Mike Stevens | Aug 24, 2010

Buyers keen to get into a performance Holden have had a shortage of choice outside of the large car segment in the past few years. Since the demise of the Opel-derived Astra Turbo, there's been a hole in Holden's small performance car line-up - but that may be about to change.

While Holden's tuning arm HSV is known to be developing its own version of the upcoming Australian-built Cruze, Holden's hopes for introducing small and light performance models have been limited by the lack of options in GM's international Cruze and Barina line-ups.

News out of the US this week however suggests that GM is looking to power up both models.

"Small cars and compact cars are going to be more and more important going forward, and we're looking at efficient performance," GM's Jim Campbell told industry paper Automotive News this week.

The push for new performance models across GM's small and light car line-ups has come from Mark Reuss, former Managing Director of Holden and now boss of GM's North American operations. Reuss also led the company's performance division from 2001 to 2005, before his stint in Australia.

Click to read TMR's review of the Holden Cruze

Click to read TMR's review of the Holden Barina

For now, the project is focusing on the Cadillac and Chevrolet brands, but with the Cruze and the next-generation Barina both 'global' models, introducing performance variants into the local line-ups for both cars would represent few challenges and plenty of opportunities.

GM's engine options for a high-performance Cruze include the existing 2.0 litre turbo-charged and direct-injected engine powering the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, producing a hefty 195kW and 350Nm of torque.

The Chevrolet Aveo RS concept. The production version of the Aveo is expected to debut locally as the 2011 Holden Barina.
The Chevrolet Aveo RS concept. The production version of the Aveo is expected to debut locally as the 2011 Holden Barina.

The hi-po Cruze would face off against the likes of Volkswagen's 155kW Golf GTI and the rumoured next-generation Focus XR4 Turbo - which could offer around 205kW with Ford's 2.0 litre turbo-charged EcoBoost engine.

Similarly, the performance Barina might feature a 1.4 or 1.6 litre turbocharged four-cylinder, again taking on Volkswagen's 132kW Polo GTI and the turbo-charged Ford Fiesta recently spied testing in Europe.

Campbell said that, if only from a marketing and perception standpoint, performance versions of any model can help boost sales of the regular consumer models.

"If you come in and see [a performance variant], you might not buy it, but you might consider something else in the showroom," Campbell said.


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