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$0-50K: Holden Astra GTC #9

By David Morley, 16 Feb 2016 Best Value Performance Cars

Stronger on paper than on track

$0-50K: Holden Astra GTC #9

Haven’t I seen your face before? Oh yeah, that’s right; last time you were badged as an Opel.

But it seems the car-buying public didn’t understand and now you’re back with a Holden badge and a slashed price-tag. This, apparently, will fix everything. I swear, I will never understand marketing.

Thing is, I don’t think I’ll ever understand the Astra GTC as a performance car of any real sort. I guess you could say it has decent balance, but that’s probably more a function of not having a whole lot of poke to upset the handling applecart in the first place. Thing is, the Astra is a difficult car to get a flow happening on the track.

The brakes seem over-sensitive and want to pitch you through the screen when you get even remotely serious about poking them. The steering, however, is the opposite and just never has too much to say to you. Throw that lot together and it just seems harder than it should be to get the Astra into any sort of a groove at Winton. Which would explain its 1.06:8 (and that, I think, says more about Luffy than the GTC).

Holden Astra GTC sideBut what the GTC is really crying out for in an engine. Seriously, if this thing really has 147kW lurking under its bonnet, I’d be a bit surprised. The two-litre unit feels strangled even with the turbocharger bumping things up, and it never really encourages you either by making a good noise or, indeed, by making the scenery go past truly quickly.

Don’t take my word for it, though, check out the acceleration times. From rest, the GTC requires 7.75 seconds to get to 100 and then finally drags itself past 400m in 15.5; second slowest and with the second-slowest lowest terminal velocity of 147.9km/h.

That speculation that the thing doesn’t flow is backed up by the lap-time, but more deeply explained by the lacklustre Winton V-max of 155.5km/h and a Turn-five apex speed of 106.8 kliks, when the cheaper Fiesta ST was hauling past the same point at almost 111 km/h.

Holden Astra GTC frontBut for its size and packaging, the Astra GTC is good value. But that’s kind of where the packaging good news ends, because the interior itself is made up of some pretty ordinary looking plastics and there’s no climate-control air-con.

The front seats are good, though, but I’m damned if I can see out the back of this thing with its slitty little side windows and steeply raked hatch. Of course, you could argue that anybody who wants a truly quick Holden Astra can always stump up the $40K for a VXR. And, to be honest, that’s probably a fair assessment.

0-100km/h – 7.75sec (13th)
0-400m – 15.51sec @ 147.91km/h (12th)
Lap time – 1:46.8sec (10th)

Overall scores

Bang Index – 62.3
Price - $26,990
Bucks Index – 130.2
BFYB Index – 141.0

Judges’ Rankings

Campbell 11th – “Soft, slow, probably a decent road car. But on track it seems to be asking, ‘what on earth am I doing here?”

Morley 12th – “Oh Brother: what art thou?”

Newman 11th – “Capable, but a little soft and lacks excitement.”

Spinks 8th – “Likeable in many ways but too soft for track attacks.”

Luffy 12th – “It doesn't profess to be a top-of-the-range performance model, but the amount of front-end grip and turn-in was pleasantly surprising. It doesn't have the power to back it up, but the chassis balance is really good. You can bomb into a sweeper as hard as you want and know that it's going to want to turn at the mid-corner point. It's not the fastest car out there, but it doesn't pretend to be.”