1 Sep 1998
What a turn-around! Undoubtedly the most improved car of 1998, the TS Astra is a milestone car for its maker that – along with the BJ Mazda 323 of the same time - brought new levels of value and quality in the hitherto moribund small car market.
It was also our top-selling small car for a while before Toyota turned on the heat with the 2002 Corolla.
Compared to its dumpy and quality challenged British Vauxhall-developed TR Astra predecessor, the German Opel-engineered, Belgium-built 1998-2004 TS had it all.
Its chunky good looks, comfortable, refined and appealing cabin, involving steering, ride and handling properties and a spacious and flexible cabin were real draws.
Power came courtesy of a smooth and gutsy 1.8-litre DOHC 16V engine, producing 85kW of power and 165Nm of torque, and married to either a rubbery five-speed manual or slick four-speed auto gearbox.
There were high levels of safety and security (including dual airbags as standard and the option of traction control and anti-lock brakes), and a bewildering array of model choices.
The base City and CD five-door hatch were the model mainstays, joined by a boxy four-door sedan from April 2000.
An engine upgrade from January 2001 brought 5kW of extra power, followed by a base City three-door hatchback 1.8 and TT-series Zafira seven-seater people-mover in June ‘01, the sporty 108kW/203Nm 2.2-litre SRi three-door from October ’01 and the same engined Astra Convertible in December ’01.
Turbo variants of the latter two, pumping out 147kW/250Nm, rocked up in May ’03, three months after the three-door City hatch became the sportier SXi 1.8 while the luxurious Astra CDX hatch and sedan lobbed in.
From June ’04 Holden severely rationalised the range by discontinuing all models bar the Convertible 2.2 and newly Polish-built TS Astra Classic and CD Classic models, in preparation for the completely rebodied (but bigger and more expensive) AH Astra.
The Classic cars continue with the venerable 90kW/165Nm 1.8L motor.
Limited edition TS Astra models were rife and included the equipment upgraded Olympic (July ’00) and the evergreen Equipe (April ’01, ’02, '03 and September ’03).