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Holden waits on next-gen engines

Small stuff: General Motors has announced a new small-capacity modular engine line-up, including three-cylinder and four-cylinder engines that share many components.

Aussie Holden Cruze to motor on with current engines as China gets fast-track model

20 Mar 2014

HOLDEN Cruze buyers might have to wait up to three years longer than Chinese Cruze customers to experience a planned new generation of small-displacement Ecotec petrol engines in General Motors’ top-selling small car.

China is set to get a market-specific new Cruze armed with the new, more fuel-efficient engines and dual-clutch transmission from later this year, while a new model for other markets such as South Korea and North America is due from about 2016-17.

But the current Holden Cruze sedan and hatch – built at the company’s doomed Elizabeth plant in South Australia – will possibly soldier on alongside the Commodore until the end of local production in late 2017, and unlikely to get a new Ecotec engine until an all-new import model arrives.

It is unclear when other Holden models, including the Korean-made Barina, Barina Spark and Trax compact SUV, will get the new powerplants that range from a 1.0-litre three-cylinder producing 56kW to a turbo-charged 1.4-litre four-cylinder banging out 123kW.

The three-cylinder is set to make its debut in Opel’s Adam city car, in which it is said to generate as much power as the 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine it replaces while cutting fuel consumption by about 20 per cent.

The new, clean-sheet modular family of engines – announced in a media release from GM headquarters in Detroit overnight – has been designed to streamline the company’s powertrain portfolio and reduce manufacturing complexity around the world while improving fuel-efficiency, refinement and durability.

Eleven engine variants will be produced in at least five manufacturing plants, in the US, China, Hungary, Mexico and South Korea, and slotting into about 27 new models under five brands as they are released.

Holden executive direct of corporate affairs George Svigos told GoAuto he was unable to shed light on when a new Cruze with the new engine range would be offered under Holden badges.

"The first iteration of the next-gen Cruze will be announced later this year in China,” he said.

“This all-new 2015 Cruze was developed specifically for consumer tastes and needs in China.

"Differentiated variants will be available in other markets. We have no additional info about those variants to announce today."The Chinese Chevrolet Cruze will get two of the new four-cylinder engines – a 110kW/235Nm 1.4-litre turbo and 84kW/146Nm 1.5-litre normally aspirated.

The current 1.4-litre turbo in Cruze produces 100kW and 200Nm.

Before deciding to quit Australian manufacturing, Holden had planned to introduce a new generation of Cruze into its local plant, presumably armed with one or more of the new engines.

Now, the company faces a decision on the timing of the end of Cruze production, centering on whether to ditch the locally made car as soon as an alternative new model is available from an import source – most likely GM Korea – or keep the current model alive alongside the Commodore at the plant until the scheduled end of local production in about October 2017.

The new engine line-up brings GM into line with rivals such as Ford and Volkswagen whose three- and four-cylinder small-capacity engines – most with turbo-charging – have helped to put them at the forefront of small-car design.

So far, there is no sign of a larger 2.0-litre turbo engine within the new modular GM range to compete with Ford’s accomplished EcoBoost powerplant that has been applied not only to a number of Ford vehicles – including the Australian-made Falcon – but also other brands such as Volvo, Land Rover and Jaguar.

GM says its new engines have been engineered to slot into hybrid powertrains and accept alternative fuels such as ethanol.

The company also says the Ecotec family is “on the leading edge of fuel efficiency”, with the 1.4-litre turbo up to 5.0 per cent more efficient than the engine it replaces. In Cruze sedan, that current engine consumes 6.9 litres per 100km.

However, the new engine has been calibrated to run on regular petrol, rather than the more expensive premium petrol.

GM says engine noise has been slashed, claiming “noise intensity” is up to 50 per cent better than rival Volkswagen’s 1.4-litre unit, and up to 25 per cent better than Ford’s 1.0-litre three cylinder.

Each of the GM engines will share parts in a modular design, with four-cylinder and three-cylinder blocks sharing bore spacing, bore diameter, liners and other bits to reduce complexity.

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