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Future models - Holden - Tigra - TwinTop

First drive: Holden's hard-top Tigra tempter

Smooth: The Tigra TwinTop cruises quietly at 100km/h on the open road.

The European-developed Tigra TwinTop is heading our way as a Holden

29 Dec 2004

THE metal-roofed convertible is an example of that classic motoring technology rule called ‘trickle down’.

No, we don’t mean it’s stopped the leakages that were the bane of some canvas-roofed convertibles on rainy days! Owning a two-door sports car equally adept at being convertible or coupe was once the preserve of the lucky few who could afford a Mercedes-Benz or Lexus. But as the technology gets cheaper and more plentiful, that no longer applies. That’s the trickle down we’re talking about.

The entry price for a folding metal roof starts at $29,990 for the Daihatsu Copen, with both the multi-tasking Citroen Pluriel and fellow Frenchman, the Peugeot 206CC, safely ensconced in the low to mid-$30,000 bracket.

Set to join this small but growing band is the Holden Tigra TwinTop, developed in Europe and launched there earlier this year, on the mainland as an Opel and in the UK as a Vauxhall.

When exactly we see it in a Holden showroom is still yet to be made public, but it would seem that 2005 is a certainty.

It will add to Holden's convertible range rather than replace the Astra, which is expected to also become a folding hard-top in its new generation to be launched in Europe in 2005.

The Tigra takes its name and nothing much else from a small coupe sold in Europe in the 1990s, but which never saw service here. Indeed, the new Tigra is a classic case of exploiting the parts bin to attack an emerging niche.

The TwinTop takes its chassis and underpinnings from what we know as the Holden Barina in Australia, but is sold as the Opel Corsa in Europe.

So that means a sporting tune of the MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion tube rear-end called DSA (for Dynamic Safety Chassis) which is borrowed from the European Corsa GSi, disc brakes all round, electro-assist power steering and a 2491mm wheelbase.

Power comes courtesy of the 92kW/165Nm 1.8-litre Ecotec engine laid out transverse and driving the front wheels. That unit is seen in the Barina SRi here as well as the Astra family. There’s also a 1.4-litre engine version, which comes to Australia in Barina, while a 1.3-litre common rail turbo-diesel sates the European taste for all things oil burner. No automatic transmission choice though, just a five-speed manual.

Draped over those Barina bits is a sharp little two-seater body with short overhangs, a steeply raked windscreen and styling cues that have since made themselves more familiar to us in the face of the AH Astra launched here last October.

The tricky bit, of course, is the roof. No parts bin possible here. Instead, Opel went to the French coachbuilder Groupe Henri Heuliez SA to not only engineer the folding bits, but also build the car. It’s a deal something like the one the Italian firm Bertone has to build the TS generation Astra convertible.

Interestingly, Heuliez was responsible for the roof of the 206CC, an association that ended because of reliability issues. Hope that’s not an omen… Despite the common Heuliez association, the roof mechanism of the Tigra is quite different to the Peugeot, with the rear window and pillars folding almost vertically to save space. That’s a design plus that has an immediate advantage in terms of reducing the plumpness of the rear-end and increasing luggage room.

The TwinTop manages 440 litres of storage with the roof up and 250 litres with it down, both well ahead of the Peugeot. However, the 206CC does have two rear seats, albeit quite squeezy.

The Tigra’s roof is easy to lower as well, unclip two latches and electro-hydraulics do the rest in just 18 seconds. The bootlid is also power operated.

And equipment? Well, an Australian-spec is guess work at this stage, but the best bet would certainly be the 1.8-litre version given Holden’s penchant for being a performance leader. Standard ABS with brake assistance and four airbags would make up a basic safety package, although stability control is also available. Comfort features should include height adjustable sports seats, drilled aluminium pedals, air-conditioning, power windows, remote central locking and CD audio.

Pricing and sales? Again, Holden is not talking, but with the 206CC regarded as the main opponent expect pricing to at least match that and similar sales levels. So at a punt, a starting price around $33,000-$35,000 and a monthly forecast of 60-80 purchased per month.

The fact the new Mini Cabrio starts at the same sort of pricing – even if it is a rag top – will also surely be taken into account by Holden.

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:

ROOF-ON the Tigra TwinTop presents a wedged and funky persona. It’s a feeling carried on inside the cabin where there’s a chrome-like panel in the centre console to relieve the traditional European love of grey and black.

The concave tuning display for the audio system is obviously inspired by the Opel Vectra medium car, but touches like the one-piece wave-shaped aluminium roll-over are certainly unique to Tigra.

Height adjustable seating helps the driver get comfy, although even on the lowest setting I still felt like I was sitting on top of the car. The non-adjustable steering column is a throwback to a former age.

The 1264kg kerb weight is a pretty good effort considering the retractable roof, and performance is pretty spritely as a consequence. A 9.4 second 0-100km/h dash time is claimed along with a top speed of 204km/h.

On the other side of the ledger, European combined fuel consumption is given at an excellent average of 7.7L/100km. All these figures are achieved on 95 RON fuel, however.

Out on the open road with roof in-place, the Tigra feels like a … Barina SRi. No surprise there. It’s moderately quick, with a decent amount of mid-range urge from 3000rpm, only losing its civility as it gets into the top-end at 6000rpm and beyond.

The gearbox is less impressive, a crunchy two-stage affair that doesn’t inspire confidence. That’s a pity because you definitely get the best out of this car by rowing through the gears. The rider is that this was a left-hand drive car, so gear changing was with the wrong hand. It may also excuse the pedal location, which didn’t feel all that good for heel and toe changes.

The handling is more reliable. Tigra doesn’t want to understeer too readily around corners, displaying commendable grip, and while there is some bodyroll it is not beyond the bounds of reason. Steering feel was pretty much non-existent, however.

The ride was harder to assess because GoAuto’s sample drive took place on very smooth French roads, but the few corruptions we struck suggest the set-up is compliant enough.

13 center image Those few bumps also failed to produce any scuttle shake or other issues with the roof down, again suggesting this is a thoroughly executed and solid design.

The cockpit also proved to be a comfortable place to be without the roof. With the side windows up 100km/h cruising is fine, the main – and pleasant – intrusion being a rorty little exhaust note. In town you can easily get away with windows down for a sexier look.

There’s even a few places to store incidentals, something that can be overlooked in convertibles.

So there you have it, the Tigra is a well conceived, mechanically conservative package that does a good job of selling a racey image. It’s not quite as stimulating to drive, but it is fun, particularly on a good day with the top down.

Top-up, it’s a great example of trickle down, except - we hope - the wet kind of course!

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