Car reviews - Holden - Astra - CDX coupe
Overall design, stylish, upmarket cabin, roadholding, steering, brakes, gearshift quality, equipment levels
Room for improvement
Narrow opening boot, less luggage capacity than previous two-door, 1.8 lacks grunt when benchmark is 2.0 litres, low-down torque could be better, no curtain airbags, fussy radio and trip computer controls
23 Sep 2005
By CHRIS HARRIS
AT last a coupe that looks like a coupe. Really? Where?
Cast your eyes over Holden’s new Astra coupe and it won’t take long to realise it makes a stand-alone styling statement.
It’s lower, sleeker and more aggressively styled than the five-door AH model upon which it is based.
To help achieve the right look, the coupe has had 25mm sliced out of the roof to give it sleeker proportions and a meaner disposition.
The only body panels shared with the five-door are the bonnet, front bumper and mudguards.
This time around too, Holden has not introduced the coupe under the sedan and hatch. Rather, it is pitched at a $1500 premium over the $21,990 AH five-door hatch.
It is no poverty pack either.
The standard kit is improved with the CD coupe boasting air conditioning, 15-inch alloys, dual front and side airbags, electric windows and mirrors, cruise control, anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, seven-speaker Blaupunkt CD stereo with steering wheel mounted controls.
The CDX model tested adds heated leather sports seats, leather steering wheel, cruise control, trip computer, 16-inch alloys, body coloured trim, height adjustable front seats with lumbar support and illuminated vanity mirrors.
At 2614mm, the coupe boasts the same wheelbase as the five-door, which affords a roomy rear seat – as far as legroom is concerned anyway.
The lower roof does however sacrifice some interior headroom and the swoopy profile means any rear seat passengers over 2m will find headroom tight.
The chunky C-pillar and letterbox rear hatch window also limit rearward visability, making lane changes an extra cautious manoeuvre. But that’s a criticism of just about all coupes and a small price to pay for looking good.
Fortunately, getting into and out of the rear seat is easy via the flip and slide front seats, which sit 9mm lower than the five-door.
However, we found the latch to flip the seat back a bit of a fumble because it lacks a definite indent.
Like the five-door the coupe has impressive levels of strength and the doors shut with the characteristic "thunk" expected of a premium European car.
Interior trim quality levels too are above average and certainly more easy on the eye than the harsh plastics found in the Ford Focus.
The interior quality extended to the heated leather sports seats, which offered plenty of comfort, support and excellent adjustment. Combined with the height and reach adjustable steering, most drivers will have no trouble finding an acceptable driving position.
The cabin ambience is a cut above, with legible instruments and a quality feel to the minor switchgear. Only the low-rent indicator stalks – now on the right-hand side – and lack of a temperature gauge took the shine off and otherwise well-executed, highly liveable cabin.
Like all AH Astras, the coupe uses a MacPherson strut-style front suspension with lateral control arms attached to a hydro-formed subframe and the rear torsion beam axle, which carries over from the old car, lacks sophistication of the multi-link rear systems offered in the Focus, Mazda3 or even Golf V.
However, the simpler torsion beam set-up does allow a flat floor and room for a full-sized spare tyre.
Despite its sporty pretensions and "coupe" styling, the suspension has not been given an expected "sports" makeover with firmer settings. That means it remains compliant, lush even, isolating road noise and proving more than acceptable for press-on motoring.
Only the steering feels taunter and more direct.
The 1.8-litre engine too carries over from the old car, which feels its age in the coupe as the car’s extra weight means it must work harder to deliver any lively performance.
The Ecotec 16-valve four may well have been a solid performer in its day – back in 1998 when the Astra TS was launched – but today it lags the benchmark hatches in both power and torque.
Its 90kW of power comes in at a high 5600rpm and there’s 165Nm of torque at 3800rpm.
Premium unleaded delivers slightly better power and torque figures but the coupe needs to be stirred through the gears to get going.
The 1.8 will certainly rev with alacrity and remains reasonably quiet when doing so but standing starts from traffic lights are perhaps more leisurely than we remember of the original TS Astra and a recalcitrant flatspot in second took the edge off the four.
Once under way there’s enough low down torque to allow the car to trundle along quite happily in fifth gear around 60km/h but downshifts are the norm for some curry in a hurry.
Fortunately, the five-speed gearbox is a joy to use. Precise, if slightly notchy in that European tradition but both the clutch and shift quality are good.
Holden quotes a combined fuel economy figure of 7.8L/100km for the manual and in a week’s running around Melbourne in mostly peak hour traffic we managed 8.8L/100km, according to the trip meter, which suggests the fuel figures are on target.
For those buyers expecting a bit more dash for their cash there’s a 147kW Astra SRi turbo coming in January next year - plus the 172kW turbo Opel Performance Centre (OPC) late next year, likely to be badged an HSV.
In the meantime the curvy coupe will have to rely largely on pleasing looks to get by – and in the case of this particular car, that’s not such a bad thing.
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