European-sourced Holden’s on their way

November 21st, 2014 by Richard Edwards

While the debate rages as to what will replace the Commodore as Holden’s large car come 2018 – there are new lion-badged options coming far sooner that deserve a look – and may provide clues in themselves.

The company announced earlier this year the return of European sourced models to its line up – the Cascada cabriolet, Astra GTC hatch/coupe and the large sedan Insignia VXR. Continue reading “European-sourced Holden’s on their way” »

Opel Astra OPC hot hatch debuts in Europe

November 7th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Opel has unveiled its new Astra OPC known as the Vauxhall VXR in some markets. OPC stands for Opel Performance Centre and is the Euro brand’s in-house tuning division so this is the hottest Astra in the range.

The performance hatch is powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine producing a huge 206 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque. These figures make it the most powerful Astra ever built and allow it a top speed of 250 km/h.

The large dose of power is sent exclusively to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. To help the hot hatch put that grunt to ground there’s a mechanical limited-slip differential on the front axle. The front suspension is a version of Opel’s ‘High Performance Strut’ suspension package and the car also comes with Opel’s adaptive suspension system FlexRide which includes a sports setting.

Visually the VXR is distinguished over its lesser kin by an aggressive body kit that includes aerodynamic front and rear bumpers, deep side skirting and a hatch spoiler. There’s also integrated dual exhaust outlets and XL-size alloy rims.  Continue reading “Opel Astra OPC hot hatch debuts in Europe” »

HSV to use Cruze platform for 4-cylinder high performance model

September 29th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Holden Special Vehicles over the ditch has recently confirmed that it will be adding a 4-cylinder turbocharged model to join the beefy V8s in its range.

After discontinuing the Astra-based VXR, HSV has no models smaller than the Commodore and has decided to develop the Holden Cruze platform for much greater performance.

HSV’s big cheese Phil Harding confirmed that the company was investigating adding a performance-tuned Cruze to its line-up, but he wouldn’t offer any solid technical details on the forthcoming model.

Rumours are that HSV’s Cruze will be based on the locally-built model that’s set to enter production at Holden’s South Australian plant in 2010.

What isn’t known is if HSV’s small car offering will be based on the sedan or hatchback version of the Cruze (both of which will be built in Australia), but the sedan’s greater structural rigidity may see it go ahead. The hatchback (pictured in Chevrolet form), however, may look sharper and be more direct replacement for the now-discontinued Astra VXR.

In terms of engine and power there’s no official word yet but HSV is likely to draw from one of GM’s new breed of small-displacement direct-injection turbocharged engines, ranging from a 104kW 1.4-litre to a 200kW 2.0-litre. The Delta-platformed Astra VXR utilises a turbocharged 2.0 litre inline four developing 177kW, so there’s plenty of potential for decent power.

Suspension will be modified to improve handling, but HSV could stay with the Cruze’s rear beam axle set-up or shift to the Euro-market Astra’s independent rear suspension.

Styling will naturally be injected with more excitement for HSV’s Cruze, with new bumpers, larger wheels and body kits making it stand out.

A launch date hasn’t been announced, but with Australian production of the Holden Cruze scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2010, HSV’s small car may make an appearance mid to late next year.

Click here to read a Car and SUV review of the HSV VXR.

Click here to read a Car and SUV review of the Holden Cruze Sedan.

Holden Astra

December 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

New Holden Astra commercial directed by Gerard Lambkin and Mark Toia

2009 Opel Astra

December 19th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

The new Opel Astra will premiere on September 17 in Frankfurt at the IAA.

2010 Opel Astra revealed before Frankfurt debut

May 14th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Opel Astra fq

Financially troubled carmaker Opel has just released details of its upcoming next-generation 2010 Astra before its official debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show this September.

The 2010 Astra’s design is inspired by the larger Opel Insignia, it shows off all-new sheet metal that takes cues from its big brother and packages it into a smaller, more fluid shape. The fascia, headlamps and back-end reflect Opel’s new design direction, along with the sculpted sides and raked-back windscreen.

The new Astra has a wheelbase that stretches 2.8 inches longer than the outgoing model. The “wing and blade” design language employed on the exterior carries through to the interior, and joins ergonomic seats and the new Opel Eye front camera system, which can apparently recognise road signs and warns drivers if they veer out of their lane.

There will be a total of eight different engines available, including four CDTI common-rail diesels with displacements ranging from 1.3- to 2.0-litres and outputs of between 95 and 160 hp. Another four gas-powered units, with displacements between 1.4- and 1.6-litres, dish out between 100 and 180 hp along with a new turbocharged 1.4-litre that replaces the outgoing naturally aspirated 1.8-litre and puts out 140 hp and 14% more torque, while lowering fuel consumption.

The wraps officially come off the five-door Astra later this year, while a four-door sedan, three-door hatch and a two-mode hybrid variant are expected to debut in 2010. Global sales should begin towards the end of 2009, and hopefully we will see the new 2010 Astra down here in NZ next year with a Holden badge whacked on the front.

HSV VXR 2008 Review

October 10th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham


The VXR has some serious anger issues and I can only put this down to an identity crisis. GM has it badged as a Vauxhall in its native UK, as an Opel in Europe and here in NZ we know it as a Holden Astra. I understand the VXR’s pain. As a young man I once had an identity crisis of my own, involving a fake I.D and a nightclub bouncer. That burly sentry destroyed my I.D along with my youthful dreams of underage drinking and loose older women, and I didn’t see the inside of a club until I returned at the rightful age. I failed in my attempt, but the VXR has an HSV badge, a mark of performance and exclusivity. Is it just a cocky kid who got lucky or does it really deserve its place in club HSV?

