Wednesday June 14, 2017
By Richard Bosselman
EVERY Astra derivative in current production has now assumed Holden identity, with confirmation today the wagon version will go on sale later this year.
An announcement about the load-all’s inclusion alongside the hatch line and a new sedan that which will be in the showroom next month came at a media session staged by the brand at the national Fieldays, during which announcements about other product were delivered.
That included confirmation that the Equinox medium-large sports utility will be here before Christmas and that the OnStar connectivity technology will wear a Holden badge in what Holden NZ boss Kristian Aquilina says will be “the not too distant future.”
Holden New Zealand says it will not release specific detail about the Astra sportwagon’s specification and price until closer to launch, probably in November.
However, Aquilina and general manager of marketing Marnie Samphier have let slip there will likely be two variants with the same badge designations as the sedan, thus continuing a trend established with the now defunct Cruze wagon.
Determination to tag the derivative as a ‘sportwagon’ might seem a deliberate move to remind not only that it shares the dynamic appeal that has been a strength of the hatch but that it is also tailored more for private users than businesses.
However, even though that pitch further reinforced by reference in the media information about it being for ‘adventuring families,’ Aquilina says the model’s promotion will not be that specific.
“We don’t launch fleet vehicles only or family vehicles only,” he told MotoringNetwork.
“We launch cars that hopefully suit multiple purposes and multiple needs. Our target is a range of buyers, not just a particular segment.”
The sportwagon is built by Vauxhall in the United Kingdom (their edition, called sport touring, is pictured today) - whereas the Astra hatch hails from Europe and the sedan, is more Astra by name and new-generation Cruze by nature and make-up (it’s a Chevrolet in most other countries), comes from South Korea.
The model comes with the smaller of the two engines offered in the hatch and also the sole choice for the sedan, a 110kW/240Nm 1.4-litre turbo petrol. There is no clarity about whether it could also offer in time with the 147kW/300Nm 1.6-litre running in the hatch.
As in the sedan, the manual gearbox available with the hatch is also off the table. Instead it solely marries to a six-speed automatic transmission.
In respect to price, logic suggests the hatch will not be undercut, as the two derivatives come in base format at $30,990 manual and $32,990 automatic.
The entry LS sedan is also a $30,990 proposition, but Holden is also providing the three-box car in $34,490 LT and $38,490 LTZ formats.
Will the sport wagon also site within that sphere or sit slightly above? Samphier says if there is any premium, it will be minor.
Although the brand says it is still sorting out the specifications, it seems likely there will be an entry LT wagon and also a higher-end model that would suit private buyers.
Samphier says that logic worked well with Cruze wagon. “Most of the private buyer interest focused on the better-specified variant.”
The sportwagon’s ace card will be internal storage, with Holden claiming more than1600 litres’ boot space. That’s just a few hundred litres’ shy of the Commodore Sportwagon.
The model might also set a high safety standatd, well above the norm. As with the hatch, the Astra sportwagon takes a full suite of active safety technology including auto emergency braking, lane keep assist and forward collision alert.
It also has a rear view camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, hands-free power tailgate and passive entry/push-button start.
Samphier says while Astra sportwagon provides style, space and technology it doesn’t sacrifice the engaging driving dynamics Astra has built its reputation on.
Holden cites that the car benefits from the same tuning setup as the hatch, co-developed by the Holden Australia team over multiple European testing drives.
The car was designed by Opel, which has now been sold off to Peugeot-Citroen owner PSA Group, and is built at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port manufacturing facility.
Meantime, Holden NZ has aired expectation that the Astra sedan will offer the same pluses as the Astra hatch, despite being a Chevrolet product rather than a full-out Opel design.
Enforcing that the sedan is on the same platform as the other Astra models, Samphier said the car will appeal through blending “functionality and comfort, with more than a touch of luxury.
“Astra’s luxurious interior is complemented by advanced driver and connectivity technology in addition to progressive exterior styling which, when you add to the hatch variant, gives Holden a strong line-up in the small-car segment.”
She said the $30,990 price point would be attractive to buyers “especially considering the performance, technology and all-round appeal of the new model.”
Holden has also enforced that, regardless of the car’s American upbringing, it received plenty of attention from GM Australia. The Melbourne office delivered the bespoke front grille and fascia to give the Astra range a more cohesive appearance.
Astra sedan also benefited from in-depth local engineering carried out at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground to ensure it exhibits the refinement and composure displayed by its sibling, Astra hatch, she said.