What a find this car was. The 98 Corolla we had prior to this, finally packed it in, and we needed something around the $15K mark. My hopes weren't high I'd find something enjoyable to drive for that price. Couldn't believe it when looking that first night, this Astra was ready to go, in my town, and the right price!
I have become very attached to this car in the short period of time I have owned it (6 months), much more so than the 3 years I've had my Mazda 6 for. I think the real thing that sticks out for me is that the Astra Coupe Turbo has real character to it. And it just begs to be driven!
So, quirks? The stereo and aircon aren't that intuitive to use. There's no indication on the central display that A/C is actually on, only if it's off it says Eco. The aircon also always resets back to outside air when you turn the car off; I prefer recirculation, so that's a bit annoying having to press it EVERY time. You also need to keep it low; if the outside temperature is say 23, and it's set to 24, the aircon will blow hot air unless you change to under 23 degrees. Not sure if other cars are like this, but my Mazda, Falcons and Commodores I've driven blow cool air unless set above 26 degrees.
There's also no volume indication either on the display, so using the volume on the steering wheel is done so with the assumption volume is getting louder. The random dials on the stereo too are a little confusing if not familiar, particularly the large central one, it's for accessing main computer features, volume is a tiny little thing to the left.
Changing bulbs in the rear lights requires the entire fitting to be removed as well; a bit odd for a car that has little access hatches in the front wheel arches to access the headlight bulbs. Interior storage is a bit hit and miss too, but generally there's a place to put everything.
Fun little bits? Hold the lock/unlock button on the remote to wind up/down the windows remotely. The sunglasses holder above the driver's door, where usually those grab handles are, is very handy. Lots of stereo control options and trip computer features, and surprisingly a useful sized boot. The tiny doors in the wheel arches to change the headlights too is naff.
Love the shape of the car too, the sloping rear roofline and overall shape and proportions looks fantastic. Rearward vision is average (letterbox rear vision mirror visibility), but it's not really a hindrance, and combined with the low set seats, dark interior and leather, creates a really snug, sporty place to be, comfortable too. The whole effect actually feels like you're in a proper sports coupe, not just a hotted up Astra or afterthought hot hatch. The seats are reasonably comfortable too.
What really makes this car is the engine and how it handles though. The 2.0L turbo engine really pulls, sounds great too, with a good, 4 cylinder growl to it that keeps you up it. Keep going to redline too, it drops off a little at about 5000 rpm, but there's just another sudden surge at around 6000 to cutout at about 6500. There's a tiny bit of torque steer if you're up it on cambered corners in the dry, but it's very controllable, and doesn't send the car in another direction like it does in the Mazda 3 MPS (that thing will bite if you're not paying attention). It juuuuust tugs a little to give it a bit of character. In the wet though, it's hopeless; full throttle will have the front wheels scrabbling for grip and moving all over the place.
The gear-change is good, but a little long in the throw for my liking. It's not snick snick, but it's good enough.
Dry handling is very good. Power down with the standard 18s is excellent, and it drives out of corners well. Even with that bit of torque steer, it doesn't light up the front hoops, just grips and goes. Stability through corners is good, and the suspension and damping tune is spot on, it absorbs bumps and irregularities really well, and doesn't skip/hop over irregular surfaces either, it just stays tight. For everyday driving, it soaks up the road well enough too, you get good feel through the steering and suspension, but it's not tiresome. Long distance though it can get a bit stiff, but not much. I do prefer my Mazda 6 for the longer haul stuff.
Whether it's the tyres I'm not sure, but she doesn't feel so secure in the wet. It has been fitted with no name tyres all round, and in the wet it tends to understeer very easily. Overall grip too just feels way down, my 6 feels more secure in the wet. I'm blaming the tyres, because the drop in grip doesn't just feel like it's the suspension.
The standard exhaust note though I find a bit droney. At 60km/hr in 6th it drones on a bit, I think it could have a better note/tune.
Fuel wise I get about 11.4L/100km (it's rated at about 10.3L/100km combined). I consider anything under 10L/100km economical, so she's OK, but I do like to plant the foot in 2nd gear a bit. Really though, for the performance, that kind of fuel consumption is pretty good and it doesn't hurt the budget. The standard tyres are 18s though, so be prepared for a hefty bill when they're due to be replaced.
Insurance has been cheap too actually, same as my Mazda, and only a little more than the Corolla. Not like WRX prices.
Overall, this is a real gem of a car. The car as a whole really encourages you to give it a go when you're driving. It's a fun car and actually a lot more practical than it looks; the rear seats fold down and heaps of gear can be crammed into it. For $15,000 with just 60000km on it, you won't find a better car for the money in terms of performance and features. Cruise, climate control, leather seats, it's a really great package as a 2nd hand car.
Would I buy another Holden? Probably not. Another Astra Turbo? Yes, definitely! I'm waiting with baited breath for the return of Opel and the Astra to Australia next year, with hopefully the Astra GTC Coupe coming as well.
If you have $15K to spend, have a look at this car. It's a really fun drive and is actually practical as well. Go on. You'll be hooked.