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It's a Chevy Cruze... wait, it's a Holden Astra

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Mark Holgate is the driving force behind Exhaust Notes Australia, one of this country's premier automotive websites, with in excess of 1 million visits every year, and literally hundreds of car reviews and motoring stories.

With more than 20 years experience as a journalist, and five years as a professional blogger, he brings a wealth of knowledge about cars, bikes and everything in between.

At first glance, it oozes American small car design -- that's because it's an American small car.

The 2018 Holden Astra LTZ sedan is actually a rebadged Chevrolet Cruze -- not to be confused with the locally produced Cruze, killed off with Holden’s exit from manufacturing cars in Australia.

Imagine, a Chev being sold as a Holden.

Imagine, a Chev being sold as a Holden

This may put some off, but try to remember the Yanks have been making cars for a long time and they make loads of them, so they do know what they are doing when it comes to good value-for-money cars.

The car does look nice, with sharp lines and lots of bits that say “how you doin'?”, but retreats enough to not draw too much attention, with good-looking 18-inch alloys and a great range of colours.

Read more from Exhaust Notes Australia: Auto Review: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Active

This particular variant of the Holden Astra comes with all the trimmings: leather-appointed seats, Bluetooth connectivity, SatNav, voice assist, auto climate control, auto headlights, auto wipers, parking sensors front and rear, rear camera, park assist, and the freaking list is endless. It is actually easier to tell you what it doesn’t have.

The front seats are heated, but not electric, so you have to use your arms and legs to adjust your seat, which, with all the other auto stuff surrounding you, is a bit strange. Why have all this awesomeness and then make you use your muscles to do stuff?

So now that you’ve come to terms with the physical stress of getting your seat into the right position, you will probably need to put your larger-than-a-takeaway-coffee-cup-type refreshing drink somewhere, right? Bzzzz ... wrong!

If your cup or beverage container is any larger than a standard water bottle, you're out of luck, because in the front you're only given two cup holders in the centre, which are slightly different sizes because they share the space with the park brake. You don’t even get bottle holders in the doors to compensate.

If you feel the need to relax your arm on the centre-storage bin lid, which slides forward for this reason, then you'd better make sure you have purchased stumpy beverage containers -- because if they are tall, then your arm will be resting on them, as the cup holders are directly in front of the storage bin.

Does it feel like I have harped on about the cup holders? Yes, it does. Why? Because interior-wise, the Holden Astra is nice, it’s comfy, it’s well appointed, it has nice lines and soft tones, with cool night lighting and, quite frankly, it is pretty damn good.

But to let it down with something that everyone takes for granted screams of a lack of attention to detail. This can be forgiven with a price tag of just over $30k, but is still annoying.

To further distract you from the cup holders is an army of safety devices to make sure you don’t die when you get busy squeezing your large beverage container into the inadequate holes.

If you take your eyes off the road, don’t worry. The car will warn you of possible forward collisions with some very bright-red lights mounted in the dash, which reflect off the windscreen right in your line of sight. It could be called the red eye of death, because it is accompanied by a ridiculously loud beeping.

With airbags front and sides, lane-keep assist and blind-spot alert, you can’t go wrong. Well you can, but the 2018 Holden Astra LTZ is going to try and keep you alive.

To move all this technology and safety around, you are provided with a 1.4-litre, turbo-charged four-cylinder. It drops a respectable 110kW and 240Nm, with a smooth six-speed auto or manual gearbox.

Don’t be fooled by the turbo-charged bit, this is no sports car. You're not going to get any blaaart or pishhh (our weak attempt at replicating the sounds of a Nissan GT-R fitted with a blow-off valve) by smashing the accelerator, but what you will get is enough get-up-and-go to keep you impressed.

But to do that, the engine kind of sounds like it’s going to explode. And that’s okay, because the excellent sound system is loud enough to make your ears bleed at the same time as drowning out your screaming motor. This too is loaded with all the good tech, Bluetooth, aux input and DAB+ as icing on the cake.

When you're not smashing the accelerator in a vein attempt to get the pishhh noise to happen -- it’s not going to, so stop it -- the car is actually great to drive.

It handles the city roads well, with MacPherson struts up front, and springs and shock absorbers up the back. There’s also front ventilated and rear air-cooled disc brakes.

For a small car, it takes the open road well, sitting on the freeway effortlessly. It's a little laggy with the electric steering, but unnoticeable if you're gentle.

The rear is nice, with a couple of cup holders hidden behind the centre fold-down. There's a good amount of leg room for a small car and again, plenty of safety. ISO fix points keep the little ones safe and there's curtain airbags in the sides.

There is also a 12v socket in the rear of the centre storage bin, which has hints of the lack of detail cup holders in the front. It should have been a USB slot. You also get 60/40 split seats, which open up to the cavernous boot.

Hidden beneath the boot is that dirty thing that most people hate, the SPACE SAVING SPARE! Which is sat atop some polystyrene to fill in the spare space beneath it – ah, the irony.

Something else you will notice as you stink eye the spare tyre is the battery, which is located in the boot.

We initially thought that fact was going to be pretty annoying if all your sweet tech runs it flat and you have a boot full of junk, but Holden has excelled here in providing jumper points in the engine bay, which is a fantastic solution.

Two colours are available at no cost, Absolute Red and Summit White. But for $550 extra you can go crazy with Mineral Black, Burnt Coconut, Nitrate Silver, Gasoline, Old Blue Eyes and Satin Steel Grey.

You can deck out the interior with either Jet Black cloth or Jet Black leather-appointed. The 2018 Holden Astra LTZ hits the road from $30,290 drive away, and comes with a three-year, 100,000km warranty.

Overall, the new Astra LTZ shapes up as a great little car, with real value for money on both the tech and safety side. There’s just that cup holder thing and no pishhh.

Oh, and if the sedan is not for you, there is also a separate Astra hatch model, which comes from Holden’s German sister company Opel, the 2017 R version of which you can read about here.

Our 2018 Holden Astra LTZ was provided by Holden Australia. To find out more, your local Holden dealer.

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