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Stand by Holden Cruze ‘SS’

Range topper: The rear of the locally-built Cruze could soon house Holden's famous 'SS' badge, overtaking the SRi-V as the sports-oriented flagship variant in the line-up.

Holden to mirror Mazda3 with sports, hatch variations of its Oz-made small car

18 Mar 2011

A HIGH-PERFORMANCE version of the Cruze – potentially carrying Holden’s coveted ‘SS’ badge - is in development as General Motors embarks on a new chapter in Australian vehicle manufacturing this week with the launch of the Adelaide-built JH four-door Cruze sedan.

Believed to use a variation of the 132kW/230Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder Ecotec petrol engine employed in European versions of the Cruze’s Opel cousin, the Astra, the sports model will sit above the newly announced SRi-V flagship.

Expected on sale next year, the sports Cruze will probably be offered in four-door sedan and five-door hatch body styles, and will most likely first see the light of day at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne in early July, ahead of late-2011 launch.

The Melbourne-made Chevrolet Cruze hatch concept shown at the 2010 Paris motor show is a strong indicator of what Holden’s answer to the VW Golf GTI, Mazda3 MPS and Ford’s upcoming Focus ST/XR may look like.

According to a Holden insider, the Cruze has been designed to accommodate any powertrain available now or in the future for the Astra J, since both cars share the same basic GM Delta II small-car architecture.

“We are investigating all possibilities,” he said. “We would love to explore a performance version. It is obviously on our wish list. Every engine option available in the Astra is under review.”

13 center imageFrom top: The new Holden Cruze SRi-V, future Holden Cruze Hatch and the European Opel Astra.

Holden engineers are already exploring a firmer and lower version of the Watts link rear suspension system that debuted in 1.4-litre turbo-petrol ‘iTi’ versions of the facelifted JH Cruze sedan this week, along with a weightier calibration for the electric power steering set-up that also appears in the same variants.

“We just did not have the resources to develop (revised) suspension and steering for the SRi models,” the insider added. “But watch this space.”

Meanwhile, GoAuto understands the existing torsion beam rear suspension and hydraulic power steering systems that underpin all non-1.4 turbo models may gradually give way to the more sophisticated Watts link and EPS hardware, with the diesel thought to be next in line.

“We expect that would probably be the case,” our source said.

The Australian-built Cruze will eventually emulate the Mazda3 in providing blanket coverage of the small-car segment, as Holden aims to overtake it and the Toyota Corolla in terms of sales.

GM could go one better than its rivals, however, by also producing an HSV version of its small car, potentially powered by a version of the 213kW twin-scroll turbocharged direct-injection petrol four that debuted in the Opel OPC concept at last year’s Paris motor show.

Speculation is also growing that a compact SUV to slot underneath the ageing CG Captiva range will eventually be spun off the Delta platform, in addition to a super-compact SUV currently being developed by GM from the Opel Corsa chassis.

However, the Cruze-based crossover is unlikely to be built in Australia as Holden’s Elizabeth plant is busy building the Cruze, as well as the Zeta architecture vehicles (Commodore, Caprice and derivatives).

Holden sold 28,334 examples of the JG Cruze CD and CDX sedan in 2010, ranking GM’s new global small car fourth behind the Corolla (41,632), Mazda3 (39,003) and Hyundai i30 (29,772). Since then, the company has leapfrogged the latter for third spot.

Deliveries of the upgraded and localised JH Cruze sedan commence early next month, while the Holden-designed Cruze hatch will join it on sale in October.

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