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Holden on a high as GM launches global mini-car

Going global: The Daewoo Matiz is expected to materialise in Australia as the Holden Spark.

Sparkling new Matiz mini emerges in Korea ahead of global rollout

21 Aug 2009

GENERAL Motors launched its new-generation global mini-car, the Matiz Creative, in South Korea this week ahead of its international rollout under several brands and nameplates in more than 150 markets around the world, including Europe, North America, Asia and, it is expected, Australia.

Holden this week confirmed to GoAuto that the Matiz Creative is the same car that has been shown at a number of motor shows as the Chevrolet Spark – first seen as the Beat concept at the 2007 New York auto show – and that it is under consideration for sale here.

The Australian car-maker remains keen to add the vehicle to its range, which will allow it to compete in the burgeoning sub-light segment and which will also hand it a sub-Barina model that can compete at the bottom end of the market with small cars sourced from India, China, Malaysia and elsewhere in Asia.

“We will certainly take a good look at it. It looks like a fantastic car and there is certainly some interest, but no decision has been made yet,” a Holden spokesperson told GoAuto. “It is technically a new market for us – we don’t compete in that mini segment at this stage – so it is certainly worth a look at. And the response in Korea was certainly very positive.” Although Holden will not commit to a timetable, GoAuto understands that the hatchback, branded as a Holden Spark, could be launched here during 2010.

171 center imageFrom top: Daewoo Matiz Creative, Chevrolet Spark, Chevrolet Beat concept.

As GM’s international operations president Nick Reilly told reporters in Brazil earlier this week that the American auto giant was planning to gain a foothold in emerging markets with a rival to the Tata Nano – the world’s cheapest car – GM Daewoo launched the Matiz Creative as a global vehicle developed to meet “the highest quality and performance standards in the most sophisticated markets”.

Developed at a cost of 295 billion Korean Won ($A285 million), the lightweight (910kg) Matiz is based on GM’s new “global mini-vehicle architecture” and relies on a 51kW 995cc S-TEC II 16-valve DOHC four-cylinder engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission “tuned to GM’s global standards”. A manual gearbox will be introduced next year, while larger powertrains are known to be in development and will materialise as the vehicle is rolled out across the world.

The five-door hatch makes extensive use of high-strength steel (66.5 per cent of the body, with 16 per cent comprised of ultra-high-strength steel) and includes six airbags, including curtain airbags, to ensure “segment-leading” occupant protection, according to GM. The manufacturer expects a four-star crash-test rating from Euro NCAP.

The Matiz Creative rests on a 2375mm wheelbase and measures 3595mm in overall length, 1520mm in height and 1595mm in width. GM claims best-in-segment front and rear legroom, front headroom and rear hiproom, which is said to translate to a comfortable amount of room for five adults.

GM also claims best-in-class ride and handling for the vehicle, which uses a MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam configuration at the rear, while a “triple-acoustic absorbent structure and special underbody structure” aim to provide unparalleled refinement for this segment.

There is no mention of electronic stability control, hence the four-star (rather than five) NCAP expectation, but four-channel/four-sensor ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are included in the package.

Other features include a trip computer, motorbike-inspired meters, a steering column-mounted instrument cluster, an integrated centre stack with blue LED backlighting, heated windshield wipers, keyless start, a 60/40 split-fold rear seat and speed-sensitive automatic door locks.

“With its best-in-segment design, performance and safety, the new mini is destined to become an industry benchmark and a winner among consumers in Korea and around the world,” said GM Daewoo president and CEO Michael Grimaldi.

In Brazil earlier this week, Mr Reilly said GM’s version of the Nano would not be as cheap but would be a low-cost small car with a basic specification.

“When Tata Motors in India came out with their $2500 Nano vehicle, it put a lot of auto-makers on the spot,” he said. “We are not going to make cars that cheap because that is really a specific car for a very specific market that has different emissions standards and specifications than markets like the US and Brazil.

“So we are looking at lower cost vehicles, but do not know yet where it will be made or where will it be sold, though most likely in Asia.” GM has given a hint to the design of this vehicle, and its intent, with the recent posting of a sketch on its official weblog under a ‘Bare Necessities’ banner. The aim is to keep costs and weight, and therefore fuel consumption, to a minimum, and the sketch was of a small Chevrolet hatch that was designed to be the car with “the lowest cost per mile of any four-seater on the road”.

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