Time to pick at a few nits

So much goodness, but perfection remains elusive

TONY O’KANE

SMARTPHONE mirroring is a godsend in a car that has a touchscreen display but no built-in sat-nav capability, but there are two minor issues with this in the Astra.

Holden (well Opel, really), provides a handy receptacle at the base of the centre stack to hold your phone. Unless you’re a phablettoting type, you’ll find it to be a thoughtful touch ... until you decide to charge the thing or take advantage of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The only USB port in the car is buried in the centre console bin, so if you want to connect your phone and use that nifty slot at the same time, you’ll need a cable long enough to stretch the 60cm gap between port and holder. Which puts a cable right over your cupholders and gearshifter. Which is annoying, especially in a manual.

More irritating, though, are the parking sensors and their habit of shrieking at you when you least expect it. Sitting stationary in traffic? Those ever-vigilant sensors will sometimes chirp as they sense cars in adjacent lanes – even if those cars aren’t moving either.

Have you already finished parking and put the gearbox in neutral and the handbrake up – both clear signs that you intend to stay put? The sensors don’t care about your intent. They’ll squawk if there’s an object within a metre of your perimeter until you hit the off button – an action that will quickly become reflex.

Other qualms become apparent when sitting in the back seats. The seats themselves are fine – great, even, thanks to good under-thigh support, plentiful legroom and a relaxed backrest angle – but those occupying a window pew will be rubbing an elbow against a hard plastic trim panel. No biggie on short trips, but there’s potential for discomfort on longer journeys.

On top of that, there’s also a lack of ventilation for those backseaters. While cars like the Volkswagen Golf and Hyundai i30 give those in the back their own air vents, the Astra RS has no such provision. Not the biggest black mark, given rear vents are still far from universal in the small hatch segment (Mazda 3, Honda Civic and Subaru Impreza omit them too, and they’re some of the better choices around). It may, however make a difference for people who live in hotter climes than dreary Melbourne.

MIRROR, MIRROR

Android Auto syncs painlessly, giving you control of your favoured nav software and streaming apps like Spotify

Is being booted better?

Some reckon the Astra RS’s sporty European suspension has a sharp edge to it, but I disagree. Nevertheless, Holden has an alternative for those searching for a plusher ride: the Astra sedan.

At its local launch, I was amazed by just how much softer that car is than my RS hatch. Not surprising, I guess – it’s tailored for a more ride-sensitive sedan buyer – however, with one Holden exec feeling a little green after being ferried in the back seat by journos all day, perhaps the Astra sedan has a little too much cushion?

HOLDEN ASTRA RS

Date acquired: March 2017 Price as tested: $26,490 This month: 969km @ 7.1L/100km Overall: 3452km @ 7.7L/100km