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Holden Trax to get spicy 1.4T

Blow in: Holden's Trax compact crossover is set to get the 1.4-litre turbo, transplanted from the Cruze and Barina.

Turbo power coming to Trax this year as Holden gives its baby SUV a shot in the arm

19 Jun 2014

HOLDEN'S baby SUV, the Trax, is set grow some extra muscles with the addition of a feisty 1.4-litre turbocharged version later this year in a plan to spice up the Korean-built compact wagon that has boosted the company's sales since its launch last August.

It is also considering the future of the Trax's current 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine that is the sole offering in the five-door light SUV that sells for $23,490 (plus on-road costs) for the base LS and $27,990 for the LTZ.

The Barina-based, front-wheel-drive crossover has been a shot in the arm for Holden this year, adding 2505 sales to the company's bottom line and emerging as its fourth best seller last month.

It has given the Australian manufacturer a much-needed weapon in the super-competitive small SUV market, which has grown 14.4 per cent this year.

However, the rise of such SUVs might have come at the expense of traditional light hatchbacks. In the Holden range, Barina is down 33 per cent and Barina Spark has slipped 13.9 per cent in a market segment down 13.5 per cent.

In May, Trax outsold Barina – 585 to 495 units – although it was well short of the 1405 sales of the small SUV market leader, Hyundai's ix35, and other top small SUV movers, including the Nissan Dualis (1187) and Subaru XV (942).

Trax will become the third vehicle in the Holden line-up to get the 1.4T engine, which made its local debut in the locally built Cruze 1.4T and then was added to the Barina RS.

Producing 103kW and 200Nm in Cruze guise, the engine will help to create a halo model for the Trax range, for greater street cred. Currently, the turbo engine has the same power as the 1.8-litre normally aspirated engine in Trax, but about 25Nm more torque, long with superior fuel efficiency and greater refinement.

GM Holden sales and marketing executive director Philip Brook said he had been pleased with the performance of Trax, which he said had gone from zero to fourth on the monthly Holden sales chart since its launch less than a year ago.

“With more of them on the road, we are starting to get the exposure we need for Trax,” he said. “Last month it did really well, with 585 sales, and this month it is doing well again.” Year to date, Trax trails only the Commodore, Cruze, Colorado ute and Barina in the Holden sales stakes, but the way it is going, it might reel in Barina soon.

Mr Brook confirmed the plan to launch the 1.4T Trax at a media drive event this week, saying it was scheduled to arrive later this year.

Asked about the future of the 1.8-litre engine, he said Holden was still evaluating the Trax line-up.

So far this year, the Trax has been a healthy contributor to Holden's 8.2 per cent overall sales gain in an automotive market down 2.9 per cent to the end of May.

Holden has been leading the charge among the top echelon of car companies, with sales up more than any of its major rivals, including market leader Toyota (-4.4 per cent), Mazda (-0.4 per cent), Hyundai (+4.0 per cent) and Ford (-3.7 per cent) The biggest improvement for Holden has come from its local hero, the relatively new VF Commodore, sales of which are up more than 63 per cent on last year when the VE model was in run out.

Its local siblings, the Holden Ute and Caprice, have also enjoyed happier days this year, up 13.4 per cent and 73 per cent respectively after sliding in previous years.

The Colorado 4x4 ute is also flying, up 23 per cent, despite a slip in the light truck market that has been stung by a dip in Australian business vehicle sales.

While Holden is having a purple patch, Mr Brook said the market had an underlying softness that was causing a highly competitive market environment this year.

Like many other companies, the 'lion' brand is going for a big push this month, armed with a long list of driveaway specials and other incentives in its annual End of Financial Year sale, backed by a large advertising spend.

Mr Brook declined to predict how Holden June sales would end up, but said that so far, things were going well.

He said that while the market was down for a variety of reasons, including the drop off in mining industry investment that had impacted sales in Western Australia and Queensland, it should still end up about the 1.1 million vehicle mark for the year.

“This means plenty of opportunities for us all,” he said.

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