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Australian-designed Cruze hatch hits Korea, UK

Hatched: The GM Holden-designed Cruze hatchback has been released in Korea and the UK several months before its Australian launch.

Brits and Koreans get Holden-designed Cruze hatch four months ahead of Aussies

Holden logo13 Jun 2011

By MARTON PETTENDY

THE GM Holden-designed Cruze hatchback has been released in Korea and the UK – at least four months before it enters production alongside the Cruze sedan in Adelaide.

GM Korea’s Gunsan plant became the first factory to produce the all-new Port Melbourne-developed small car.

The Cruze hatch was also released last week with a five-year warranty in the UK, where it is expected to account for the lion’s share of Chevrolet sales.

The Chevrolet Cruze hatch that will begin arriving in UK and European showrooms in July is built in Korea, where it was launched in recent weeks, also as a Chevrolet.

Holden will commence production at its Elizabeth plant in South Australia in the final quarter of this year, following an expected local debut at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne on July 1.

The Cruze hatch will also be built at St Petersburg in Russia and Sao Caetano Do Sul in Brazil.

Local specifications are yet to be revealed, but Australia’s Cruze hatch is expected to arrive with similar pricing, engines and equipment levels to the facelifted Cruze Series II sedan range sold here since April.

The UK’s Cruze hatch starting price was announced last week at £13,995 ($A21,570) drive-away for the 92kW 1.6-litre petrol manual LS model.

13 center imageLeft: The Holden Cruze hatch.

It is available in Britain in three equipment grades, powered by 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol engines and a 2.0-litre diesel, with a smaller-capacity diesel engine to come.

Australia’s Cruze sedan is available with 1.8-litre and turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engines, plus a 2.0-litre diesel.

Chevrolet said the Cruze hatch will move the brand into the heartland of British fleet and overall vehicle sales, with compact hatchbacks accounting for the UK’s largest vehicle segment – especially among fleet customers – since 1988.

“The hatchback version of the Cruze is a massively important new car for us as it not only appeals on a retail level, but also massively increases Chevrolet’s appeal to the fleet market,” said Chevrolet UK managing director Mark Terry.

“Alongside the Orlando and the new Captiva, and with a new Aveo (Barina) just round the corner, we have a truly holistic model range that will appeal to fleet managers, user-choosers and retail customers alike.”

As in Australia, all UK Cruze hatches will come with electronic stability control, air-conditioning, remote central locking and an AM/FM/CD player with auxiliary input.

However, only mid-range LT variants score rear power windows, cruise control, a multi-function trip computer, parking sensors, 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights and a leather-clad steering wheel with audio controls.

LTZ versions of the UK Cruze five-door add USB and Bluetooth connectivity, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, an electro-chromatic rear-view mirror and 17-inch alloys, while the diesel-only LTZ Executive Pack adds leather trim, heated front seats and satellite-navigation for a top-shelf price of £20,295 ($31,280).

Australian Cruze II sedan pricing starts at $20,990 plus on-road costs for the 1.8-litre CD, while the 1.4 CD costs $22,240 and the 2.0 CD diesel costs $24,990.

Holden last month released the first official images of its upcoming local Cruze hatch in action as Australian engineers conduct final validation tests in Victoria.

Like the localised Cruze sedan line-up, the hatch will bring a more rounded grille, revised bumpers, new wheel designs, new-look headlights and several new exterior paint colours from the VEII Commodore and WMII Caprice it is built alongside at Elizabeth.

Should its engine line-up echo that of the sedan, the Cruze hatch will also bring Euro 5 emissions engines, including a downsized Austrian-made 1.4-litre ‘iTi’ turbo-petrol delivering 103kW and 200Nm, matched with six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

The iTi engine, which is accompanied by a significant new chassis package comprising Watts link rear suspension and electric power steering, is available as a $1250 option on the entry-level Cruze CD sedan and standard on the new SRi and SRi-V variants.

SRi models are differentiated by a modified grille and air-intake, a rear lip spoiler and revised alloy wheels, while the SRi-V introduces remote keyless entry and start, satellite-navigation, a 10GB hard-drive, CD/MP3 rip and store capability, DVD player and live-radio pause functionality to the Cruze for the first time.

Like the volume-selling 1.8-litre petrol-powered versions of the Cruze II sedan models (CD and CDX), 2.0-litre diesel versions retain the JG Cruze’s torsion beam rear suspension and hydraulic steering systems.

Holden is also believed to be developing a range-topping Cruze ‘SS’ hot-hatch powered by the closely related Opel Astra’s 132kW/230Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four, while HSV could produce an even hotter ‘VXR’ version powered by the 213kW twin-scroll turbo direct-injection 2.0-litre petrol four that will debut in Opel’s Astra OPC.

Either model could wear a number of the striking design cues seen on the Cruze hatch concept that debuted at last October’s Paris motor show, including LED daytime-running lights, blue-tinged headlights, more aggressive bumpers and bigger wheels.

Even without the aid of a hatchback, the Cruze sedan was Australia’s best-selling small car in May, when it was also the nation’s third-highest seller overall.

So far this year sales of the Cruze sedan, which was launched here in June 2009 and became Australia’s top-selling small sedan last year with more than 28,000 sales, are up 13.4 per cent in a market segment that is down 4.5 per cent.

Cruze holds a 14.2 per cent share of the segment to the end of May to lie third behind the Mazda3 (18.7 per cent) and Corolla (15 per cent).

While a yet-to-appear Cruze wagon is expected to be imported from Korea by 2013, the addition of this year’s hatch version is likely to push Cruze sales above the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla, potentially allowing the first locally produced Holden small car in 12 years to overtake the Commodore as Australia’s best-selling vehicle.

Combined 2011 sales of the Cruze, Commodore and Caprice – including first shipments of North America’s police version - are already sufficient for Holden to look for another 49 staff to fill production-line positions.

Holden has recruited 265 new staff since it reinstated its second shift and commenced Cruze sedan production earlier this year, following a reduction in its total workforce from more than 6000 to just over 4500 in 2009.

Meanwhile, Toyota Australia’s Altona plant returned to normal operations last week following a 50 per cent production cut due to Japanese earthquake-related part shortages, while from next month Ford Australia will axe 240 plant workers and reduce Falcon production by about 20 per cent.

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