Holden’s Captiva shows her age, but still does the job at a reasonable price.

MY16 Captiva gaycarboys (2)

MY16 Captiva gaycarboys (4)MY16 Captiva gaycarboys (1)

MY16 Captiva gaycarboys (3)

It’s been a long time since I was last in a Captiva, and no a lot had changed. The top model is on sale for $37,990 which is a full $1,000 cheaper than the model under it. That makes the LTZ excellent value. Here are the current SALE prices:

Current Drive-away sale prices:- LS man $25,990 auto $28,990/LT auto $38,913/ LTZ auto $37,990. The LTZ current offer also includes free diesel should you want it.

The top Captiva gets the rather dull 190kw/288Nm 3.0 V6from the base Commodore. The engine is made in Port Melbourne but does compensate for the lackluster performance.

7 seats are provided for those moments when freeloaders want a lift between watering holes. The spacious cabin is fairly well equipped, and has heated seats and vanity mirrors with lights, but it is the driver aids and audio system that make Captiva feel a little more 21st century. The rear camera adds cross traffic alert. Picture this: you’re reversing out of a Coles carpark, and your distracted by your hunny complaining you’ve forgotten the dishwasher powder (talk about 1st world problems!). A loud beep sounds and visual warning flashes in large friendly red letters to tell you and a P plater is bearing down on you at warp 10. We have all been completely blind when backing out of a tight space, and cross traffic alert gives you the eyes in the back of your head that you’ve always wanted. I see this as a safety issue and should be on every car.

Also standard on the LTZ is Blind Spot Monitoring, annoying at first but quickly becomes a valued friend, and the new My-Link system which includes Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Your humble smart phone then functions through the infotainment centre and becomes the brains of your car. You’ll be able to send a text, navigate and play music all while keeping your hands on the wheel. These, and other functions, use SIRI to perform Apple and Android functions. Of course SIRI needs network connection to function so drives down the coast highway will have black spots in function. You must be connected via Bluetooth so while you’re driving you’ll also be getting a top-up charge.

The layout of the cabin remains as it has for many many years. Remember Captiva first appeared 10 years ago so is getting a bit long in the tooth. Holden’s Sean Poppitt says watch this space for replacements in 12 -24 months.Captiva is 10 years old, and I remember well the auto industry’s reaction to SAAB having a 12-year-old 9-3 in its portfolio, and it wasn’t pretty.

The Holden does nothing wrong and is excellent value, but it just isn’t inspiring. The 3.0L V6 feels under powered just as it does in the Commodore, and isn’t terribly economical. The claimed 10L/100k is very much shy of the 17L/100k we got. Our test was shorter than usual but it is still an indicator of how far out manufacturer claims can be. The ADR that governs economy testing is not terribly, real world and because all auto makers follows the same rules, all fuel usage claims err on the side of the manufacturer. There is currently a push by some to make there figures “real world”. This should give the buyers a better idea of the costs of ownership.

The 6 speed auto is beautifully smooth but occasionally gets stuck in the wrong gear. The aging engine might see better fuel consumption with a more flexible 8 speed unit.

The drive is a decent experience. The LTZ has AWD and most of the time the average drive is unaware of the cleverness taking place under the bonnet. The ground clearance of 200mm is reasonably generous but will rarely if ever be called into use. Most SUV owners only leave the tarmac for a gravel drive. Although the is descent control akin to serious off-roading aspirations, most AWD SUVs are not capable of tackling the same terrain that pucker 4WDs can. Take a soft roader further than the end of the lane and you’ll be all sorts of bother. Being knee deep in schmutz is not fun in a new pair of loafers.

If all you need is a cheap, roomy high-set vehicle, then this is the one for you. If you need a proper 4WD with high/low range and locking diffs, a Colorado might suit you better.

The problem is Holden’s fleet has very few SUVs in it. Like it or not, the world is moving to a time when normal passenger vehicles will be vastly outnumbered by SUVs (sports utility vehicle) like Captiva, and LCVs (light commercial vehicle) like Colorado. Over the next little while Holden will move to importing all vehicles.

