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Holden's sporty Barina and Astra

Astra on the go: Holden hopes to sell 2000 Astra SRis each year.

The warmed-over hatch market just got that little bit hotter thanks to two Holdens

5 Sep 2001

HOLDEN has added sting to the burgeoning warmed-over hatch market with the arrival of the Barina SRi and Astra SRi, both priced under $30,000.

The pair are Holden's answer to Toyota's Echo Sportivo - in the case of the Barina - and the Ford Laser SR2 and its Mazda clone, the SP20 - in the case of the Astra.

Significantly, the Holdens outgun their rivals on capacity and power. The Barina produces 92kW and 165Nm of torque from its 1.8-litre double overhead cam four-cylinder engine (all other Barinas make do with a 1.4) while the Sportivo produces 80kW and 145Nm from its 1.5.

The Astra's 2.2-litre dohc four-cylinder engine (all other Astras get a 1.8) produces 108kW and 203Nm, while the 2.0-litre engines in the Laser and Mazda produce 92kW and 163Nm.

The Astra grinds salt into the Ford and Mazda wounds by under-pricing its competition - albeit only slightly - with $28,065 for the five-speed manual and $29,915 for the four-speed automatic.

However, the Astra does lose some ground because it is a three-door, while its closest opposition both have five-doors, and it produces its best engine figures using premium unleaded fuel - as does the Barina.

The Barina SRi is also three-door only and sits strategically priced at $20,990, $1000 more than the three-door Sportivo and $1000 less than the five-door. The Barina SRi is only available as a five-speed manual and air-conditioning is an $1870 option.

The Barina goes on sale mid-September and Holden is forecasting a modest 700 sales annually for its smallest sport. However, a much more bullish 2000 sales per annum is predicted for the Astra.

That's a reflection of Holden's overall confidence in a nameplate that has rocketed from obscurity to class leadership over the last few years. In that time the range has expanded from a couple of five doors to include sedans, a cut-price three-door, the SRi - which goes on sale in October - and a convertible in December.

An Astra coupe is still under consideration, with a turbo version tipped for import by HSV.

The Astra SRi is picked from its brethren by an Opel Performance Centre front airdam and rear spoiler, 16-inch alloy wheels mated to 205/50 tyres and front fog lights.

Sports suspension lowers the ride height, increases the front spring rates 14 per cent and recalibrates the front and rear dampers. Other performance aids include anti-lock (ABS) braking working with larger discs front and rear and traction control.

Interior equipment includes sports seats, leather wrap steering wheel with radio and CD controls, silver metallic detailing and power front windows. Air-conditioning and dual front airbags are also standard.

The Barina's bodykit comes from German tuning firm Irmscher and comprises a front airdam, side skirts and rear roof spoiler.

Performance equipment includes anti-lock braking, traction control, 15-inch alloy wheels and 185/55 tyres mated to a wider track, lower ride height and sportier suspension set-up. Unique interior features include sports seats, leather wrap steering wheel and silver metallic detailling, and cruise control.

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