Deep in the heart of Henderson is Whoa Studios. Home of the Doods (not the Dobbin kind), it’s a highly interactive working studio that offers live entertainment, filming, great food, a kid’s playground and according to them; ‘millions of smiles’ – I’ll be the best judge of that thank you very much! On the surface, Whoa seemed to be an odd place for Holden to bring a bunch of motoring journalists but as always; Holden’s press guy Ed had a plan – and it was a good ‘un.
Hot on the heels of the already popular new Astra hatch, comes the Holden Astra Sedan. Now; sedan’s may not be in vogue at the moment but with its European design/engineering, US styling and having been well and truly ‘Australasianified’ (in terms of steering, suspension and chassis) Holden’s new Astra Sedan is far more than just a car plus boot and therefore well worth further exploration.
It’s a whopping 120kg’s lighter than the Cruze it is replacing and debuts a new 1.4L turbocharged engine (standard across the range – LS,LT, LTZ) that offers 110kW of power and 240Nm (+5 with manual) of torque and sips fuel at around 6L/100k’s. (Model dependant where necessary) the Astra Sedan has Holden’s unique nose and projector headlights (LED Daytime running lamps too). Alloy wheels, Chrome window surrounds and a boot lip spoiler. The interior offers more comfort appeal than its hatch sibling, with (up to) 8” Infotainment touchscreen (Next gen Mylink, apple/android), 4.2” instrument display, Multi function leather wheel, soft tactile inserts in the dash, heated leather seats and push button start – phew, told you it was more than just a boot!
Aside from being a mecca for ardent surfers, the West coast of Auckland has literally an endless supply of challenging asphalt. From sprint worthy straights to very tight blind corners and all combined with undulations like you would not believe – an ideal place to put any car through its paces, even a family Sedan – Told you Ed had a plan!
I was handed the keys (how quaint) to the LS with Manual gearbox – it may be ranked as the first rung on the Sedan ladder, but sure didn’t feel that way. The interior looked clean and clear, the fabric seats felt comfortable yet secure, and there was plenty of rubber wrapped around the 16” alloys to soften the ride. We took a left out of Whoa and headed off towards Bethells Beach. The roads were greasy with rain and coated with a fair share of forest debris thanks to winter but the Astra Sedan didn’t mind this one bit, in fact, it reveled in it. I spent an indulgent (and possibly unnecessary) time, shifting between 2nd and 3rd, keeping the revs up high and enjoying the moment. The gearbox is succinct and robust, bliss.
With Ed’s happy place out of the way, our next destination was the Gannet Colony in Muriwai. Claiming he had in depth knowledge of the area – Ed took the lead as we ventured along very involving roads (even a little unsealed) and at a pace that could be best described as ‘enthusiastic’ – this was certainly no leisurely Cruze. For this leg, I had the top of the line LTZ. Sunroof open, leather seats on heat, tunes up high, and the sun on my face – what’s not to like! The steering was responsive and (thankfully) planted the 18” front wheels exactly where required – the Astra sedan navigated around the West Coast terrain well (albeit slightly less precise than the hatch?).
With mandatory cliff top pics taken (and thoughts of lunch setting in) it was time to head back to Henderson. Time for the LT. The route back to Whoa was a simple highway ride, perfect for engaging the Astra’s electronics (Cruise control, Forward Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, Side BlindSpot Alert, Lane Keep Assist etc) and letting the adrenaline levels regress.
Just like the LTZ itself, the late lunch at the Studio was an all in affair. Plates upon plates of delicious entrees appeared (braised duck pancakes, pork belly sliders, Kingfish w. Dashi Jelly – hungry yet?). This place is definitely not simply one classy burger joint – so totally unexpected. Fully fed, watered and suitably impressed with the Sedan, our review day came to an end.
Henderson (and the West in general) has very much been seen as a homestead for the ‘bogan’ and of course the great V8. But as the likes of Whoa studios is proving, there is still a need for something a little different, something more refined, something that moves with the times. Likewise with Holden and the Astra Sedan. It’s stylish and yet practical, modern and rapid with very impressive handling skills – even without a V8!
Possibly ironically? we may have begun our adventure at Whoa, but there seems to be no stopping Holden and (just like the studio) the Astra Sedan is sure to offer millions of smiles.