Holden is the Australian arm of General Motors, and the General has plants all over the world. They’re moving to having the same vehicles available worldwide. There might well be a case supporting speculation the Camaro might find its way here in light of the runaway success of the Mustang, who knows.

Holden is in the throes of renewal after shaking off the shackles of the fund-stripping GFC. The auto industry is slow to move on new model development when money is scarce. Holden tells me there are a lot of new models coming. Insignia, Captiva, and Astra are due for replacement. Commodore is being axed, and Cruze will either be dropped or imported from Asia.

We live in interesting times.

Would I buy one? It is certainly a great price, but no, this is not the car for me.

Understated Insignia deserves to be seen and heard

Insignia VXR performance sedan GAYCARBOYS (3)

 

Insignia VXR performance sedan GAYCARBOYS (1)Insignia VXR performance sedan GAYCARBOYS (2)

Insignia VXR performance sedan GAYCARBOYS (4)Insignia VXR performance sedan GAYCARBOYS (5)

Insignia VXR performance sedan GAYCARBOYS (6)

 

Insignia, late of Opel fame, now a Holden

You may all remember the delectable Insignia from her brief 12-month stint as part of the ill-fated Opel nameplate. The classy Euro brand is GM’s continental presence, like Holden GM’s presence in Australia. Both Holden and Opel are GM owned companies. I stress this after reading some viewer comments on reviews over the years. Our commenters appear confused as to who makes what, and what that means to Australia, so let’s dispel a few loony ferfies. All 3 Australian car makers are foreign owned. Ford and Toyota always have been, and Holden was bought by General Motors in the 30’s so enough of this sentimental nonsense. It is incredibly sad that Australia will import all cars by the end of next year, but we have been importing all but a few models for decades. That’s not a reason not to buy. Most Australian manufacturing has been lost to countries where the minimum wage is cents in our dollar, or where robots do almost all of the work. But enough about that, let’s talk about Insignia.

Holden is currently in 4th place in the sales race with 29,229 units finding homes so far this year. This represents 7.8% of the market.

The Epsilon II platform is an extended version of the Epsilon which started life in 2002. Holden’s dreary Malibu is on the same platform as spirited Insignia, and sold a miserable 98 last month and only 377 this year. That sounds bad enough, but Insignia sold just 31 last month and 117 for the year so far. To put it in perspective, Toyota’s 4cyl Camry sold 1,511 and was 1st in that segment. I can only put this down to a lack of advertising support for Insignia, because a test drive would sell the VXR on looks alone. It is streets ahead of Camry in every way measureable.

The exterior is drop-dead gorgeous. It has the same edgy elegance as the last SAAB 9-5, which was also built on the Epsilon II platform.

Insignia was sold previously as an Opel Insignia from 2012, but in 2013 Opel withdrew from the market. After 2 years GM reintroduced Insignia under Australia’s Holden brand, something they should have done in the first instance.

This model is nearing the end of its life and us due for replacement any tick of the clock. On a recent trip to Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground, we were told that the good stuff had been hidden away. Perhaps the new Insignia was tucked snuggly inside a shed? The new Insignia is rumoured to be the replacement for the Commodore after local manufacturing shuts down next year. No one knows whether or not the Commodore name plate will continue, but it has been used for 40 years after replacing the much-loved Kingswood in the late 70’s. If all this is true, one wonders why Holden would bring in Insignia so close to being the new Commodore. The smaller sister, Astra, is also at the end of its model life so watch this space.

The interior is delicious despite its age. It feels crisp, yet modern and high-end. Only the sporty VXR model is sold here so there are a couple of sexy Recaro seats up front. The driver has 2 memory slots for the power adjustments as well as a manually extendable front bolster. This gives longer legged drivers additional support and makes all the difference to a longer trip. It feels rather like the seat in business class, so the only thing missing is a glass of champers.

