Being famous must be a very difficult thing to cope with. Some people are just not cut out for it – look at Britney. Celebrities have to live with the knowledge that no matter where they go someone will recognise them.
The Holden Astra TwinTop is the solution for those, like Britney, who need to moderate their monthly doses of limelight with anonymity available at the push of a button.
Auckland on a cold, cloudy June day is not the best place or time to try out the new Holden Astra TwinTop convertible, but a cloudy day is a much more sensible proposition for top-down motoring, what with the ozone layer and all that.
After five minutes of pressing every button in the cabin trying to get the top down, I realised the cargo cover in the boot needs to be rolled out to let the roof do its thing. Once this is done, hold the button down and watch the transformation take place.
The two-piece metal folding top starts to move up and back in an elaborate Transformer-ish dance where assorted pieces of backseat trim pop-up and move about to make the ingress of the roof into the boot easier. With so many small operations happening while the roof is moving to the boot, I open and close the top a few more times to take it all in.
Such precision is magnificent to behold but the caveat of my father’s generation regarding car electrics echoes in my head: ‘That’ll be expensive to fix’.
The elegant folding metal roof looks so good and works so well that it makes a traditional fabric tops look like an option for those on the cheap, and 1960’s MG owners.
So with the heater warming the cabin I set off down the road with the top down, safe in the knowledge that if the paparazzi catches me (or my V8 mates see me) I can blend back into the traffic by flipping the top back up and disappearing back into the river of commuters.
Driving the Astra is not as exciting as seeing Britney in full meltdown but the ride is firm enough with the roof on. Topless driving (not Miss Spears fortunately) reveals that body rigidity is helped by having the roof up, as with the top down some scuttle shake is evident over bridge expansion strips and on local roads.
Handling is decent around town and there seems to be good front end grip available but the automatic transmission-equipped Astra is more a main road cruiser than a twisty back-road blaster.
The Astra is a smallish car but it feels very heavy on the road; not old Mercedes-Benz heavy, but noticeably heavier than you’d expect. This heaviness (the Astra TwinTop has to lug around almost 300kg more weight than its slimmer Astra sisters) doesn’t affect the steering or the brakes which are both good but it is something that you can feel when driving.
Because of this weight acceleration is not spectacular but pressing the ‘sport’ button sharpens the throttle response a little dropping the cogs earlier and changing up later. Traction control can also be de-activated by holding the ‘sport’ button down for a few seconds.
The Twin Top interior is decently appointed with a good driving position and comfortable front seats but the back seats are only good for occasional use or when you feel like being cruel to someone. The integrated stereo/trip computer controls were difficult to understand and even our resident ‘tech-geek’ had difficulty figuring it all out.
The Astra TwinTop only has a couple of direct rivals. The Peugeot 307 CC currently on sale in New Zealand has been around for a while and will soon be superseded when Peugeot releases the 308 CC. Renault has the Megane Coupe-Cabriolet and Mazda the MX-5 Coupe.
All of these are priced similarly to the TwinTop which comes in at RRP $49,995.
The standout of this bunch must be the two-seat MX-5 as it is the only real ‘sports car’, but from there it is a straight fight between the Astra, the 307CC (and perhaps the 207CC) and the Megane in which it comes down to looks. Suave Euro masculinity or chic feminine style? Make your choice.
Price: from $49,995
What we liked
- More gender-neutral styling than Peugeot’s offering
- Good sized boot with cubby holes when the roof is up
What we didn’t like
- Heavy boot lid
- Tricky internal computer
- Feels heavy
2.2 Litre Direct ECOTEC Engine 4-cylinder
4-speed automatic electronic control transmission. Economy, sport and winter mode
Four cylinders. Double overhead camshafts driven by chain operate four valves per cylinder. Variable high-pressure direct fuel injection.
Mass air flow meter (MAF) controlled combustion chamber. Multipoint fuel injection with electronic spark timing (EST), knock control, 2 oxygen sensors. Electronic cooling fan. Cylinder inlet port flaps vary airflow according to engine load. Electronic Ignition map with coil-at-plug ignition. Electronic throttle control. All aluminium engine with two balance shafts and dual-mass flywheel
Power: 110kW @ 5600rpm
Torque: 210Nm @ 4000rpm
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
Sports Chassis Pack
Traction Control (TC)
Electronic Stability Program
17″ x 7″ alloy wheels (five-spoke).
Tyre valve cap tool located behind fuel filler flap
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
Anti-corrosion: Galvanised body panels. Bodyshell dip-primed electrostatically
Steering wheel, height and reach adjust
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
Variable instrument dimming
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
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
Seat trim in black leather (leather-faced seats)
Heatable front seats
Padded front seat head restraints. Height adjust
8-way adjustment of driver’s sport seats. Recline. Slide. Height. Cushion tilt
6-way adjustment of driver’s sport seats. Recline. Slide. Height.
Adjustable lumbar support — driver
Driver and front passenger front airbags
Driver and front passenger side impact airbags
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
Active rollover protection system
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
Semi-automatic air conditioning
Heating/ventilation system includes pollen filter
Power windows, front/rear. Express down/up
Power windows auto reverse safety function (when power windows fitted)
Interior lighting auto off when ignition switched on. Auto off timer if engine remains off
Cup holders, one in each front door and glove box lid
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
Easy load luggage function
Lamp in boot or cargo area
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
Audio display in multi function display separate from sound system unit to deter theft. Security PIN coding
Fuel tank (litres) 52
4 wheel disc brakes, Front ventilated,
4-channel ABS with brake assist
Suspension: Independent. MacPherson strut. Decoupled strut mounts. Continuously Controlled Dampers. Coil springs. Stabiliser bar
Rear: compound torsion beam and twin trailing arms. Progress rate miniblock double conical coil springs. Gas pressure dampers.
Steering: Electro-hydraulic power rack and pinion
Front track (mm): 1488
Rear track (mm): 1481
Turning circle (m): 10.75
Dimensions and weights
Width (inc mirrors): 2021
Width (exc mirrors): 1831
Cargo volume (litres): roof open 205, roof closed 440
Kerb weight: 1590 (manual)/ 1620kg (auto)
Towing capacity: not recommended
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 Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham