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Warmed-over Astra GTC gains Opel’s frugal diesel

Manual labour: A manual version of the diesel-engined Astra GTC will make a business case for the three-door hatchback’s addition to Australia difficult until an automatic version is available, Holden says.

Strong, miserly Opel Astra GTC diesel may stall ahead of Australian run

Holden logo14 Jul 2014

By BARRY PARK

A VERSION of Opel’s warmed-over Astra that will one day sell in Australia wearing a Holden badge has added a diesel engine under the bonnet – but so far only for European markets.

The 100kW/320Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder “Whisper” engine is officially a replacement for the Euro-spec 1.7-litre version, and will feature under the bonnet of the three-door Vauxhall Astra GTC hatchback sold in Britain.

However, the previous version of the Astra, sold here under the Opel badge, featured a 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 121kW of power and 350Nm of torque, officially using only 5.9L/100km of fuel.

In contrast, the Whisper engine officially uses only about 3.2L/100km on the European cycle.

However, the new engine, released under the bonnet of the Opel Zafira people-mover early last year, was developed in Italy with help from GM engineers in Germany and the US, and offers similar performance to many 2.0-litre diesels such as Volkswagen’s mainstream 103kW/320Nm Golf TDI.

It boasts 12kW more power and 20Nm more torque than Honda’s new Earth Dreams DTi 1.6-litre diesel introduced to the Civic hatch mid way through last year.

While Opel did import the Zafira here – its launch was slated to take place within weeks of the German premium brand’s unexpected and largely unexplained withdrawal from the Australian market – it featured the 2.0-litre diesel rather than the new-generation 1.6-litre version.

Holden has already confirmed that the Astra GTC will wear aturbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine under its bonnet when it arrivesnext year, with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automaticgearbox sending drive to the front wheels.

Holden product communications manager Kate Lonsdale said that while a manual-only gearbox made a business case for the diesel-engined Astra GTC difficult, the car-maker had brought in manual-only models before.

“The Barina RS (a Suzuki Swift Sport-rivalling version of the Barina city hatchback featuring a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine) when it arrived was manual-only, and then we introduced it with an automatic gearbox,” Ms Lonsdale said.

“We could do the same thing with the Astra GTC, but yes, being manual only can make it difficult.

“We’re still a long way off from the Opel products coming back to Australia,” she said.

Holden plans on reintroducing parts of the Opel line-up next year as it prepares for the wind-down of the locally made Cruze small hatch and sedan line-up ahead of a complete withdrawal from Australian manufacturing in late 2017.

However, it is believed that introducing the high-end and sports-honed versions of rebadged Opels – they will wear the Holden lion instead of the German brand’s lightning bolt – will allow the local car-maker to protect low-cost Cruze sales until the production lines are shuttered.

GM’s local arm announced in May that it will slap Holden badges on anumber of Opel models for its 2015 line-up, including the Astra GTC inline for the diesel engine, the more hi-po Astra VXR powered by aturbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, the Insignia VXRpowered by a 2.8-litre turbocharged petrol V6, and the turbochargedpetrol 1.6-litre Cascada convertible.

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