You get Blind Spot Alert, Lane Departure Warning and a Following Distance Indicator with Autonomous Emergency Braking, as well as a fistful of other useful gizmos. The car looks along the road in front and warns the driver of obstacles like cars and trucks. If the driver does nothing, Insignia will through out on the anchors. It may not always avoid a crash, but it should make the incident a bit less lethal. The warning bings, bongs and flashing lights are a distraction at first, but after a week or two you find yourself depending on them. These, and other driver aids, are never meant to replace vigilance in the front seats.

The buttons on the dash feel a bit random in their layout. I personally loathe touch controls that aren’t on an LCD, so the temperature controls are frustrating beyond belief. There is no feedback and they aren’t as sensitive as they could be. Many functions are in the infotainment menu system, but despite the number of buttons still on the dash, there are no direct selects for the radio stations. You can access them via the steering wheel buttons but auxiliary controls are now so complex it is easier to use the original knobs and buttons.

One thing that defies explanation is the easy access driver’s seat. It slides back to let you get out of the car easily, great, it’s brilliant. However, the second you open the door to get in, it slides forward to the preprogrammed spot. Why couldn’t it wait a minute for you to get your bum between it and the steering wheel? That is what it’s for after all.

The drive is brilliant.

The AWD system, along with a bunch of electronics, pushes power from one end to the other, applies brakes, and tweaks engine power all to keep the occupants safe. This is Holden’s first AWD sedan, if you don’t count the 12-month stint as an Opel.

The ride is sensational considering the huge 20” wheels, but it tends to being a bit soft under heavy corning. There is an adjustable ride/steering/performance setting, but even under the VXR setting, it feels more sophisticated saloon than rampant race car. Despite a little body roll, the handling is agile and stays glued to the road.

The 2.8L turbo V6 petrol engine is built in Australia so one assumes we won’t have that after next year either. It puts out a decent 239kw/435Nm to the road through an excellent 6 speed auto via the intelligent AWD system with limited slip differential. There are and Brembo brakes, and the very strangely named HiPerStrut front end designed to give the driver increased control. Although this Insignia was released in 2008 overseas, it has been updated to keep it current.

When reversing, there is a camera to stop you from mowing down errant children, and cross traffic alert to warn you when a tradie’s ute is barreling down on you at warp 5 in the Bunnings carpark.

Sinking the boot in elicits a silky Michael Bublé tone overlaying the urgency of a rocket launch. It’s not neck snapping by any means, but it is definitely quick.

Conclusion:

I like Insignia very much. It has the look and feel of a quality European brand. It handles well and sounds divine. All the mod cons are present and accounted for. Even though a new model will be along any time, it represents good buying. Features like adaptive cruise control and automatic high beam would make road trips a worry-free experience. In traffic the Cruise control will bring the vehicle to a complete stop where others will cut out under 35kph.

It’s a shame the sales don’t reflect what an excellent vehicle this is.

Would I buy one? Yes, despite the steep drive-away price of $57,083

Price drive-away: $57.083

Engine: 2.8 turbo V6 petro, 6.3 0-100, 10.9L/100km

Insignia VXR’s impressive list of safety features includes:

 Auto headlamps

 Daytime running lamps (front and rear)

 Rear Cross Traffic, Side Blind Zone and Forward Collision Alert

 Lane departure warning

 Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

 Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

 Traction Control System (TCS)

 Hydraulic Brake Fade Assist

 Cornering Brake Control

 Hill start assist

 6 airbags (dual front, side and curtain)

 Break away brake pedal

 ISOFIX in three rear seating positions (max. two simultaneous)

 Front and rear parking sensors

 Tyre pressure monitoring system

 Driver set Speed Limiter

 Trailer Sway Control

INFOTAINMENT

Insignia VXR features Holden’s Next Generation MyLink Infotainment system as standard. Features include:

 8-inch colour touch screen

 AM/FM/DAB+ radio with RDS display

 Audio and phone streaming via Bluetooth (compatible devices)

 Voice recognition

 Phone integration

 Phone book support

 Bluetooth audio streaming, USB and auxiliary input jack

 Single CD player with MP3 capability

 Universal hands free with Bluetooth

Holden’s SV6 Commodore Wagon: an SUV alternative.

