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Road Test


Holden Astra CDTi

by Ken Walker

15th October, 2008

Holden Astra CDTi (copyright image) 
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Holden was the first of the local vehicle manufacturers to market a diesel version of a passenger car. That was back in the mid-1980s, when the Holden Gemini was powered by an Isuzu sourced diesel engine. If you remember the Gemini diesel from the 1980’s it is best to promptly forget it, as there is no comparison with the European made diesels of the 21st century.

Our test package, the subject of this article, is the Astra CDTi hatch fitted with a six speed automatic transmission. Matched to a 1.9 litre, 4 cylinder, common rail turbo diesel, which is of course Euro IV compliant. The 6 speeder compliments the engine with its power torque down near the lower end of the rev range. With 88 kW of power and a reasonable 280 Nm of torque that is delivered from 2,000 rpm through to 2,750 rpm, propels the AH series Astra on its way. The manual version gets more power and torque than the automatic. A unique feature of the Astra CDTi is that the transmission selects neutral when the brake is applied. This lowers the engine revs and thus saves fuel. Naturally, a diesel powered car is cleaner, and therefore greener, than a petrol fuelled car of the same size. Green house gases are lower and the astute motorist knows his/her litre of fuel will take the car further. Fuel tank capacity is 52 litres.

Long gone are the days of a noisy diesel clatter coming from the engine bay. Once the engine reaches normal operating temperature it is hard to distinguish that there is in fact a diesel under the bonnet. Occupants can now enjoy conversations at a level usually confined to petrol fuelled vehicles.

On the outside, the panels fitted well and the paint work of our test car was of a very high standard. We expected nothing less as this is one fine piece of machinery, produced in GM's Belgium plant and sold as a Vauxhall in the UK, Opel in continental Europe and South Africa, Saturn in USA and, of course, as a Holden in Australia and New Zealand.

The doors all feature double intrusion beams for added safety and all close with a solid sound rather than a 'tinny' clang. Inside the trim was well finished, the seats very comfortable and egress/entry to all positions was good. It was also noted by the Next Car Team that on this series, which is the 3rd to carry the Astra name locally, that the indicator stalk has now been placed on the right hand side of the steering column. The steering column itself is adjustable for reach and rake (up/down and in/out) with a very comfortable driving position quite achievable. There is also a plethora of standard equipment to enhance travelling comfort for the driver and passengers. Such as air conditioning with temperature control, power windows with auto up/down on the drivers’ side window, power mirrors and 6 SRS airbags: i.e. driver/passenger front, full length curtain airbags and side bags for the front seats. Disc brakes all around and 4 alloy rims are standard on the diesel powered AH Astra and a full size spare wheel (albeit steel) is found under the boot floor. A CD player with MP3 compatibility is part of the entertainment system together with an AM/FM radio. There are cup holders in the front door pockets and at the rear of the centre console for the back seat passengers. Cruise control and a folding key are also on the standard equipment list.

Ken Walker with the Holden Astra CDTi (copyright image) 

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Front suspension is independent, MacPherson struts, decoupled strut mounts, gas pressure dampers, coil springs and a stabiliser bar. The rear end has a compound torsion beam and twin trailing arms supporting progressive rate minimum block double conical coil springs with gas pressure dampers. These dampers have nothing in common with the flour and water mix that when cooked in an oven is enjoyed by many Australians. Power steering, who could do without it? It is standard along with ABS, BA, EBD, ESP incorporating TC.

The external power operated mirrors are also heated for demisting during the winter months and this heating feature has an auto off function. Perhaps we should mention here that another standard item is front and rear fog lamps and that fog lamps should not be used in fine weather or daylight hours as the lamps are brighter to give penetration for fog. The mirrors and door handles are colour coded to match the exterior paint colour.

This package, an excellent piece of machinery, is a drivers’ car. It performs well and is predictable on most road surfaces (we did not test it on unsealed surfaces) and the ride is very good. The comfort levels are high as is sound proofing from road and engine noises. I did not notice any harsh vibrations either.

The last word on this test is simple. A motorist with long term ownership in mind, should give long consideration to the Astra diesel as the rewards are tangible, with controllable maintenance costs (services are at 15,000 km intervals) and frugal fuel consumption.

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Other Holden content: here.

Other General Motors content: here.

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