IT FEELS weird that from October this will be it. Holden has quietly shown its rabid Astra VXR the door, and we know the fate of the Aussie Commodore.
Until the rebadged Insignia sedan arrives next year, Holden’s hottest offering will be this warmly baked Astra. Now, while it sports an RS badge and the Polish plant it’s built in nears Germany, there’s no shrieking six-pot or tricky all-paw system underneath.
What the sixth-generation Astra wields is a truly clean-sheet design from the sidewalls up. Okay, the RS’s direct-injected turbo 1.6-litre four has done Bang duties in the old two-door GTC Astra, but now it finds a home in this stiffer, lighter D2XX platform.
Holden’s global engineers have trimmed a staggering 170kg worth of flab from the old GTC’s frame. At the same time they’ve programmed the turbocharger with an overboost function, which handily slathers on an extra 20Nm between 1700-4700rpm.
This helps the engine, which we’ve tagged as gutless before, and it suddenly feels half potent. The RS carries an extra nine clicks at the traps compared to 2015’s Astra GTC and cuts the 80-120km/h sprint by almost a second to 3.84sec. Of course, past ghosts don’t matter much here.
In fact the Astra proves a bit of a dud on the dragstrip. On top of feeling breathless as it nears a 6500rpm redline, it struggles for traction. Those comfort-orientated Michelin Primacy 3’s can’t cleanly ground its overboosted, low-down grunt.
Its scoresheet is buoyed by a strong braking performance and cornering speed through turn four, but a lowly judges ranking destines the Astra for a poor Bang index. Opinions were split on the gearshift, with some ruing the second-to-third action and others thinking it suited the car’s warm-hatch intentions.
Verdicts aligned on the Astra’s suspension, though, which was decided to be soft and supple, but better suited for less exciting driving. Frustratingly the pedals are widely spaced for heel toe, and the brakes don’t cope with track-lapping’s rigours.
So, how’d it snatch fourth? Price, that’s how. And while we’re on it, the RS feels too expensive as a performance-car prospect. The upside is its decent steering, grippy chassis, and solid interior provide a strong base for a Focus ST fighter.
Which is whispered to be revealed this year. Now, that wouldn’t feel so weird.
Engine: 1598cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 147kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 280Nm @ 1650rpm
0-100km/h: 7.37sec (7th)
0-400m: 15.29sec @ 155.96km/h (7th)
Lap Time: 1:43.9sec (6th)
Bang Index: 81.2
Bucks Index: 129.2
BFYB Index: 100.4
WARREN LUFF SAYS
“A very soft car out there when you start pushing to the limit, you can feel it’s got a lot of body roll on the way into the corner. But surprisingly it doesn’t generate as much understeer you normally equate that to."
"It’s surprising how it uses its bodyroll to help it grip up that outside tyre. Look, it’s not the fastest car here. It’s not the most fun to drive, but for it’s own characteristics it was surprising."
"The engine was not too bad, it definitely starts to run out of puff in the upper rpm. It’s okay.”
David Morley - 7th: “Not the hottest of hatches, but classy and feels high-end.”
Dylan Campbell - 8th: “I’m sure it’s a good car but just completely outgunned in this test”
Louis Cordony - 7th: “Fast grocery-fetcher feels out of place in this environment.”
Tim Robson - 8th: “Fundamentals are there, but it just doesn’t all quite come together.”
Want more? Check out the rest of 2017 Bang For Your Bucks