As the fiery first flush of their new relationship softens, Inwood discovers the Holden Astra’s deeper charms.
First published in the March 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
THE second month of any relationship is often more difficult than the first. Mostly this is because, having already acknowledged obvious strengths and weaknesses, month two is devoted to a deeper kind of critique.
Instead of noticing your partner’s sense of style, for example, which you once thought effortless and beautiful, you begin to fixate on some not-so-smooth details. Or a slightly dumpy behind that gives the impression of having soiled one’s underpants. It’s these little foibles that can make or break a relationship. And so it is with my Holden Astra.
Now familiar with the broad strokes of its ability, I’ve begun to delve deeper into the nitty gritty of its personality. Most of what I’ve uncovered is positive, like using the cruise control, which is not only a breeze to operate but doesn’t disengage when I press the clutch to change gears. This means that, unlike most manual cars, I don’t have to keep resetting the system every time I drive up a hill or slot into a higher gear to save fuel.
The idle-stop function is brilliant, too, and has none of the frustrating jerkiness or sluggishness of other systems. Select neutral at the lights and the Astra seamlessly shuts off the engine before restarting quickly when you depress the clutch.
I’ve also realised why gripping the leather steering wheel imparts such a strong sense of sportiness. While it might look round, it’s actually subtly shaped like a hexagon, with a flat bottom and moulded sides for your hands.
The biggest revelation, though, has been the MyLink system. After initially dismissing it as convoluted and pointless, I’ve since familiarised myself with the idiosyncrasies of its many menus and now use it on every journey. The sat-nav is quick to react to wrong turns and rivals Google Maps for selecting the fastest route.
I’ve developed an unhealthily dependant relationship with the female tones of the voice command, which understands nearly all of my requests and reads me my text messages in a soft American accent.
Better still, MyLink lets you respond to texts while driving. Hitting the reply button throws up a screen of pre-programmed replies, which after a month of replying to everything with “Call me, I’m driving” I’ve now discovered can be altered or rewritten altogether to suit your needs.
So, far from spoiling the relationship with crooked teeth, month two has revealed a welcome depth to the Holden Astra’s personality, to match its swoopy, good-looking exterior. I’ve stumbled across some new foibles, the most annoying being air conditioning that struggles to provide the icy coolness I’m used to from Aussie-built Holdens, but so far the positives easily outweigh the negatives.
Save it, sucker
Oh what a fuel-sucking fool I’ve been this month. After recording an impressive 6.6 in month one, I became overconfident about how efficient the Astra is. I should have remembered last month’s reading was helped by long stints on the freeway; instead I descended into lead-footed madness, racing between lights and shifting at the 6500rpm redline. Heavy traffic compounded the issue. The result was a dismal 10.4 for month two. Hopefully the next reading is somewhere in the middle of those extremes.
Holden Astra GTC Sport
Price as tested: $29,990
Part 2: 912km @ 10.4L/100km
Overall: 2600km @ 8.5L/100km
Date acquired: November 2015