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European Astra skips Australia

Astra answers: The new Euro-built Astra will not be imported by Holden - but will it make its own?

Holden confirms Opel Astra is out, opening way for a homegrown hatch by same name

31 Aug 2009

GM HOLDEN has confirmed it will neither introduce the next-generation Astra in Australia nor reinstate imports of the current AH Astra, after a strategic review that failed to make a business case for the stylish new German-designed hatchback.

While the move confirms the disappearance of Holden’s last European-built model from Australia, it also clears the way for the long-running Astra nameplate to be applied to Holden’s own upcoming homegrown hatch, an official sketch of which bears a striking resemblance to the 2010 Astra.

Holden confirmed in July that further imports of Opel’s current Astra were on hold due to currency issues and that its replacement, the MkII Astra that will make its global debut at the Frankfurt motor show on September 15, was under consideration for release in Australia.

But now it has indicated the sixth-generation Astra will not be sold here.

“Following a strategic review, we have confirmed that we won’t be reinstating the Astra in Australia,” Holden product communications manager Kate Lonsdale told GoAuto.

13 center imageLeft: The official sketch of Holden's small car. Below: The Holden Cruze.

“It is a decision we have not taken lightly, but the car is simply is not viable in the tough current conditions, due mainly to commodity prices and exchange rates.”

Asked if that would also prevent the new Astra, which enters production in Germany and the UK late this year, from also being sold here, Ms Lonsdale said: “We will not revive the current Astra program, but the same situation applies to the new model.

“All of our small-car efforts are currently focussed on the Cruze.”

Holden will in the third quarter of next year begin Australian production of the same small Cruze sedan that was released here in May, when Holden commenced importing General Motors’ new global small car from Korean affiliate Daewoo.

The locally-built Cruze sedan will be joined by a small hatchback designed and built in Australia by Holden, which will effectively replace the Astra here and is almost certain to wear the well-respected Holden model name.

Holden has confirmed the four-door Cruze model family will be joined by a home-grown hatch based on the same GM Delta II platform that also underpins Europe’s Astra and the forthcoming Volt hybrid, but will not divulge further details.

GoAuto understands that Holden’s second Australian-made small car, which is central to the company’s success, will have design and engineering changes to differentiate it from the ‘other’ Astra.

It is almost certain to have a Cruze-style torsion beam rear suspension in place of the more upmarket new Watts linkage set-up of the Euro Astra, saving both cost and manufacturing complexity at Elizabeth.

This means the sedan and hatch can come down the same production line with minimal differences in underpinnings, including the same engine line-up which will include direct-injection petrol and diesel powerplants, with later potential for alternative fuel E85, LPG, CNG and idle-stop hybrid capability.

The sedan and hatch will both be built at Elizabeth's south body shop, which last built the locally built Holden Vectra.

As well as domestic sales, the Holden hatch is expected to be aimed at Holden’s traditional export markets, including New Zealand and perhaps the Middle East.

The new Cruze sedan was Holden’s biggest selling small car in July, when 1982 examples were sold to snare a 10.4 per cent share of Australia’s crowded small-car market. Last month the Cruze was Australia’s fifth-best-selling small car behind the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Mitsubishi Lancer and Hyundai i30, beating the Subaru Impreza, Volkswagen Golf, Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Nissan Tiida.

Meantime, the Astra hatch, coupe and wagon attracted just 369 buyers (for a 1.9 per cent share of the segment), while the Korean-built Viva sedan, hatch and wagon range (which was previously sold as the Daewoo Lacetti and is effectively replaced by the Cruze), found just 17 new homes.

The Cruze is available with both 1.8-litre petrol and 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engines, which are likely to be carried over to its five-door stablemate, but a number of new engines have just been announced for the Euro Astra prior to its Frankfurt reveal, some of which could also be imported for Australia’s GM small cars.

Opel and Vauxhall’s new Astra will be available with a staggering eight Euro 5 emissions-compliant engine choices, led by GM’s all-new 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder that produces 105kW and 200Nm of torque between 1850 and 4900rpm. It will replace the current Astra’s 1.8, which delivers the same power, but higher CO2 emissions and 15 per cent less torque.

Completing the Astra’s petrol engine line-up is a normally-aspirated version of the new 1.4 and two 1.6-litre engines – one offering 86kW and a turbocharged version with up to 135kW.

The new Astra’s diesel range comprises 1.3, 1.7 and 2.0-litre engines, all featuring common-rail injection technology and emitting less than 129g/km in six-speed manual guise.

An EcoFlex engine emitting less than 109g/km will join the range later, while a compact new automatic transmission will be available for all petrol models in Europe.

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