Alex Inwood finds a case for self-parking in his long-term Holden Astra GTC Sport.
First published in the April 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
WE’VE had a turbulent month, the Astra GTC and I. Those familiar with my time with Holden’s Sunny Melon hatch will know I’m in love with its swoopy design, its perky 1.6-litre turbo-petrol and the way it strikes a sweet balance between handling and ride comfort, even on 19-inch wheels.
But this month we hit a hurdle. It arrived in the form of a tight and eerily dark underground car park where the Astra’s poor visibility, lack of reversing camera and wide 11.9m turning circle combined in a perfect, swirling storm of frustration. Let’s just say I haven’t completed that many three-, five- and seven-point turns in a very long time.
As good as that sexy, narrow glasshouse looks, it leaves you with zero reference as to the rear extremity of the car, so you’re totally reliant on the incessant beeping of the Holden Astra’s overly sensitive parking sensors.
Even when you’ve parked, the irritations aren’t over because you then have to clamber out of the thing. I’ve moaned about the Astra’s enormous doors before, but they really are heavy and cumbersome enough to taint a potential ownership proposition, especially if you live in the inner city.
Swoopy, narrow glasshouse looks brilliant. Just don’t expect to use the rear windows for, you know, seeing stuff.
All of this is sounding rather negative, which is disappointing because the Astra has excelled and surprised in other areas.
After three months trapped in Melbourne’s choking traffic, an 1100km round trip to the Murray River town of Mildura finally gave it a chance to stretch its legs. And I can report that on the freeway the Astra chewed up the kilometres with quiet and efficient ease. Sitting in sixth for most of the journey returned a fuel figure of 7.3L/100km, the seats are comfortable, there’s plenty of useful storage and the door bins swallow two bottles of water.
Part of the trip even saw me cram two fully grown adults into the back, and as dubious as the Astra’s coupe exterior made them feel, they soon realised the back seat not only has a supportive and deep cushion but is seriously roomy.
The one annoyance on the trip was the ride, which felt pattery and struggled to settle on sub-par tarmac. A downside to those big, good-looking 19-inch alloys.
Another bummer is that the road to Mildura is mostly straight and featureless, so I’m yet to truly explore the Astra’s dynamic ability. This really is something I need to do, not least because it’s fitted with GM’s exciting-sounding HiPerStrut front suspension, which is meant to reduce torque-steer, and a Watt’s link rear-end. I feel an early morning blast on some choice mountain roads coming up.
It’s taken a while to figure out what the Astra’s Eco button, which sits loud and proud at the top of the button-infested centre stack, actually does. I’d prodded and poked the thing, but it didn’t seem to change anything. Throttle and engine response felt just the same. Realisation finally hit when stopped at a set of lights and
I discovered it controls the Astra’s idle-stop system. With Eco on, the system is engaged. Switch it off and the engine, and the air-con, continue to run, which is handy on hot days.
Holden Astra GTC Sport
Price as tested: $29,990
Part 3: 1822km @ 8.1L/100km
Overall: 4422km @ 8.3L/100km
Date acquired: November 2015