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Sportier niche Holden imports approaching

Sonic boom: The Chevrolet Sonic LTZ is the sort of sporty small car that Holden wants under its Barina badges.

Holden chairman flags a broader range of more appealing variants to spice things up

29 Nov 2012

NICHE is the word at Holden as the brand looks to greatly broaden the appeal of its various imported models beyond the mainstream bread-and-butter options in Australia.

Kicking off with the Cruze wagon, Barina CDX and Spark 1.25 automatic, Holden’s range is expected to encompass performance and economy models hitherto denied to Australian consumers.

These include the possible return of the Barina SRi, employing a variation of the 1.4-litre twin-cam four-cylinder turbo petrol engine doing duty in the Cruze 1.4iTi and lower-level Opel Astra J models.

Sold as the Chevrolet Sonic LTZ Turbo as well as the visually more titillating Sonic RS in some parts of the world, it delivers 103kW of power and 200Nm of torque to the front wheels, and is paired to a six-speed manual or six-speed auto with a sequential-shift plane.

Other possible candidates include the Eco hybrid version of the upcoming Malibu midsized sedan, as well as performance and luxury variations of the Trax – a vehicle that cannot come soon enough for Holden in SUV-mad Australia.

Speaking of SUVs, even the just released Colorado 7 SUV’s LTZ flagship variant is the most comprehensively equipped model available in any market in the world, and is one that has been specifically devised for Australian buyers.

The introduction of Holden’s infotainment system in the Barina CDX is, as one Holden spokesman puts it, a toe-in-the-water exercise to see how a richer model mix would perform in a growing segment in Australia.

According to Holden managing director and chairman Mike Devereux, Australian consumers are more sophisticated than General Motors has allowed for in recent years, particularly in terms of the sub-Commodore line of vehicles.

“One of the things we have learnt in terms of our manufacturing footprint that Australia is a bit unique in terms of sophistication (compared to places like South Africa, India, Malaysia and Indonesia),” Mr Devereux said.

“Whatever components sets we get in the US, we need them here. Full stop.

“So we will be extremely aggressive that our manufacturing footprint has the type of stuff you all know we need in our cars – whether it is the driving components, whether it is suspension components specifically or options loads that you criticise us for not having in our vehicles – different types of options.

“This is an extremely sophisticated market and we are absolutely addressing what feedback you give us.

“As we update our local Cruze product next year, you will see world-class types of upgrades that address criticisms … we hear you, and frankly we’re not satisfied with anything – ever!”

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