 

Commodore VF II gaycarboys (2)

Commodore VF II gaycarboys (3)Commodore VF II gaycarboys (1)

Since the government killed off local manufacturing, Holden and Ford have made their final local models sparkle.

Commodore comes loaded with techy gear even in the second bottom model. In wagon guise, the SV6 is handsome, spacious and a great drive.

The aging Australian-built 3.6 Alloytech 210kw V6 also powers other GM models such as Cadillac XTS, Chevy’s Colorado and Impala, and the GMC terrain, as well as a host of previous models. A turbo 2.8 version powers Holden’s Insignia VXR and the last and best SAAB 9-5 Aero. A new Insignia will probably be the new Commodore post 2017. A recent trip to Lang Lang, Holden’s super-dooper-secret-squirrel test facility proved the new models were under evaluation. They secreted all the good stuff and taped up our cameras and phones. They also even canned photos taken just outside the fence in a fit of paranoia. So make of that what you will.

The 6 speed auto feels a cog or two short of expectation and although very smooth, can feel a bit slushy around town. The V8 models have a newer 6 speed auto.

Fuel savings came from the Zeta platform being given a once over. The VF body shell and electrics were made lighter, so it meant such goodies as the auto parking and sensors could be added cheaply. The prices had a dramatic fall from the VE model too. The VFII had a few minor updates including Apple Carplay in the MyLink 2 entertainment system.

The SV6 gets: colour head-up display, auto parking, parking sensors, reversing camera with cross traffic alert, Satnav, blind spot alert, keyless entry/start, Siri Eyes-free and much more all for $38,990 (sedan) on the current special “End Of Financial Year Offer. That’s a stunning price for a full sized 5 seat V6 saloon with a 6 speed auto. Satnav alone was once a ludicrous $4,500 option on some brands. Even the gorgeously ball-rattling SSV-Redline with 302 kw is a mere $62,018 (sedan). There is little point in going into pricing too much because of the huge savings and special offers. The SV6 Wagon costs $45,413 which is quite a bit more than the sedan, so buy the sedan if you can’t find the extra bucks.

Cosmetic changes to the grille and a sexy LED makeover for the tail lights look even more scrumptious.

The sporty types, for whom only rear wheel drives will do, will want to place an order prior to next year. If the new Commodore is the Next Insignia, you’ll find only Front wheel drive on all models except for the VXR which is AWD.

Driving the wagon is an easy low-stress experience. The big lazy V6 just does its own thing while getting about 15/L100k in town. Don’t believe any of that tosh about 9.L/100k because if you only go to the shops and back, the 9L/100k is just a dream. The only drawback is that fact that your prized chariot sounds a little like a taxi.

This is probably the best Commodore range since the nameplate began in 1978. It is certainly the most technically advanced. The exterior is classy but very conservative. The interior is elegant with a top draw feel about it.

The wagon has a soft close tailgate. Just gently push it down and a little motor does the last few millimeters so you don’t need to slam it, ever.

The drive is as elegant as ever. You could comfortably do a road trip of several thousand k’s without batting an eyelid. While on the highway you’ll get about 7L/100k so your 71 litre tank should theoretically get you to Melbourne from Sydney on a single tank, but I’d be slightly skeptical.

The cargo hold is spacious with 895L seats up, and a ball-room-like 2,000L with the rear seats down.

Somehow the humble “wagon” has fallen out of favour even though Holden glued the word “sports” to the front of it. Buyers have been courted by the lure SUVs who seem to be able to park and drive anywhere they like. Suddenly, 5’2” soccer-moms think that a car double their height is just the ticket and that wearing sunglass the size of dinner planes gives them unfettered permission to park over the lines in shopping centres, triple park on highways as long as it is in a school zone, and to use footpaths as another lane when traffic is bad. An SV6 wagon is much more attractive than most SUVs, and is cheaper to buy and cheaper to run.

