- Manual Only
- Big Brembo Brakes
- Too many buttons
- A little thirsty
The 2016 Holden Astra VXR is one of the best hot hatches on the market, and you probably don’t even know about it. Boasting 206kW of power, a whopping 400Nm of torque and an induction note that will impress, it’s priced below $45k with all of its drive away taxes included. Sure, there is a new model on its way later this year that adds new technology and an updated look, but right now this is Holden’s best kept secret.
When we last saw the Astra VXR on our shores, it was called the Opel Astra OPC, and nothing much has changed in this Holden badged model. Luckily, that means it still boasts its sleek exterior, well equipped interior and a Five Star ANCAP Safety Rating. When we were told that we booked in to review the Astra VXR, we were extremely excited to be putting this hot hatch through its paces.
In white, the Astra VXR looks hot, and when combined with a big set of Brembo brakes and even bigger 20inch alloy wheels you have one awesome combination. The key itself is just like any other Holden or GM key fob, but once you settle into the cabin, you realise that this car is for a casual car enthusiast.
This casual car enthusiast theme on the inside is noted by the seemingly infinitely electronically adjustable Recaro seats, a manual 6-speed transmission with no automatic insight in the VXR, and the flank of LED’s that change to red when you select the OPC mode. To stop it going to hardcore are some comfort additions such as heated seats, electronic parking brake, digital radio and GPS navigation.
After finally finding the perfect seating position, you’ll have to slowly navigate the dashboard hosting all the main controls for the car. If you thought the button layout on the Apollo spacecraft was overwhelming, you haven’t seen the Astra VXR. Soon enough, you’ll realise that you can do everything you need with just a few buttons, making all the others redundant. Just note however, that despite the ridiculous number of buttons, passengers will try and use the Holden MyLink system with their fingers on the screen. Disappointingly, unlike all other Holden models with MyLink, the Astra does not feature a touchscreen.
Those frustrations are quickly forgotten when you fire up the engine however. The cold start exhaust sounds awesome, and definitely will be the envy of some other hatch owners. The 2016 Holden Astra VXR then gets better when you get out onto the road.
The engineering team who developed the Astra VXR were very conscious of what issues a high powered, front-wheel drive hot hatch has, and it shows when you’re out on the road. The inclusion of the HiPerStrut front suspension layout means the front wheels can turn independently of the suspension strut, allowing more grip and traction through corners. A mechanical limited-slip differential is standard and works to combat torque steer and kickback normally experienced in this type of car.
After picking up the car, we couldn’t wait to find some nice twisty roads and feel the weight and precision of the steering, and when we did, it didn’t disappoint. The Astra VXR felt extremely satisfying to drive, and rewarded smooth control with fantastic grip and power delivery. A long throw distance of the transmission made changing gears not as satisfying as it could be, and would be fixed by shortening the gear leaver.
To get around town, the normal driving mode is everything you need. The suspension is nice and comfortable, the response from the engine is adequate and it is nice and easy to squeeze into a car park. Being a manual does demand a little more from you in peak hour traffic, and this is where we would have liked to have the option of an automatic transmission.
If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can choose one of two buttons: Sport or VXR. The dampeners stiffen, the steering sharpens even more and the throttle response is improved for both, with the Sport being the milder back road choice. The settings for the VXR mode are probably best left for the track where the surface is super smooth, and where the extra tenth makes the difference.
Powering the car, and making the overall experience so good, is the 2.0litre Turbo 4-Cylinder engine, and its desire to perform for you. Thanks to 400Nm of torque, you can get away with higher gears at lower speeds – great for slow moving traffic. Unfortunately, due to the performance orientation it still is a little thirsty with an official fuel economy figure of 8.0litres per 100km. However, it does seem to make up for that detraction with excellent practicality.
With a large footprint on the ground, the Astra VXR offers a great deal of space for passengers and storage. Unlike a Mini Cooper S or a VW Golf GTI, you’ll easily fill both the front and rear seats with passengers without many complaints for short-medium length trips.
Thanks to a hidden booth release button, it took us a while to work out how to exactly open the boot without the key. However, after being shown the technique by a friendly Holden technician we proceed to comfortably load the back with a sizeable shop of Costco goods. If that’s not enough space, it takes no time to drop the rear seats to add some more cargo room.
Where the Astra VXR really felt at home was in the inner city suburbs of Brisbane. It’s pokey nature and smart looks makes it really fit into the trendy areas by drawing just enough attention, whilst still coasting under the radar. Front and rear parking sensors help with parking, but the lack of a rear view camera is disappointing.
The Holden MyLink system is as good as always with its built-in apps and digital radio supplying all the entertainment required, even if the surplus buttons do detract from the experience. The sound system is adequate and gives plenty of clarity and depth that you would expect from a car in this price range.
Holden has learnt form the mistakes that Opel made when it came to the pricing of the Astra VXR. Now priced with a RRP below $40k (meaning drive away pricing below the mid-$45k range), it makes it a very compelling value proposition. Holden also includes the Astra as part of its lifetime capped price servicing program, and also features a 3 Year/100,000km Warranty for some added peace of mind.
Despite remaining mostly unchanged from the Opel Astra OPC, the 2016 Holden Astra VXR is still a fantastic hot hatch that is extremely well priced. It supplies everything you could ever ask for in a vehicle like this, and does it without any care for the status quo. It is satisfying to the drive on normal and back roads, and is able to handle day to day duties with ease.