Pointing the way ahead

by Andy Bryenton

Rather than seeing the end of its Australian manufacturing in the near future as a blow to the brand, Holden is embracing the opportunity to shift its focus and present a totally new selection of vehicles from 2017 onward. With more than 20 fresh models in the pipeline, Holden is determined to bring the best of General Motors’ global catalogue to the antipodes.

The new Astra is a key part of that strategy, shaking off the image of Holden as ‘those Commodore guys’ and igniting interest in a whole new slice of the auto market. 

There’s no better way of doing that than sharing the success of what is branded as Vauxhall or Opel in Europe, but which will be all Holden here in Australia and New Zealand. 

That level of success is stunning, because the new Astra doesn’t just challenge the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Peugeot — it beat them hands down to become 2016’s European Car of the Year.

Looking at the sleek lines of the 2017 Astra as it will hit Kiwi roads, it’s easy to see how far this badge has come. Far from the utilitarian hatch of previous years, the new Astra is all about style, with special attention paid to the interior cabin and its technological appointments. Customers wanted more safety, more luxury and less buttons, so Holden has delivered, with an intuitive layout centred around a multipurpose touchscreen. 

Power is provided by a choice of either the tried-and-true 1.6-litre turbo four already in use by Holden, or a brand new 1.4-litre unit developing 110 kilowatts and 240 Newton-metres of torque. 

Both will come mated up with a six-speed transmission, with a choice of both automatic or stick shift for the driving purist. Electric power steering and a suite of driver assists such as automatic cruise control make handling the Astra a breeze, complementing its nimble road manners and tight turning circle for urban driving. 

With this latest offering, Holden has given us a glimpse of a world beyond the dominance of just the big Commodore — a European-built, world-beating small car which announces the intention of GM to bring the full might of its global operations to bear on the local market. 

If this is the way it intends to proceed, the future of the Holden badge looks bright, taking the fight to the competition across the small car, SUV and highly contested light commercial sectors.