Holden Astra: Appeal of the sedan
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Four-door sedans may be on the wane as SUVs of all sizes and variations become more popular, but most car companies still believe they have a future.
Holden New Zealand, for example, has launched a range of sedan versions of what it describes as its most advanced small car, the Astra.
Honda New Zealand will continue offering sedan variants of its Civic range, which has proven a sales success since its introduction a year ago.
Though Honda has recently launched hatchback versions of the Civic, it believes the new models will strengthen the entire Civic range's appeal, including the sedans, in the marketplace.
Holden's Astra sedans likewise broaden the range of Astra models available in this country, and join the Astra hatchback introduced here in March. The two models will be joined by a station wagon variant later this year.
Though the Astra sedans are designed in the United States, for this market, they are being built in South Korea, unlike the Astra hatchback models which are being built in Poland.
The Astra hatchback models are said to have a sportier "European" feel behind the wheel when compared with the sedan models.
However drives of the three-model Astra sedan range on back roads west of Auckland revealed a surprisingly agile small car which handles our often rough back roads well.
The Astra sedans are all powered by a four-cylinder turbo engine that produces 110kW of power and 240Nm of torque. They all have nicely balanced steering and pull well from a standing start.
The cars have good road manners and the ride and steering are firm and direct without becoming a challenging handful for the driver.
Certainly compared with the Corolla sedan, the Astras provide a more relaxed drive on most road surfaces.
Both the Astra hatch and sedan are built on the latest evolution of the Delta 2 vehicle platform developed at GM Europe's German headquarters in Russelsheim. Among the benefits of the Delta 2 architecture is a weight-saving of around 120kg compared to the previous Cruze sedan.
The Astra sedan has received bespoke styling input from the GM Australia design team, with a front grille and fascia treatment to give the range a more cohesive appearance.
Holden engineers have also tweaked the steering, suspension and chassis to improve the model's agility and responsiveness when driving in local conditions.
The baseline LS six-speed automatic sedans come surprisingly well-equipped for a model that starts at $30,990.
There is a six-speed manual sedan available for $29,490, but by indent order only, and given the effectiveness of the automatic gearbox, it is likely to have limited appeal in this market.
The mid-ranged LT sedan costs $34,490, and includes LED daylight running lights, keep lane assist, 17-inch wheels and the 8-inch colour screen.
The LTZ sedan costs $4000 more, at $38,490, and includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a piano black centre stack, electric sunroof, heated leather appointed seats and climate control air conditioning.
All models have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and six-speaker audio systems, while the LT and LTZ models have embedded voice recognition and satellite navigation systems.
The Astra sedans also have lane keep assist functions which helps the driver keep the vehicle in the correct lane, by providing a steering wheel pushback when an unintended lane departure is detected. Rear park assist systems and reversing cameras are standard equipment.
The active safety systems on the LT and LTZ models include front park assist, side blind sport alert, rain sensing wipers and a self-park assist function.
The front camera on the LT and LTZ models monitors the area in front of the car, and includes the lane keep assist system, forward collision alert and forward distance indicator. The Astras also have multi-function steering wheels, leather-wrapped in the premium models. All have a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Holden faced a marketing dilemma when it came to naming the Astra -- it could have continued with the Cruze badge on all local models. However it opted to drop the Cruze badge, and build on the already established and sportier European Astra brand history.
The Astra hatchback will be the default choice of many buyers, but now, with other Astra options available, Holden provides alternatives for those who prefer four doors and a boot. Later this year the Sportswagon will join the range.