Holden’s going through a period of ‘brand transition’.
The Aussie car company, which is traditionally known for its large cars with rear-wheel drive and powerful engines, has “lost its relevance”.
“We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeves than one or two model lines,” said Holden NZ’s general manager, Kristian Aquilina, at the media launch of the all new Holden Astra.
In 2015 Holden NZ embarked on a five-year plan that, according to Aquilina, will “bring Holden kicking and screaming into the modern era in New Zealand’s market”.
The campaign involves extensive rebranding and repositioning through print, digital and electronic media, and enhancing the physical dealership network along with the customer experience.
Clever marketing is all well and good, but obviously Holden NZ won’t achieve its goal of being “New Zealand’s most loved automotive brand” without the right product. This is why it’s in the middle of launching 24 new vehicles by 2020.
European Astra is one of seven cars introduced to date, and it’s a key player. Replacing Cruze as Holden’s small car contender, it certainly has the right credentials.
Astra’s a known nameplate, having been launched here back in 1995, and the model we’re seeing now won the coveted European Car of the Year award in 2016.
New Astra is available as a five-door hatch, in three specification trim levels: entry-level 1.4-litre R, a more powerful and tech-laden 1.6-litre RS, and a range topping RS-V also with the 1.6-litre.
Both engines are turbocharged.
The all-new 1.4 develops 110kW maximum power and 240Nm of torque with an automatic transmission, 245Nm with a manual. The 1.6 delivers 147kW and 300Nm.
Kiwi Astras have the same suspension set up as the European versions, but the electronic power steering has unique calibration to suit our market.
All models have six airbags, a rearview camera and Electronic Stability Control as standard.
Astra also has the latest generation MyLink infotainment system featuring class-leading Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The R and RS models have a 7” colour touch screen with Bluetooth and voice rec-
Recognition functionality via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the RS-V adds an embedded satellite navigation system and voice recognition, together with a larger 8” col-
our touch screen.
The launch in Napier provided an opportunity to sample all three models over a 350-kilometre loop, from the city centre out to Puketitiri.
From negotiating morning traffic to technical, twisting country roads, Astra acquitted itself extremely well.
While the 1.4 is a decent performer that won’t disappoint, the 1.6 is a delight.
With 300Nm of torque the engine pulls smoothly and strongly, and the suspension provided ample grip, predictable handling and a comfortable ride.
Astra is a well built, stylish and well appointed small car that’s a huge step up from Cruze. Pricing is competitive too, starting at $30,990 for the R through to $36,990 for the RS-V.