Perhaps a decent diesel or torquey turbo 4 could have saved Commodore. Maybe an 8 speed auto would have made it seem more up to date, but either way this is the last update before the rear wheel drive bites the dust. No amount of review-reading replaces the feeling of a test drive. Tell the man at the car shop that you want a decent drive. Tell him you’re ready to buy but that you won’t spend 40 grand based on this 300 metres around the block nonsense. There may even be further savings to be had next month, who knows?

If I can leave you with one thought, it is this: Where else can you get a 4 – 5 seater with a powerful auto V6, that drives like a limo and has Euro-style tech? Where else can you get automated parking and keyless entry/start in a package with seats so comfy, you could drive the Pacific Coast just for the hell of it? I might sound misty, but Commodore has been an old mate for 38 years and saying goodbye is hard. Just as it comes of age, it’s gone, but not quite yet.

COUNTERFEIT PARTS ISSUE HITS HOME

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fordCounterfeithrholdenCounterfeithr

toyotaCounterfeithr

 

 

The boom in e-commerce and steady economic recovery following the Global Financial Crisis has re-energised the trade in fake car parts around the globe, with Australia squarely in the sights of the counterfeiters in a trade worth billions of dollars a year.
According to a new report by the OECD and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office*, imports of counterfeit and pirated goods make up around 2.5 per cent of global imports, with fake car parts from Asia a growing part of that trade.
Investigations over the past two years by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection have resulted in more than 6000 items being seized, with an estimated value in excess of $550,000. The seized items were branded Ford, Holden and Toyota, among many others.
Australia’s peak body representing car importers and distributors, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), is concerned by the escalation in shonky, non-genuine parts coming into the country and is reminding repairers, insurers and motorists to be vigilant.
FCAI chief executive officer Tony Weber said the biggest risk when fitting these parts is in compromising vehicle safety.
“The gamut of fakes includes everything from bogus wheels and body panels to safety-critical components like brake pads and airbags,” Mr Weber said.
“The only way to guarantee supply of genuine parts is by sourcing them through the vehicle maker’s authorised supply chain and to support those repairers who insist on using the genuine article.”
Locally, Ford has seized fake alloy rims to suit high-performance FPV (Ford Performance Vehicles) models, air intake snorkels and grilles for the Ranger light commercial, while Toyota seized numerous counterfeits, including water pumps, wheel bearings, brake pads and the spiral cable that controls multiple steering wheel functions, including airbag deployment. The fake Holden parts included body panels, alloy rims, grilles, taillights, radiators and various items of merchandise.
In late 2015 a testing program under the FCAI’s Genuine Is Best initiative saw a set of fake Mercedes-Benz wheels, on sale in Australia, dangerously disintegrate in a 50km/h pothole test, while the genuine wheels sustained no visible damage.
In the case of the fake Ford wheels, an inferior alloy made for a lighter wheel, but a much more poorly constructed one.
A spokesperson for Toyota Australia said the phoney brake pads and spiral cable were two of the most worrying recent discoveries.
“The fake brake pads were being marketed as genuine by a local third party retailer. When tested, they were found to contain asbestos,” he said.
“At first glance the cable looks genuine, but look closely and there are some frightening inadequacies like airbag circuit terminals that should be gold-plated for maximum durability and connectivity, but aren’t. This means there’s a high likelihood of insufficient conductivity to support airbag deployment in an accident.
“Most of the counterfeit parts we have identified were supplied in fake Toyota packaging, so consumers shouldn’t think that just because they see a Toyota box, bag or label that they’re buying a genuine part,” he added.
Multiple sets of fake alloy rims, bearing Holden’s ‘lion and stone’ logo, have been found to vary significantly from genuine items and are even sold in fake GM-branded bubble-wrap.
In a clear warning to Australian vehicle owners, Mr Weber says many consumers who are looking for a good deal can’t tell the difference between a genuine part and a counterfeit one.
“The major concern is safety, and using counterfeit parts, knowingly or otherwise, means you’re taking a huge risk,” he said.
“The way to avoid safety concerns posed by fake parts is to ensure you or your repairer sources genuine replacement parts from the vehicle maker’s authorised supply chain,” he said.
About Genuine Is Best
The FCAI’s Genuine Is Best initiative focuses on the safety, performance and durability benefits delivered by genuine replacement parts.
Genuine parts are made or selected by the vehicle’s maker and rigorously tested by that maker as an integral component of the vehicle to meet high quality, safety and performance standards.
This ensures a vehicle will drive, function and protect in the way it was intended.
If a vehicle needs replacement parts following a collision or during servicing and maintenance, it is essential that genuine parts are fitted.
Genuine parts are new and the only parts approved and warranted by the vehicle’s maker.
You can only guarantee supply of genuine parts by sourcing them through the vehicle maker’s authorised supply chain. Use anything else and you may be taking a risk.
Find out more at http://genuineisbest.com.au/.

