So now, after nearly half a year behind the wheel, where do I stand? Am I any less conflicted than I was in the beginning?
It’s hard to develop an emotional attachment to something as prosaic as a mainstream small hatchback, and truth be told my eyes won’t be welling up as I hand back the keys to Holden. That being said, I will miss more than a few things.
For starters, the engine is undoubtedly the cherry atop the sundae that is the Astra RS. Its 1.6 turbo makes mega torque for a hatchback that isn’t pitched as a performance car, yet it’s refined, makes nice noises, and has the flexibility necessary to lug around town with ease.
It also loves to be worked hard, and thrusts forward with vigour when you prod the ‘Sport’ button that is hiding behind the gear lever, unlocking the overboost.
And the balance between ride and handling, for me, lands right in the sweet spot.
Dynamically capable, the Holden Astra also enjoys a ride comfort that is perfectly suited to ironing out even the shonkiest of suburban streets. Though it’s a little too soft and compliant to properly harness its sizeable 147kW/300Nm outputs – not even brake torque vectoring can contain that inside wheelspin if you’re a bit heavy throttling out of a slow corner.
The Astra’s interior has also won me over.
Its clean surfaces and uncluttered centre console places it somewhere between the charmingly minimalist Peugeot 308 and the ultra-efficient (if a little soulless) Golf 7.5 for aesthetic appeal. Material quality and selection, however, still doesn’t tickle my fancy – especially its dust and fingerprint prone piano black plastics.
That’s a minor concern though, and one that’s balanced out by virtues such as excellent seat comfort, standard smartphone mirroring, and a lovely six-speed manual.
And here’s the thing: over the past 16 weeks, there was never a day where I truly didn’t want to drive the Astra home.
Sure, there was the occasional overnight tryst in some of the more high-end cars that have rolled through chez Wheels, but I’d always happily return to the comfort of the RS.
That’s a ringing endorsement for a do-it-all small hatch that is designed for the average Aussie motorist.
Stepping from the likes of a Lexus LC or a Mercedes E43, and straight into the Astra never felt like punishment – it was like slipping back into a pair of high-end sneakers after a day in dress shoes.