2018 Holden Astra Sportwagon LT Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Holden Astra Sportwagon LT Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The Holden Astra wagon is a versatile addition to the Astra range and is a highlight in Holden’s line-up.
2018 Holden Astra Sportwagon LT
Pricing $29,940+ORC Warranty three-years, 100,000km Safety 5 star ANCAP Engine 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 110kW at 5600rpm Torque 240Nm at 2400-4800rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4702mm (L) 1809mm (W) 1510mm (H) 2662mm (WB) Weight 1355kg Boot Space 540-1630L Spare Temporary Spare Fuel Tank 48L Thirst 5.9L/100km claimed combined
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THE ASTRA Sportwagon arrived Down Under late last year (as the 13th vehicle in Holden’s 24 vehicle release by 2020) following in the wheel tracks of the Astra Hatch and Astra Sedan which are two very different vehicles in the fact that they’re almost totally unrelated. Moving on. The Astra Hatch which arrived here in late November 2016 hasn’t sold up the storm that Holden hoped it would and has been swamped by vehicles like the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30.
And, that’s a shame, because let’s not forget the Astra Hatch was European Car of the Year in 2016, a title that Holden had hoped would help it here, along with the fact the locally sold variants had coped some tweaking by Holden’s local engineering team.
What is the Astra Sportwagon?
Essentially, it’s a longer version of the hatch and that means it’s got an excellent starting point. It goes head to head with the VW Golf Wagon ($28,990+ORC), the Skoda Octavia Wagon ($24,690+ORC) and the Renault Megane Zen wagon ($30,490+ORC).
Like the hatch, the Sportwagon is built in the UK and was designed and engineered alongside the hatch at Opel’s headquarters in Germany. Now, there is an elephant in the room and that is the fact that PSA now owns Opel and that it has already said the Insignia (nee new Commodore) won’t be around after 2020, and it’s likely the Astra will die too; future variants are likely to be spun off Peugeot 308 platforms…
But, for now, it’s all systems go. Holden’s local engineering team was involved in the development of the Astra but that tweaking didn’t involve changes to suspension which was handled in the UK. Rather, Holden’s team focussed on tweaks to the anti-lock brakes, stability control and torque vectoring, the steering was made slower (unlike Hyundai and Kia which quicken the steering from the European tune. The automatic transmission was also worked on and its shift pattern altered, although Holden won’t say exactly how it differs to those in Europe.
Weight saving and chassis stiffening have been the main name of the game where the Sportwagon is concerned as it was with the hatch, and there’s now more high-strength light weight steel used in the chassis than ever before; that said, the Sportwagon is about 80-odd kilograms heavier than the hatch (1355kg) which is 160kg lighter than its predecessor, so that’s still a pretty good result.
There are only two variants of Sportwagon to choose from, the LS+ which includes active safety as standard, from $25,740+ORC and the LT (which we’re testing) from $29,940+ORC which adds a leather interior, hands-free powered tailgate, advanced park assist, native sat-nav and more.
What’s the interior like?
Holden has boasted of reducing the number of buttons, dials and switches on the Astra’s dashboard but there are still more than 25 spread out across the dashboard and steering wheel. And while the design looks nice and modern there’s far too much hard, scratchy plastic spread throughout the cabin to lift the overall feel beyond the middle of the pack.
Our LT tester gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen while the LS+ only gets a 7.0-inch unit and while there’s plenty of functionality to the native system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also included it’s not the greatest of systems with spidery graphics that can be hard to see when you’re on the move.
From behind the wheel, the leather seats feel more like vinyl but should prove hard wearing and lack support in either the base or sides of the seat. That said, there’s decent adjustability and drivers of all shapes and sizes should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel. There’s decent vision right around and the reversing camera offers dynamic lines although the camera quality is poor. Some readers have asked about the rear three-quarters (over the shoulder) view when driving because of the slabby C-pillar. Well, it isn’t as bad as it might seem and is on par with many other vehicles with a similar treatment, like the Peugeot 3008.
Over in the back seat there’s plenty of elbow, shoulder and head room for a six-footer like me, and even with the front seat set to suit me my knees were nowhere near the seat back of the seat in front – and I had plenty of wriggle room for my feet too. There are ISOFIX mounts on the two outboard seats and my daughter’s booster seat fitted easily. There are no rear air vents and there are none under the front seats either.
But it’s the boot that most people care about on a wagon, and the Sportwagon offers a spacious 1630 litres when the rear seats are folded down, and 540 litres when they’re in space. There’s around one-metre of boot length and only a small boot lip which makes loading and unloading easy. The back seats are 60:40 split fold and there’s no through loading; a cargo blind comes standard as is easy to remove. There’s a temporary spare beneath the boot floor.
What’s it like on the road?
The Sportwagon gets the hatch’s 1.4-litre tubocharged four-cylinder petrol engine which makes 110kW at 6500rpm and 240Nm of torque between 2000-4000rpm and is mated to the same six-speed automatic as the hatch. Fuel consumption is a claimed combined 5.9L/100km.
After driving the Holden Equinox and being totally underwhelmed by its drivetrain, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from the Astra Sportwagon not when you consider its relatively slight on-paper power and torque figures. But the engine and transmission are perfectly matched and tuned to deliver the right amount of grunt just at the right time. Indeed, it’s a very pleasant, willing and easy car to drive.
In our time with the Astra Sportwagon was subjected to highway and around town runs, and two laps of our test road loop. While there’s no tuning of the suspension and steering to suit Australian roads, development of the ride and handling was carried out in the UK with the quality of that country’s roads and their driving preference being like ours, so, the Astra Sportwagon arrives offering a good blend of ride comfort and body control.
Across the PM test loop, which covers smooth highway sections, tight and twisting corners, some rubbish roads and dirt, the Astra Sportwagon LT proved more than up to the task. This thing doesn’t need to feel sporty, but the medium-firm ride and well-tuned dampers mean this thing can swallow up the worst of the road without going to pieces. There’s good body control and grip and both road and wind noise are well controlled; even across dirt the underbody proved well insulated.
The transmission is well tuned and responsive to the right foot, picking the right gear at the right time and never joggling to catch up into or out of a corner.
The steering is the low point in an otherwise impressive package, see, while it is direct enough it lacks feel and consistent weighting; with slight torque steer nibbling at the edges when you give it full throttle from a standing start. The brakes are a little too eager too and lack the sort of progression you need to make crawling in stop start traffic as comfortable as possible.
In all, the Sportwagon LT offers the right blend of comfort and control and will keep you happy tootling around town, on the highway or even on the occasional drive along a twisting road.
What about safety features?
The Astra Sportwagon shares the hatchback’s five-star ANCAP rating (well, the top-spec variants) and gets the Holden Eye forward-facing camera which incorporates Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist. It also offers airbags, traction and stability controls, reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors.
What about ownership?
The Astra Sportwagon offers a three-year warranty, 100,00km warranty (why Holden wouldn’t just stick with its now expired seven-year warranty is baffling) and an odd nine-months or 15,000km capped price servicing schedule. We haven’t heard of any major ownership issues with the new Astra but, if you have, then please share them at the end of this article.
So, what do we think about the Astra Sportwagon LT?
Holden has produced a genuine alternative to an SUV and a genuine competitor amongst its key small wagon rivals. Sure, it lacks the quality of either a Golf or Octavia Wagon, but there’s enough to like about the Astra Sportwagon, especially the price, features, engine and handling that it’s worth adding to your shopping list.