The cars on this page represent the birth of a new Holden badge in New Zealand. The badge won’t actually change, it’s just that the cars it’s pinned on will. Certainly after 2017 when Holden closes its carmaking operations across the ditch.
Anyway, that’s then. Holden’s future in New Zealand starts in about a month, in the form of the Opel Astra hatchback and convertible Opel Cascada. The Opel badges have been swapped for Holden badges. General Motors owns both Holden and Opel, see.
Holden says the new front-drive models mark the beginning of an “exciting product onslaught”. It promises 24 vehicles with 36 engine and gearbox combinations over the next five years.
Said Holden NZ managing director Kristian Aquilina in a press release: “We are confident that these European-sourced vehicles will resonate with our customers as Holden looks to an even brighter future.”
Curiously, there is no mention in the same release that the Astra hatchback range is not new. It’s six years old. The same models NZ is getting next month sold under the Opel badge in Australia in 2012-13.
Opel Australia sold 1600 cars in 12 calendar months before it packed up and moved out to reinvent itself in 2015 under the Holden label. Asked in 2012 if it was going to set up in NZ, an Opel spokesperson said: “It depends how we do in Australia. If we do well here we will definitely look at New Zealand.” Australians bought around 1.1 million new cars that year. Opel’s share was barely above zero per cent.
There is no mention in the press release either that the Astra hatchback range is available only with two front doors. There are no five-door variants. In NZ, two-door hatchbacks are about as popular as fruit fly.
The Astra (Latin for going ‘to the stars’) name is not new to NZ. The badge arrived here more than 20 years ago on a variety of models. Like the latest arrivals, they were a product of GM’s European parts bin: Vauxhall Astra in the UK, Opel Astra on the Continent, Holden Astra Downunder.
Five Astras will carry the Holden handle in NZ this year, four badged GTC and one VXR. The GTC models are priced between $38,490 and $42,990 and come with six-speed gearboxes, either manual or automatic.
Under the bonnet of the standard GTC is a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine delivering 125kW/260Nm. The GTC Sport gets a 147kW/280Nm version of the same unit.
The go-fast Astra is the VXR. Two years ago in Australia it was badged the Opel Astra OPC. Rebadging it a Holden hasn’t changed a thing. The suspension settings are the same, so too the boosted 2.0-litre engine generating 206kW/400Nm through the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. It is priced at $49,990.
The Cascada used to be known as the Astra convertible. Two models will be available, both with automatic gearboxes and powered by the standard 1.6-litre Astra engine. The soft-top can be raised or lowered in 17 seconds, says Holden. Cascada costs $43,990. Cascada Launch Edition gets more goodies and costs $47,990
• The next-generation Astra is being tested in Europe right now. Here are spy pictures of a camouflaged Astra near Germany’s Nurburgring.