Motors’ products. After four days of driving the Astra SRi Turbo I was still not quite sure how to consistently navigate the computer, and I definitely didn’t try it while driving.

If you decide to put some funky beats on the Blaupunkt six-disc, seven-speaker, 130W, MP3-compatible stereo you’ll find it’s acceptable but not stellar. Again, its operation is not as intuitive as most other marques.

Overall we have a car that’s optimised extremely well for the driving experience, but with some of the interior ergonomics left wanting some attention. I’m sure that with an instruction manual and a couple of hours an owner will master the controls. I never did find that stopwatch to do the 0-100kph time, though.

Price: from $40,990

What we like

  • All the driving bits are great — power, engine note, grip, gearshift action, steering wheel, seats

What we don’t like

  • The rest of the interior needs some work to make it user-friendly

Holden Astra SRi Turbo

Powertrain

1998cc, Turbo, DOHC 16 valve ECOTEC 4 cylinder engine

6-speed manual transmission

Four cylinders. Double overhead camshafts operate four valves per cylinder. Sequential multipoint fuel injection. Electronic Spark Timing (EST) with hall sensor. Cylinder selective knock control and direct ignition system (DIS). Electric cooling fan. Variable intake manifold.

Coil-at-plug ignition. Turbocharger with intercooler. Electronic Throttle Control. Aluminium cylinder head

147kW @ 5400rpm

262Nm @ 4200rpm

Mechanical

Electro-hydraulic rack and pinion power steering

4-wheel disc brakes, front ventilated

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). Four sensor/four channel

Brake Assist (BA)

Double-isolated front suspension, using subframe

Compound torsion beam and trailing arm rear suspension

IDSPlus Sports Chassis Pack with Continuous Damping Control (CDC)

Traction Control (TC)

Electronic Stability Program

Wheels

18″ x 7.5″ alloy wheels (five-spoke).

225/40R18 tyres

Tyre valve cap tool located behind fuel filler flap

Exterior

Body coloured, heated mirrors

Body coloured door handles

Body coloured bumpers, front and rear

Body coloured side protection mouldings

Chromed tailgate handle with electronic touch pad

Rear fog lamp

Front fog lamps

Turbo lower body kit (front, rear and side skirts)

Rear roof spoiler

Anti-corrosion: Galvanised body panels. Bodyshell dip-primed electrostatically

Driver

Steering wheel, height and reach adjust

Leather wrap sports steering wheel (standard for CDTi manual only)

Alloy-look sports pedals

Electric remote control mirrors. Heated glass with auto off

Intermittent wipers front and rear (front only on TwinTop)

Rear window demister

Cruise control

Variable instrument dimming

Tachometer

Graphic information display: Time. Date. Outside temperature. Warning messages.

Audio settings. Trip computer functions. Trip computer includes: Instant economy. Average economy.

Fuel used on trip. Average speed. Trip distance. Distance to empty. Stop watch

Check control: Remote control key batteries. Brake light bulb and circuit. Brake pads.

Washer fluid level. Coolant level

Headlight level adjust

Headlamps left on warning buzzer

Door ajar warning lamp

Seatbelt warning lamp

Foldable keys

Service reminder

Sound system

AM/FM stereo electronic tune radio. Seek. Preset station scan

6-disc in-dash CD player

Multi function or graphic display includes: Radio band. Preset station number. Frequency. CD/radio functions

Seven premium speakers. Total 130 watts

Sound system remote controls on steering wheel

Speed dependent volume control

Seating

Seat trim in woven cloth

Heatable front seats

Padded front seat head restraints. Height adjust

8-way adjustment of front sports seats. Recline. Slide. Height. Cushion tilt

Adjustable lumbar support — driver and front passenger

Driver and front passenger front airbags

Driver and front passenger side impact airbags

Curtain airbags

Three padded rear head restraints with height adjust

Pyrotechnic front seatbelt pretensioners. Lower belt mounts on seat frame for consistent fit when seat moved forward or back

Front seatbelt force limiters, controls maximum force on chest

Front seatbelt sash height adjust

Brake pedal (and clutch pedal on manual vehicles) release in serious frontal collision

Anti-submarining ramps in all seats reduce the risk of sliding under seatbelt in collision

All seatbelts retracting lap/sash

Rear seat child restraint anchor points located on back of rear seats

Cabin comfort

Electronic climate control air conditioning

Heating/ventilation system includes pollen filter

Power windows, front. Express down/up

Power windows auto reverse safety function (when power windows fitted)

Sunglasses storage

Interior lighting auto off when ignition switched on. Auto off timer if engine remains off

Tinted windows

Cup holders, one in each front door and glove box lid

Rear seat back 60:40 split, foldable

Split level glovebox for smaller items. Removable middle shelf. Pen holder. Lamp

Centre console storage tray

Compartment in centre console

Storage bins in all doors

Coat hooks

Lamp in boot or cargo area

Security

Radio frequency remote control key operates: Interior lighting. Central locking for keyless entry.

Door deadlocks. Boot or tailgate. Fuel filler door

Key has rolling security code

Engine immobilised automatically when key removed from ignition.

Ignition lock cylinder ‘freewheels’ if anything other than correct key is inserted

Door lock in driver’s door only. Lock cylinder ‘freewheels’ if anything other than correct key is inserted

Hinged, removable cargo cover, with colour keyed fabric

Audio display in multi function display separate from sound system unit to deter theft. Security PIN coding

Specification

Fuel tank (litres) 52

4 wheel disc brakes, Front ventilated,

4-channel ABS with brake assist

Suspension: IDSplus Suspension. Independent. MacPherson strut. Decoupled strut mounts. Continuously Controlled Dampers. Coil springs. Stabiliser bar

Steering: Electro-hydraulic power rack and pinion

Front track (mm):  1484

Rear track (mm): 1481

Turning circle (m): 10.85

Dimensions and weights

Length: 4290

Width (inc mirrors): 2033

Width (exc mirrors): 1753

Height: 1460

Cargo volume: rear seats up 302 litres, rear seats down 1030 litres

Kerb weight: 1401kg

Towing capacity: 630 unbraked, 1300 braked.

Warranty/service

3,000km (at no cost) inspection, then every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. Holden Dealer ‘Tech 2’ latest computerized analysis system available for engine management system. Spark plug replacement every 60,000km. Cartridgeless paper oil filter. Audible disc pad replacement warning.

Engine timing belt replacement every 120,000km.

Words and photos Darren Cottingham


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