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Driven: Holden Astra sedan to sell less than hatch

Sky high: Holden is hoping its Astra sedan will complement its Astra hatch sales and turn the nameplate into one of the best-selling small cars in Australia.

South Korean-made Holden Astra sedan will add to, not oust hatch sales


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15 Jun 2017

HOLDEN has confessed that its new Astra sedan will not be as popular as its hatchback stablemate, taking a 40 per cent slice of the nameplate’s sales despite the fresh four-door being $1000 cheaper than the five-door version.

The company has argued the case that the Chevrolet Cruze-derived, South Korean-built sedan should wear the Astra nameplate given its shared D2 architecture and drivetrain compared with the Polish-built hatchback that is virtually identical to the Opel Astra ‘proper’. Locally tweaked front styling and suspension, company executives said, further gives the sedan a ‘Holden’ flavour.

The Astra sedan has been targeted at an older family or retired buyer thanks to a more comfortable chassis tune, however the Astra hatchback is still expected to take 60 per cent of sales, explained Holden executive director of sales Michael Filazzola, because of its sportier nature and more premium feel.

“With (its predecessor) the Cruze the hatchback wasn’t the more popular one,” he told GoAuto at the national media launch of the Astra sedan in Byron Bay, New South Wales, this week.

“It was predominantly because of looks. So customers will actually pick what they believe is (most convincing) depending on looks. In Astra at the moment, hatch is what we’ll see most of the volume on. And sedan, depending on the way it actually performs, if we see that it becomes more of a fleet vehicle or company vehicle then you’ll probably see it swing high.

“But I think it really depends on the customer base itself.”

Mr Filazzola insisted the Astra sedan would add sales, and not take volume from the Astra hatchback, with Holden aiming to have clear links between the two body styles but also significant differences in order to appeal to different buyers.

“There are two different customer bases,” he continued.

“One is more around luxury, and that’s what we call the LT and LTZ (in sedan), probably an older demographic, retired, more relaxed. And the other is more a sporty vehicle (with a) younger audience.

“You’ll see that the person that is attracted to the hatch won’t really worry about the sedan, and vice-versa, because they do have crossover points in prices. So it’s not like you’re saying, well, I can’t afford a hatch so I’ll just go for a sedan.

“The crossover point is where you can say, if I like a sedan I’ll buy a sedan.

If I like a hatch, I can afford a hatch. So, I think with prices there is good crossover between the two segments.”

The Astra sedan range includes the $20,490 before on-road costs LS manual, $21,490 LS automatic, and the auto-only $22,740 LS+, $25,790 LT and $29,790 LTZ,. Holden has delivered initial driveaway pricing of $21,990/$22,990/$24,990/$27,990 for the first four versions respectively, but the LTZ is not included in that promotion.

In the case of the Astra hatch, the equivalent R manual and automatic, and R+ auto, are $1000 pricier than LS/LS+ based on pre-on-road costs pricing.

The LT and LTZ sedan are $1450 and $1950 cheaper than the equivalent RS and RS-V automatic hatchbacks, however they differ by continuing with the 110kW/240Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic combination used in both LS/LS+ and R/R+ model grades.

The upper-grade hatchbacks exclusively get a 147kW/300Nm 1.6-litre turbo, and are still available with a $1000-cheaper six-speed manual as well, which reduces their pricing premium over the auto-only sedans to $450 or $950.

Mr Filazzola said the plan was for the Astra sedan to significantly boost sales volume of the Astra hatch, which according to VFACTS May 2017 results has averaged just 631 units for each of the first five months of the year – although it fared better in May with 828 sales.

Its 3155-unit haul places the Holden behind the Kia Cerato (7879), Volkswagen Golf (6748), Subaru Impreza (5161) and Honda Civic (4786) year-to-date, while the company said it needs the Astra to be in a top-four position alongside the Toyota Corolla (15,624), Mazda3 (14,562) and Hyundai i30 (11,066).

“We’re looking at wanting to grow,” Mr Filazzola said.

“It (sedan volume) has got to be a supplement, it can’t be taken away from Astra hatch. This has got to be a supplement to our volume.”

Based on current volumes, an additional 40 per cent over the Astra hatchback would lend the Astra nameplate 1262 extra sales for a 4417 total – and still behind four other rivals in the class.

However, asked whether he would like to achieve Astra sales comparable to the Corolla and Mazda3, Mr Filazzola replied: “We want to go to those sort of volumes.”

The 4665mm-long Astra sedan stretches 279mm further than the hatch, with its 2700mm-long wheelbase extended by 38mm and contributing to increases in rear legroom (+33mm) and boot space (445 litres, up 85L).

The sedan’s 1807mm body width is only 2mm narrower, while front headroom, legroom and shoulder room are identical between both body styles.

Both use the same six-speed manual or auto, with shared combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres and 6.1L/100km respectively.

However, with a kerb weight of 1275kg, the sedan is between 8kg and 21kg lighter than the manual and auto versions of the hatch.

The Astra hatch scores a more sophisticated Watts-link torsion bar rear suspension set-up compared with a standard torsion beam for the sedan. Holden lead vehicle engineer Rob Trubiani argued that a comfort-biased suspension tune could be achieved without the extra linkage, while rejecting the assertion that the Astra sedan was a tweaked version of the US-market Chevrolet Cruze.

“(We initially received) a roughed out calibration that was done out of Europe,” he said of the tuning process, which started in January 2016.

“We took that tune, had a good look at it, then worked out where we needed to make changes. It was mainly around the intended customer. So, Astra hatch is based around a sporty flavour, it gets Watts-link for that reason.

“Astra sedan I think is more along the lines (of)… it uses its travel really well (and) over some pretty gritty roads, the car would breathe then settle. It will be one motion, the car would be settled and off you go again. So we’ve added the control that makes it a Holden, but we’ve biased it towards a comfort tune.”

Mr Trubiani said Holden was happy with Opel’s sporty Astra hatch suspension and did not alter it, but both hatch and sedan received the same electric power steering re-tune.

Beyond the 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, cruise control and automatic headlights common to LS sedan and R hatch, the only equipment differences are 16-inch alloy wheels for the former and 17s with digital radio for the latter.

The ‘plus’ versions of each add a leather-wrapped steering wheel and Holden Eye safety camera with lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, and forward collision alert.

In lieu of the hatch’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – Holden said AEB is not available on the Cruze-based sedan anywhere in the world, whereas it is widely used in the Opel-based hatch – and also electro-chromatic rear-view mirror and rain sensing wipers, the LS+ uniquely scores LED daytime running lights and automatic high-beam assist.

The LT further includes 17-inch alloy wheels, blind-spot monitor, lip spoiler, keyless auto-entry, automatic reverse-park assistance and – unlike its RS hatch sibling – integrated satellite navigation with a larger 8.0-inch screen and colour trip computer display.

The LTZ matches the equivalent RS-V hatch with 18-inch alloy wheels, leather trim with heated front seats and single-zone climate control air-conditioning, while further adding an electric sunroof optional on its sibling.

Holden also spruiks the value of its capped-price servicing program which costs an Astra LS sedan buyer $916 for the first quarter of dealer check-ups over four years or 60,000km.

2017 Holden Astra sedan pricing*
LS (a)$21,490
LS+ (a)$22,740
LT (a)$25,790
LTZ (a)$29,790
*Excludes on-road costs

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