Mike Simcoe: Now VIce President of GM Global Design. Australia leads in design again. Thanks Mike

Mike Simcoe

 

MICHAEL SIMCOE

BIOGRAPHY

On 7 April 2016 Michael Simcoe was named vice president, GM Global Design, effective 1 May 2016 replacing Ed Welburn who will retire as of 1 July 2016.

Simcoe was previously vice president, Design, for GM International (GMI), since 5 March 2014. His design leadership responsibilities included GM’s production and advanced studios in Korea, Australia and India. He was also Holden brand champion.

Simcoe began his career at GM Holden as a designer in 1983. He had subsequent appointments as a senior designer (1985) and chief designer (1987), becoming involved in every major vehicle design program that GM Holden had undertaken.

In 1995, Simcoe became director of Design for GM Asia Pacific and was responsible for the management of collaborative projects with GM alliance partners such as Daewoo, Suzuki, Fuji Heavy Industries and Isuzu. Following that, he was appointed director of Design at GM Holden in 2001 where he oversaw the genesis of the highly successful Holden VT Commodore and WH Statesman/Caprice model ranges, creating the “flexible architecture” concept that delivered nine variants and subsequently the VE Commodore.

He began to serve as GM’s executive director of Asia Pacific Design in 2003. Simcoe led the design strategy and oversaw day-to-day design operations in the region. He also set up the new GM Korea Design Operations.

The following year, he was appointed executive director of North American Exterior Design. Simcoe was named brand champion for Chevrolet in addition to his other responsibilities in 2009. Spearheading all exterior design in North America, he led the design development of a long list of GM products, including the GMC Terrain, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Camaro and Equinox, and Cadillac CTS sedan, wagon and coupe.

Prior to taking on his present post, Simcoe was executive director of GMI Design since 2011. He focused on further developing and growing GM Global Design operations in Korea and Australia.

Simcoe holds an Associate Diploma of Art Industrial Design from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

MICHAEL SIMCOE

TIMELINE & ACHIEVEMENTS

1983 Joined GM Holden Design

1985 Senior Designer, GM Holden

1987 Chief Designer, GM Holden

1990 Senior Designer, Advanced Production Studios, GMNA

1992 Chief Designer, GM Holden

1995 Director of Design, GM Asia Pacific

1998 Holden Commodore Coupe concept

2001 Holden Monaro

VT Commodore and WH Statesman / Caprice

2003 Executive Director Asia Pacific Design

Led the development of the new GM Korea Design Operations

2004 Executive Director of North America Exterior Design

2006 Holden VE Commodore / WM Caprice

2008 Cadillac CTS

2009 Chevrolet Brand Champion

2010 GMC Terrain

Buick LaCrosse

Chevrolet Camaro

Chevrolet Equinox

2011 Executive Director of GMI Design

2014 Vice President, GM International Design

Holden Brand Champion

2015 Chevrolet Bolt concept

Buick Avenir concept

Chevrolet Spark

2016 Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Beat Activ and Essentia

