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Geneva show: True-blue Cruze wagon is go

New bodystyle: GM has revealed a wagon version of the Cruze ahead of its Geneva public debut next month and launch Down Under in Holden badges in a year.

Holden mulls local production of Cruze wagon that was spawned by Holden Design

Holden logo10 Feb 2012

By RON HAMMERTON

HOLDEN played a major role in the design of General Motors’ new Cruze wagon that is set to go public at the Geneva motor show next month ahead of its roll-out across Europe and Australia.

The original design theme for the wagon was done by Holden designer Lee Mitchell in parallel with the five-door Cruze hatch at Holden’s Port Melbourne studios.

And like the Cruze hatch, the wagon is highly likely to go into production at Holden’s Elizabeth plant in South Australia, bringing local Cruze production to three variants.

Holden will import the new wagon from GM Korea initially when it introduces it to local showrooms in about 12 months, but GM Holden senior manager for product communications Kate Lonsdale told GoAuto that Holden was considering putting the wagon down the local production line with the hatch and sedan if initial customer reaction to the imported version is warm.

“We will test the public reaction to it, and if it is positive, we will look at making it locally,” she said.

13 center imageLeft: Holden Cruze hatch and sedan production at the Elizabeth plant in South Australia.

The move would be a shot in the arm for the Elizabeth plant that is under pressure from high Australian dollar exchanges rates and falling sales of the Commodore large car that is also built there.

The new Cruze wagon – the third and probably last body style in the current generation of GM’s global small car that is sold elsewhere under Chevrolet badges – was originally penned alongside the Cruze hatch that shares a number of mechanical similarities, known in car company jargon as “hard points”.

The lack of a rear bulkhead is one of the common features of a hatch and wagon – and major differences from the sedan – requiring a similar design around the rear half of the vehicle.

Unlike the Cruze hatch, which remained under the sole development of Holden Design, the wagon project was finished off at GM Korea – but with continuing Holden influence.

While the new wagon will be aimed at families, the spacious load lugger is likely to be a hit with Australian fleets, with a cargo carrying capacity of 500 litres – 55 litres more than the Cruze sedan and 87 litres more than the Cruze hatch.

The Cruze wagon has 1500 litres of space up to the roof line with the rear seats folded. By comparison, the larger Holden Sportwagon has 2000 litres of cargo capacity in the same configuration.

The Cruze wagon is 4675mm long – 165mm longer than the Cruze hatch and 74mm longer than the sedan.

Although Holden has not disclosed the powertrain options for the wagon, GM announced overnight that it would show an all-new 1.7-litre diesel engine in new wagon at the Geneva show that starts on March 8.

The engine – dubbed VCDi – produces 96kW of power, which is 24kW less than the current 2.0-litre diesel offered by Holden in the Cruze range.

However, CO2 emissions from the 1.7-litre engine are significantly lower, at 119 grams per kilometre, compared with 147g/km for the current engine.

Ms Lonsdale said the new wagon should debut in “almost 12 months”, indicating a January 2013 target launch timing for the new variant.

Holden executive director of sales, marketing and aftersales John Elsworth said Cruze wagon would tick all the boxes, offering distinctive design, dynamic driving, space and economy.

“Cruze has been a fantastic success story for Holden, it’s been extremely well received by our customers making it Australia’s fifth highest-selling car in 2011,” he said.

“We’re confident Cruze wagon will take the nameplate from strength to strength and reach new customers who are looking for more versatility.”

The Cruze last month was Holden’s biggest seller, taking over from Commodore for the first time.

Globally, Cruze has been a hit for GM, helping to drive the company back to global number one with greater than expected sales volumes in the compact car segments of North America and China.

In Australia, the Cruze wagon will compete against a select group of similar vehicles in the small-car segment, where the only current contenders are Hyundai’s i30cw, Volkswagen’s Golf wagon and the Peugeot 308 wagon.

Of these, the most affordable is the i30cw, which starts from $22,090 (plus on-road costs).

Cruze sedan and hatch pricing starts at $21,240 for the 1.8-litre petrol variants, and depending on how Holden plans to specify the wagon, pricing could be the same, making Cruze the most affordable wagon in the small-car segment.

The Cruze wagon – to be called Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon in Europe – will have roof rails as standard on the sloping rear roof line.

American reports suggest the wagon version will not be offered in the US, which does not take the Australian-penned hatch either, sticking instead to the sedan.

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