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Exclusive: Holden hatches Aveo changes

Under the skin: This current model left-hand-drive Chevrolet Aveo (nee Barina) is being used by Holden to test engineering tweaks on behalf of its GM parent.

Chevrolet ‘Barina’ test mule spied as Holden engineers continue Aveo development


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15 Jul 2014

HOLDEN’S plans for the next Barina light car might be open to speculation, but as these pictures indicate, work is continuing in Australia on the current Barina’s Asian Chevrolet twin, the Aveo.

This left-hand-drive Aveo RS Turbo engineering test mule was snapped by GoAuto in a suburban Melbourne carpark where it was left briefly by a Holden Powertrain engineer on a weekend shopping mission.

Holden has confirmed to GoAuto that the model is undergoing powertrain calibration in Australia as part of a global development program that, in Australia, also includes the next-generation Opel Corsa OPC – the fastest light car in the GM armoury.

Like most such development vehicles, the Aveo’s interior was fitted with a holder for an engineer’s laptop computer, while out the back a towing hitch indicates calibration tests requiring instruments to be towed in a special trailer at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground, south-east of Melbourne.

It is unclear if the revised powertrain in the Aveo RS will wing its way back to Australia in a facelift for the three-year-old Barina range in which the current 103kW/200Nm RS is the flagship.

Some pundits speculate that Australia might opt for the newer, more sophisticated European Corsa next time around as a way of stemming falling Barina sales in one of the most hotly contested market segments.

It is possible that the Aveo work is being done for specific markets such as China or South Korea where the car is marketed as Aveo, or North America where it goes by the Sonic tag.

One thing is for sure: it will not be seen in Europe where GM has announced plans to withdraw Chevrolet and give more support to its Opel and Vauxhall brands that are preparing to launch an all-new Corsa range at the Paris motor show this year (see separate story).

In China, GM and its joint-venture partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) reportedly have a facelifted China-only Aveo sedan set to make its debut at the Chengdu motor show in September.

Leaked pictures of the new nose on the Chinese car reveal styling changes similar to the China-only Cruze that was revealed earlier this year.

No such design changes were evident on the engineering test mule shown here, with the five-door hatch retaining the original shape penned in 2008 by Holden designer Ondrej Koromhaz while on assignment at GM Korea – the “home room” for the global model launched in 2011.

The first Aveo show car was fabricated at Holden’s design centre in Melbourne, and some of the engineering was done by Holden engineers in Melbourne and Lang Lang. This included chassis tweaks to try to improve Barina’s ride and handling in a running update that also included a new six-speed transmission in 2012.

The following year, Holden added the sporty RS Turbo hatch.

Like the current Opel Corsa, the Aveo/Barina/Sonic is built on GM’s global Gamma II small-car platform and is made in seven GM plants around the world, in countries including Mexico, Colombia and Russia.

Australia’s Barina comes from GM Korea’s Incheon factory – a former Daewoo plant – but falling sales might force a rethink.

GM’s Detroit chiefs have announced a proposal to build a new factory in Thailand to make an unidentified fuel-efficient new Chevrolet model for global distribution.

The company GM’s Rayong plant in Thailand already assembles the current Chevrolet Sonic for ASEAN markets, while another GM Thailand production line produces the Holden Colorado/Chevrolet Trailblazer one-tonne pick-up for global consumption.

In Australia, Barina volumes have plunged more than 31 per cent this year, from 5157 units in the six months to June 30 in 2013 to 3458 vehicles in the same period in 2014. Its segment sales share has eased from 9.0 per cent to 7.0 per cent – less than half that of the segment-leading Hyundai i20.

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