Chevrolet Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier

AUSTRALIAN BUILT SHOW VEHICLES HINT AT EXCITING NEW DIRECTION FOR TRUCK AND SUV MARKET

 

 

Chevrolet Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier_s

Colorado Xtreme and TrailBlazer Premier revealed in Bangkok

Vehicles designed and built at Holden’s GM Australia Design Centre in Port Melbourne

Today at the 37th Bangkok International Motor Show, Chevrolet Thailand has taken the covers off two exciting new, Australian designed and built show vehicles, Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier. The vehicles, which explore two very different directions for the popular truck and SUV, give customers a strong hint at Chevrolet and Holden’s future design direction.

Holden Chairman and Managing Director, Mark Bernhard said the show vehicles were an exciting exploration into the distinct character of each vehicle, created to gauge interest and receive invaluable Chevrolet Colorado Xtreme_sfeedback from customers.

“The Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier show vehicles were created with the intent of injecting excitement and passion into the critical light commercial and SUV segments, while reinforcing Holden and Chevrolet’s commitment to exciting design and listening to customer feedback,” said Mr. Bernhard.

“It’s especially exciting that our GM Australia design team were able to lead this project, working in collaboration with GM Brazil and GM Thailand.

“We have a world class design team based in Port Melbourne, who continually impress the world with stunning concepts such as the 2015 North American Concept Car of the Year, Buick Avenir, the recently revealed, Australian built, Opel GT and now the Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier show vehicles.”

Demonstrating the platform’s significant potential and versatility, the two multi-faceted vehicles showcase two very distinct personalities offering customers unlimited possibilities.

Speaking from the Bangkok International Motor Show, Vice President of GM International Sales, Marketing & Aftersales, Mike Devereux, said the show cars were proof that General Motors was constantly exploring how its brands respond to maturing markets.

“We want to continue to lead the charge in these segments in this region and we think these two vehicles are clear demonstrations of that,” Mr. Devereux said.

“The Colorado Xtreme is the ultimate tough American truck that Chevrolet is famous for all over the world. With an integrated accessory range ensuring our customers can customize their truck to the most challenging environment. It is an off-road vehicle that not only looks tough but can absolutely tackle any challenge thrown its way.

“And while the Trailblazer Premier remains just as capable for the adventurous family, it explores a different side of its persona. It responds directly to the growing desire for a more luxurious and sophisticated SUV, one that boasts premium appointments inside and out.”

In collaboration with GM Brazil and GM Thailand, Australian designers were able to leverage Chevrolet’s long history of designing tough, durable and serious off-road vehicles, which embody the best of American automobile ingenuity.

Vice President of GMI Design, Michael Simcoe, explained show cars were created for numerous reasons, some look years into the future, some are pure expressions of creativity and others, like these, push the boundaries within reality.

“We’re calling on Chevrolet’s rich history and know-how to demonstrate our leadership in these segments and announcing where we hope to take these exciting vehicles in the near future,” Mr. Simcoe said.

“Our focus here was about pushing these vehicles in two completely different directions, ensuring they are standalone vehicles in their own right.

“It is great to have the opportunity to showcase design possibilities today that could be developed and seen in the cars and trucks of tomorrow.”

COLORADO XTREME

Colorado Xtreme delivers on its promise to go anywhere and do anything via an integrated accessory range offering customers the perfect way to tailor their vehicles to meet specific needs.

Dramatic engine hood scoops, side plates on the sports bar as well as a Safari Bar dials up the truck’s capability while ensuring it looks purposeful, capable and tough.

“This truck is in direct response to consumer’s desire to personalize their vehicles,” Mr. Simcoe said.

“Not only does this integrated accessory range looks fantastic but our priority was to ensure they were, first and foremost, practical and useful additions that were perfect additions to the vehicle.

