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Holden Astra Sportwagon review – releasing Salty.

Holden Astra Sportwagon review New Zealand

Estuarine crocodiles (saltwater crocs) are the largest of all living reptiles. Males can grow to be near 7m in length while females can vary around 3m. They are territorial and aggressive towards anything that comes near (including humans) and certainly have more to be feared over the Johnstones (freshwater crocs). For Xmas, my son was given a crocodile, thankfully it was an inflatable one for use at the pool, but his reception of the gift was as cold as the water temperature, and as such, quickly discarded in favour of a tablet.

Keen to understand the dilemma, my research uncovered that we did, in fact, have a saltwater version, so with the sun still shining, we (the family) headed for the beach in a rather apt, new Holden Astra Sportwagon.

The Astra Sportwagon suited this excursion for a multitude of reasons. Firstly its colour, absolute red. It’s a vibrant tone that seemed fitting for the ferocious carnivore we were carrying. Next was the luggage space. One of my pet (pardon the pun) hates, is exhaustingly toting the shedload of stuff required for a day at the beach, across boiling hot sand and then spending time blowing up an inflatable under the watchful eye of an ever increasingly intolerant child. Far better to be prepared and carry it pre-inflated. The seatdown luggage capacity of the Astra Sportwagon is 1,630litres but for our purposes, the length was more than sufficient to allow room for our fully inflated croc – genius.

Even though the Astra has netted a fair collection of awards for its design, making a wagon pleasing to the eye is always a bit of a challenge. But with a clever use of chrome, Holden has managed to bring the roofline tapering down towards the rear lessening its boxiness and increasing the style, especially when sitting on 17” Alloys. LED daytime running lamps, remote access, and a hands-free tailgate help as well.

I had been given the LT model, with heated seats and wheel for extra comfort, but the standard Astra isn’t what you’d call basic. Phone projection (apple or android) displays your favourite auto apps on the 8” colour screen, as does the Advanced park assist, plus it controls the rest of the infotainment. As we know Holden is big on safety and the Astra Sportwagon is no exception. Aside from the raft of airbags, forward collision alert keeps you on your toes, sometimes it’s a little bit overprotective but I’m ok with that, especially when the family is on board. Lane departure warning and lane keep assist.

Holden has fettled with the Astra’s already impressive handling (ESC, ABS, EBD, TCS, BA, EPS) and Australasianised it, teaching it our local dialect so to speak (but in road terms). I had already tried it out in the sedan and hatch, so I was keen to know if the Sportwagon continued with the tradition – I can happily report, it does.

The roads out to Martin’s Bay are joyous, and you really don’t have to go fast to enjoy the experience. The tighter the turns (of which there are many) the more the Sportwagon was in its element. I must have been having a little bit too much fun though, as my son informed me of a pending revisit from his breakfast selection, we pulled over and admired the view for a while. Note to self, don’t let son play with a tablet while dad is playing with undulations.

The 1.4L turbo-petrol engine is plucky and reacts well both in town and country but despite its 240Nm and 110kW, a little extra power wouldn’t go amiss, did you hear that HSV department? The 6-speed auto box faultlessly takes care of gear selection.

We arrived at the beach and took up front row positioning, the area is great for those of us that aren’t that fussed about walking, and unpacked. Beach tents, mats, towels, coolers, food snacks, beachballs and Salty (carrying a fully grown croc on to the beach caused less of a stir that I would have imagined – I guess its fakeness was pretty apparent). And yes we were only there for the day!

Anyway, It was time to release salty to the wild and I’m happy to say that it performed with greater aplomb than in pool captivity or than the cheap boogie board we had taken too. Although the wife seemed to have a greater affiliation with it – handbags perhaps?

The Holden Astra Sportwagon offers the room to do more things and has the handling capability to make you happy, I’d say smile but I know the rules that surround not doing that near a crocodile!

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