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New York show: Holden’s new Spark takes a bow

Sparkling: Chevrolet’s Spark will land in Holden showrooms in early 2016, armed with a new body, new engine and – most likely – CVT transmission.

GM Holden to drop Barina tag when it launches all-new Spark hatchback in 2016

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Holden logo2 Apr 2015

HOLDEN is set to fall into line with sister brand Chevrolet by calling its new-generation mini-car simply Spark, instead of Barina Spark, when the sleeker and more sophisticated replacement arrives in Australian showrooms in the first quarter of 2016.

Unveiled simultaneously at the New York and Seoul motor shows today, the all-new Spark five-door hatchback will receive a unique Australian-tuned chassis and a stronger body structure for a smoother, quieter ride, thus addressing some of the shortcomings of the current model.

After earlier this year confirming the second-generation Spark for Australia, GM Holden is now referring to the new car as simply the Spark, dispensing with the Barina tag that was introduced with the current model to try to milk some of the well-established branding glow from the larger car of that name.

The Spark is currently the third-best-selling micro-car in Australia behind the Mitsubishi Mirage and Fiat 500, in a market segment that is down almost 45 per cent this year.

As before, the new Spark will be made in South Korea for Australia and 39 other markets, and it is expected to slot into the Australian Holden range below the Opel Corsa-based replacement for the current Barina in a new-model overhaul that will deliver 24 new models and 36 new powertrain combinations over the next five years.

Sitting on a slightly longer wheelbase, the new Spark gets a bigger and more powerful 73kW 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine – up from 63kW in automatic transmission form.

For the first time, that engine will be mated with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to deliver highway fuel consumption of about 5.8 litres per 100km. At a glance, this appears worse than the current 1.2-litre Spark with a four-speed auto that achieves 4.8L/100km on the highway test cycle according to official Australian figures.

Holden product communications senior manager Kate Lonsdale said it was too early to confirm the fuel figures for the Australian version, or to say if the CVT would be included in the Holden range.

Holden executive director of sales Peter Keley said the completely redesigned car offered customers greater performance, efficiency and refinement, along with new safety and connectivity features.

“I believe this car will set a new benchmark in this highly competitive segment,” he said.

Designed in South Korea under the guidance of Australian-based GM International Design vice-president Michael Simcoe, the new Spark gets Chevrolet’s latest dual-port grille treatment in an evolutionary makeover.

A 40mm lower roofline delivers a sleeker appearance, while a slightly longer wheelbase helps to give a sportier wheel-at-each-corner look.

Mr Simcoe said Spark now had a more substantial, firmly planted presence.

“In short, the Spark has grown up,” he said. “It retains its youthful flair, but reflects the maturation of the global micro-car market and customers’ desire for richly styled and highly contented choices.”

The lower roofline is said to cut aerodynamic drag. To maintain headroom, the Spark’s seats have been lowered. The driving position is said to be more engaging, while cabin materials have been upgraded with higher-quality fabrics and higher-density seat foam to enhance comfort and durability.

Holden says the stronger body structure enabled engineers to tune ride and handling more precisely, for a greater feeling of control and refinement, while fostering a quieter ride.

As GoAuto exclusively revealed in January, the Spark has been extensively tested in Australia.

Holden vehicle performance director Ian Butler today confirmed the Holden engineering team had been heavily involved in Spark development.

“Even though this is a truly global car our engineers have been working hard to tailor the vehicle to ensure it resonates with our customers in Australia,” he said.

“The car will feature unique suspension and steering tunes following thousands of kilometres and months of extensive work at our Lang Lang proving ground and on public roads.

“We made sure the car remains fun and agile but will now deliver even more sophistication.”

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