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First look: Insignia-inspired Astra revealed

Look but can't touch: GM's new Astra is in doubt for Australia unless a solid business case can be mounted.

Holden puts plans for sixth-generation Astra on hold pending small-car review

14 May 2009

GENERAL Motors Europe has revealed one of the most hotly anticipated new models of 2009 in the redesigned Vauxhall and Opel Astra.

But unlike previous generations of GM’s popular European-built small car, the new Astra may not make it to Australia under Holden badges.

Import shipments of current Astra are already on hold as GM Holden reviews its small car model line-up in the face of unfavourable exchange rates, uncertainty over the future ownership of GM Europe and the imminent local launch of the Korean-built Cruze, which is made on the same Delta II platform as Astra.

Holden spokesperson Kate Lonsdale said Holden believed there was a place for both Cruze and Astra in the Holden model line-up, but a business case needed to be made before the green light could be given for the next-generation Astra to come to Australia.

“Astra is our best-selling model after Commodore, and it has been a very popular car in our range for a long time now,” she said.

“But at this stage, it remains an Opel and Vauxhall model only.

“No decision has been made, and Astra remains on hold until this review is completed.” The new Cruze small sedan will be launched to the media next week and will go into dealer showroom from June.

GM Holden is also planning to build a Delta-based small car – thought to be a hatch – from the third quarter of next year at its Elizabeth plant in South Australia.

77 center imageIf Holden does decide to take the new-generation Astra in 2010, it will almost certainly be as a premium small-car, sitting above the Cruze and its Australian-made sibling, in the same way as the current Astra sits above the Korean-made Viva.

As widely expected, the sixth-generation Astra in three decades will make its global public premiere at the Frankfurt motor show in September, in five-door hatchback form as seen here.

Vauxhall marketing director Angy Gilson said the only part of the Astra which was not new was its name.

“And that name currently accounts for around 30 per cent of all Vauxhall’s car sales, with the five-door hatch taking 60 per cent of those sales alone – so it’s important to lead with this body style.

“Not only is the Astra a crucial new model for Vauxhall, but we’re confident that its blend of dynamic design, new-to-class technology and immense driver appeal will attract an even broader spectrum of buyers in this sector.” As the first official pictures reveal, the all-new Astra borrows many styling cues from the larger Insignia mid-sizer launched last year in Europe, including tear-drop head and tail-lights, sloping rear roofline and extensive bodyside sculpting.

In fact, the new car’s design team was led by the British designer who also oversaw the development of the Insignia, vice-president of GM Europe Design, Mark Adams.

“We’re continuing with the same premium design cues as the Insignia, inside and out of the car,” said Mr Adams. “However, the main design themes, like the wing-shaped light signatures and the blade, needed an individual execution to avoid ‘cloning’ the model ranges. This is why, for instance, you see twin wings in the rear lights and a reversed blade on its flanks.” The European-designed and built Astra replacement is due for release in Europe late this year and should join the Korean-made Cruze sedan, which replaces the Daewoo-sourced Viva here next month, in Holden’s line up in early 2010.

Both cars are based on GM’s new ‘Delta II’ global small-car platform, on which Holden will manufacture its own bespoke model derivative from September 2010.

For now, Vauxhall and Opel have confirmed the next-generation Astra is based on an all-new chassis that features adaptive suspension damping for the first time. Vauxhall claims the optional FlexRide system, which offers three unique damper settings (standard, sport and tour), will raise the bar for handling and ride comfort in the small-car class.

The Astra’s familiar but more contemporary cab-forward silhouette, which is claimed to have spent more than 600 hours in wind tunnel testing, is shorter than the booted Cruze four-door at 4.4 metres.

It rides on a wheelbase that is 77mm longer, which Vauxhall says improves passenger space and interior packaging. New seats and storage solutions have also been heralded.

While first official details are limited and interior images are yet to be revealed, Vauxhall says the new Astra also features wider wheel tracks and a new rear axle design. It has advised to expect a different take on the Insignia’s wrap-around dashboard design.

The company also says the Astra’s optional, latest generation adaptive forward lighting (AFL), which is also available with the Insignia and features bi-Xenon lighting that is claimed to change its intensity and reach to suit prevailing road conditions, will continue to be unique in the small-car class.

GM Europe has confirmed the new Astra’s engine department will be headlined by an all-new turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which it says reduces fuel consumption and emissions while retaining the performance of a larger-capacity engine.

It will produce the same 103kW peak power figure as the 1.8-litre engine it is expected to replace, but will bring an increase in torque to around 225Nm - plus a reduction in fuel use to about 6.5L/100km and emission to 160g/km.

Dubbed the ‘1.4T’ in the Astra, the same Fiat-developed 1364cc engine powers the Cruze in some markets and is a variation of the engine that charges the upcoming Volt plug-in hybrid’s lithium ion battery pack.

A total of eight Euro V emissions-rated engines will be available with the new Astra in Europe, including three further petrol engines ranging from 75kW (for the naturally-aspirated version of the 1.4T) to 133kW (for the turbocharged 1.6 from the Insignia) and four diesel engines: a 65kW 1.3, an 80kW 1.7 and two 2.0-litre Insignia engines delivering 95kW and 115kW.

Read more:

Inside Holden’s Delta force

Holden cruises to five stars

Holden hatched

Melbourne show: Holden comes clean on Cruze

Holden to build all-new small car from 2010

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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