Hot hatchbacks can sometimes be too conservative in their styling and not differ enough from their base-model brothers. This is a non-issue for the VXR. Visually it leaves you in no doubt that it will go fast. The body styling kit gives it a low and mean-looking profile. There are elements of bling about the exterior of the car and a gleaming paint job means there is lots of show with the go. The optional 19-inch alloys are stunning and pack out the guards perfectly. With bright blue brake calipers, a honeycomb sports grill and silver rimmed fog lamps the VXR could never be accused of being too casually dressed for a night out.

Inside the cabin the VXR is well appointed with leather Recaro seats for driver and shotgun. These are very supportive during both acceleration and cornering. The seats look great with big side bolsters and thick stitching but they do sit a little high and could slide back one notch further. The backseat is more than a token gesture and can fit two adults reasonably well.  The backseats have headrests that do affect rear visibility which is already minimal, but they can be removed. The steering wheel and gearstick are finished in leather and feel thick and solid in hand. The centre control console is difficult to learn, but has everything required, including a driver information computer and a front-loading 6-disc CD stacker. The VXR has air conditioning, electric windows and 6 airbags to keep you safe. Inside the hatch there is a good allocation of space considering the vehicle’s relatively small size. Overall the interior is functional and adequate but you wouldn’t buy a car like the VXR for its comfort level, you’d buy it for performance.

If an identity crisis is the source of the VXR’s anger then its engine is the means to show the world exactly how angry it really is. A 2.0 litre turbocharged powerplant producing 177kW sprints the VXR from a standstill to 100kph in 6.2 seconds and won’t stop till it reaches 244kph. The acceleration is raw and exciting, and there is some turbo-lag, but when the VXR starts pulling it’s worth the wait. The VXR has been gifted with true power and it does struggle to transfer it all to the road. Under hard acceleration torque-steer is evident even with traction control, but the steering wheel stays honest and a firm grip can easily keep control. The available torque means you don’t need to be heavy footed in first gear, just shift into second and prepare to feel the wrath.

The six-speed close-ratio manual gearbox is a real gem. Good gear ratios make the best of the power right through the range and it kicks out smooth gear changes. When pushed the VXR will drink heavily and will return consumption figures far worse than the quoted 9.29l/100km combined.

The grip, other than under heavy-handed straight-line acceleration, is very good. The car remains assertive during fast cornering and is clearly helped by the standard electronic stability programme, which at no point detracts from the fun of driving. The lowered and tuned suspension is compliant and absorbs most bumps well, but remains a very firm ride. Road noise generated by the wide low profile tyres can be a touch intrusive. The brakes provide strong stopping power but the brake pedal does feel light and can be caught lacking in response. The VXR was never going to be easy to stop.

The VXR earns its HSV badge and then some. It’s no purebred and lacks subtlety and refinement which may prove tiring on long journeys or stop-start commuting. However, Club HSV is more Aussie workmen’s pub than cocktail lounge and the VRX has enough mongrel to truly belong. It has been given a lot of juice so it slips and stumbles when pushed, but it is willing and has a tough confident charm that will work on most.

Click through to the next page for specs on the HSV VXR

Price: from $49,990

What we like

Blistering Acceleration
Stable Handling
Sharp Styling

What we don’t like

Turbo lag
Tricky control console
Poor rear visibility


ECOTEC Inline-4 position Turbocharged valvetrain 4 Valves per Cyl

Displacement: 1998 cc / 121.9 cu in bore 86 mm / 3.39 in stroke 86 mm / 3.39 in compression 8.8:1

Power: 170 kw / 237 bhp @ 5600 rpm

hp per litre: 120.12 bhp per litre

bhp/weight: 172.29 bhp per weight

torque: 320 nm / 236.0 ft lbs @ 2400 rpm


Front brake size 321 mm / 12.6 in

Rear brake size 278 mm / 10.9 in

Front wheels F 45.7 x 20.3 cm / 18 x 8 in

Rear wheels R 45.7 x 20.3 cm / 18 x 8 in

Front tire size 225/40 R 18

Rear tire size 225/40 R 18

Weight 1393 kg / 3071 lbs

Length 4290 mm / 168.9 in

Width 1092 mm / 43.0 in

Height 1420 mm / 55.9 in


Top speed 244.6 kph / 152 mph

0 – 60 mph 6.2 seconds

Words Adam Mamo, photos Darren Cottingham

Holden NZ offers diesel deal

September 8th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Holden’s big V8s are the ones that are likely suffering in the current economic climate, but Holden New Zealand has decided that a deal on diesel is the way to go to boost sales.

The offer is similar to one that has recently launched in the Australian market where fuel is capped at AUD .99 cents for two years or 20,000 kilometres, whichever comes first. However, the New Zealand offer goes beyond a capped fuel price providing two years worth of diesel and Road User Charges without any investment in fuel required by customers, as long as you buy before 30 September.

In our opinion, diesel doesn’t really need any help selling itself, but the heavy-hitting petrol cars will. The Holden Diesel range includes the Captiva, Astra Hatch, Astra Wagon, Epica and Colorado ranges.

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