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Holden Astra R Hatch - Nelson Bays Motor Group

PHOTO: DAVID LINKLATER/STUFF

It's been a while coming, but the Astra arrived in New Zealand with considerable award-form: in Opel guise it was the European Car of the Year for 2016.

As the standard-bearer for a new generation of Holdens, the Australian-based company has ensured the car is well set-up for local tastes. The steering and stability-control calibration in particular have been reconfigured for our more demanding driving conditions.

They're worthwhile tweaks to what's already an accomplished package. We love the sharp design inside and out, the perky performance and especially the six-speed automatic gearbox.

The entry-level Astra R hatch is our favourite. That's a sure sign of a well-sorted car.

There are some good continuously variable transmissions out there, but if you love driving you can't beat a well-sorted gearbox with actual ratios. Especially when it's combined with such a capable chassis.

READ MORE:
Why the entry-level R might be the best Holden Astra you can buy
Astra sedan is the same as the hatch but also quite different

Hatch interior sports swish design. In an age of CVT, we also love the six-speed automatic gearbox.

It's a measure of a great car that the entry-level model is the most appealing. In the Astra hatchback's case that's the $30,990 R, which has an all-new 1.4-litre engine and even still offers the option of a six-speed manual gearbox.

If you want the five-door with the last word in luxury gear and active safety equipment, you'll have to go for the 1.6-litre RS-V - which is still great value at $36,990.

Our focus is on the designed-for-Europe, Polish-built Astra hatchback. But the Korean-made sedan is definitely in the club, even if it's still known as the "Cruze" elsewhere in the world. 

Sedan adds extra dimension to range. Built in Korea on same platform, with excellent 1.4-litre engine.

The sedan is more conservatively styled and has less sophisticated rear suspension, but it adds an extra dimension to the range, rides on the same new-gen platform and is powered by that excellent 1.4-litre powertrain.

More good news: there's another Astra to come in 2018, in the form of a handsome-looking wagon.

AT A GLANCE
Price range: $29,490 (LS) to $38,490 (LTZ).
Powertrains: 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four with 110kW/240Nm, 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four with 147kW/280Nm, six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, front-drive.
Fuel economy: 5.8-6.3 litres per 100km.

Contact Nelson Bays Motor Group, your Holden Dealer for more details.