When Holden axed its Opel-sourced Astra small car in Australia in 2009, it also dealt a death blow to Holden Special Vehicle's wicked 177kw (237 hp) / 320Nm VRX hot hatch. Now the high performance brand is searching for a replacement for its entry level model, setting its sights on the Daewoo / Chevrolet-sourced Cruze.
In the event that Opel does come to Australia as a stand-alone brand, HSV is looking for its own hot hatch to go up against the likes of the Focus RS and Subaru WRX, and the Australian developed Cruze 5dr hatchback is on the cards.
Mr. Harding also stated that the proposed model would have to fit in with HSV's brand image, delivering performance, driving pleasure and style.
"I am not going to screw with the brand by getting it wrong," he added.
The Cruze may use the same 213kw (286 hp), 2.0 L twin-scroll turbo-four destined for the upcoming Opel Astra OPC / Vauxhall Astra VRX in late 2011. As both the new Astra and the Cruze are based on GM's Delta II platform, it would be a comparatively simple job to transplant the engine from one to the other. When asked about this, Mr. Harding was dismissive:
"We are looking at a couple of options."
The Cruze may also need suspension upgrades and front end modifications to handle the expected FWD torque steer, as its torsion beam rear suspension is not as sophisticated as the independent rear setup on competitors like the Focus RS.
The Cruze hatch will follow its sedan sibling into production at Holden's Elizabeth plant in the second half of 2011, with a wagon variant possible in the future.
By Tristan Hankins
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