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First look: Holden shows its own Cruze hatch

Just hatched: The Cruze five-door has been revealed with the Holden Lion-badge.

Holden version of Oz-designed Cruze hatch emerges as sedan enters local production

Holden logo17 Mar 2011

By MARTON PETTENDY

HOLDEN badges have taken their rightful place on the Port Melbourne-penned Cruze hatchback two weeks after the Chevrolet version of the Australian-designed five-door small car made its global debut at the Geneva motor show.

GM Holden used this week’s launch of its facelifted Series II Cruze sedan, which is now in production in Adelaide ahead of its official release later this month, to also reveal first official images of the Lion-badged Cruze hatch, which will join it on sale in the fourth quarter of this year.

Australia’s small car market is split evenly between hatch and sedan models, but the success of Holden’s hitherto Korean-built Cruze, which has established itself as Australia’s top-selling small sedan since being launched here in May 2009 – could see the hatch comprise only about 40 per cent of Cruze sales.

Although Holden remains mum on details of the locally designed five-door, which together with the sedan is expected to eventually outsell Holden’s and Australia’s top-selling vehicle, the Commodore, the Cruze hatch should join its ‘localised’ four-door namesake in showrooms with identical pricing and specifications when it goes on sale in just over six months.

That means the cheapest Cruze CD hatch should land by year’s end with the same $20,990 pricetag as the entry-level Cruze CD sedan, with which it should also share its upgraded 104kW/176Nm 1.8-litre Ecotec four-cylinder petrol engine.

13 center imageLeft: Holden Design director Tony Stolfo. Second from top: Holden Cruze hatch. Below: Production Chevrolet Cruze hatch and a pre-release version from 2010.

It also means the same, more powerful 120kW/360Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine that powers the Cruze CD Diesel sedan ($24,990) – and which now returns fuel consumption of just 5.6L/100km - should also become available in the hatch.

The upgraded diesel sedan, which last year comprised 20 per cent of imported Cruze sales, consumes less fuel in manual form than Toyota’s Altona-made Camry Hybrid, making it the most fuel-efficient vehicle produced in Australia.

Holden’s self-styled Cruze hatch should also score GM’s new 103kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine – labelled the ‘1.4iTi’ – which attracts a $1250 premium in the base Cruze CD sedan ($22,240) and also exclusively powers new SRi and SRi V variants of the fresh sedan.

Significantly, all turbo/petrol-powered iTi models also score an electric – rather than a conventional hydraulic – power steering system, plus a Watts link rear suspension that Holden says increases lateral wheel movement and cabin noise compared the simpler torsion beam set-up in other Cruze variants.

An automatic transmission adds $2000 to the price of all three engine options.

Apart from its Holden badging, the Australian-market Cruze hatch is visually almost identical to the Chevrolet version that will be sold globally – perhaps also in North America – alongside the sedan, which last year found 334,976 customers worldwide (28,334 in Australia) and has now surpassed the half-million mark.

Unsurprisingly, it has been toned down slightly from the concept version that debuted at last October’s Paris motor show, where its sweeping new coupe-like roofline, shorter rear overhang and all-new rear-end design was first seen.

Gone from the concept are its bigger wheels, HSV-style LED daytime running lights, blue-tinged headlights and more aggressive bumpers, which may reappear on a range-topping Cruze hot-hatch powered by the closely related Astra’s 132kW 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four.

Instead, the Cruze hatch’s final design falls into line with that of the facelifted JH (or 'Series II') Cruze sedan, which features a more rounded grille, revised bumpers, new wheel designs, different headlights and several new exterior paint colours from the VEII Commodore and WMII Caprice it is built alongside at Elizabeth.

While the outgoing Cruze continues to be built in South Korea, North America, Russia, China and India, Holden says that about half of the localised Cruze sedan’s components (by retail value) are sourced within Australia, but that proportion is expected to increase by the time the hatch enters production.

Speaking at the Series II Cruze sedan launch in Melbourne yesterday, Holden Design director Tony Stolfo said the Cruze hatch was just one of a number of projects designed for global markets.

“The Holden design team works on a range of global design projects from small hatchbacks like the new Cruze to large rear-wheel drive performance vehicles and also a number of exciting vehicles yet to be revealed,” he said.

“The Cruze sedan is already a huge hit in Australia – so it was rewarding to work on a global project that we would also be able to adapt specifically for Australia.

“In designing the new five-door hatch we wanted to retain the sporty ‘Cruze’ proportions and bring the same Holden appearance to the hatch that we developed for the new locally-built Series II Cruze sedan.”

As we’ve reported, Cruze export opportunities could exist for Holden in right-hand drive markets such as the UK and South Africa.

However, Holden stresses its business case for the local Cruze – which was made possible with the help of $149 million from the federal government’s now-defunct Green Car Innovation Fund and another $30 million from the South Australian state government – is not predicated on exports.

Holden has also commenced production of its latest North American export vehicle, the Chevrolet Caprice PPV police vehicle, and last year Holden Design became one of 10 GM styling studios to tender for the job of designing Chevrolet’s next-generation (C7) Corvette.

As we reported two weeks ago, GM’s German-based subsidiary Opel has also confirmed that Holden designers are styling one of three new models that the European operation will debut by 2013, including three-door Opel Astra GTC hot-hatch, a small Opel Corsa-based SUV and a mid-sized four-seat convertible that also could spawn a Calibra-style coupe.

“Holden is very proud of the global design work it does for other brands and countries around the GM world – but it’s especially gratifying to work on a new vehicle designed and built in Australia,” said Mr Stolfo.

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