“Inspiration for the truck came from many sources, in particularly we looked at the US market where Chevrolet leads the way as far as truck design. By looking at the Xtreme it’s clear that the North American market influenced many of the styling cues. The end result is a serious pick up with no compromise.”

The Xtreme’s stunning matte orange hero color, “Furness”, gives the vehicle a unique and exciting persona, clearly differentiating it from its SUV sibling. The orange perfectly complementing the black, powered effect of the accents and accessories to give it an extreme graphic.

Xtreme’s ruggedness continues inside with new auxiliary gauges and accessories such as a passenger grab handle on the side of the instrument panel and the inclusion of an inclinometer. Coupled with an innovative use of color, materials and texture, passengers remain safe and comfortable on those serious off road adventures.

No detail has gone unnoticed with the Xtreme boasting 18 inch full mud terrain tires, as well as technology at your fingertips. An eight inch color touch screen and the latest MyLink system equipped with the latest Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto connectivity technology, are designed to support the customers’ active lifestyle.

Highlights include:

 Custom exterior paint – “Furnace”

 Front Safari Bar with integrated LED bar & winch

 Rear step with integrated corner step and tow bar

 Large fender flares to compliment off-road tire package

 18 inch all terrain tires with custom bead locks

 Integrated hood vent

 Unique designed snorkel

 Sports bar with styled in-fill panel

 Integrated spoiler, CHMSL and whip antenna

 Roof basket with integrated LED light bar

 Custom tub liner:

o Adjustable tie down tracks, extended to lift gate

o Integrated spare wheel mount and tool holders

o Custom spare wheel T-nut

 Integrated Newton cap

 New interior theme

 8 inch color touch screen equipped with the latest MyLink system

 Integrated instrument panel handle bar

 Integrated Pitch & Roll meter

 Premium leather / fabric seat

 Floor mat that compliment seat trim

 High lift suspension

 Roll Bar

 Graphics pack

 Emergency retrieval kit

TRAILBLAZER PREMIER

The Trailblazer Premier is an SUV designed for families who love to escape off the beaten track but in the comfort of luxurious sophistication. With premium appointments this SUV is just as comfortable doing the school pick-up as it is tackling harsh and rugged terrain.

“The brief was simple, we wanted to dial up the refinement to make sure the vehicle was as luxurious as it was capable,” Mr. Simcoe said “Like every Chevrolet, the vehicle has head-turning good looks with striking Chevy DNA and global appeal.

“This show car is a result of strong collaboration to ensure we understood the demands of each market. Our research tells us customers, particularly in the Thai market, appreciate luxury, upmarket finishes and sophisticated detail. So our focus has been on ensuring we enrich the driver and passenger experience.

“Unlike the Colorado Xtreme, which is loud and tough, the Trailblazer Premier is subtle and softer in terms of color and materials, emphasized with the use of bright chrome and premium materials such as Australian timber which was hand-picked and crafted.”

With driver and passenger comfort at the forefront, the interior of the Trailblazer Premier ensures the trim and execution was taken to the next level. The unique use of colors, textures and materials create a premium feel not usually found in the segment.

New trim techniques and processes such as the bespoke piping on the seat trims and the handmade netting on the back of the driver and front passenger seats all add to the tailored and premium feel of the vehicle.

The silvery blue exterior color, “Velocity”, features smoky oil blue undertones, finished with a high gloss clear coat to give it an ultra-sleek and rich finished, particularly when paired up against bright chrome exterior décor accents.

Technology and connectivity remains critical, with both vehicles boasting a contemporary infotainment panel which houses the latest MyLink technology. The latest infotainment system allows customers to remain fully connected with access to a world of applications with the touch of a button or voice command.

Highlights include:

 Custom exterior paint – “Velocity”

 22 inch wheel & tires

 Rear spoiler

 Rear fascia protector

 Integrated side step with bright chrome molding.

 New interior theme

 8 inch color touch screen equipped with the latest MyLink system

 Premium leather seat with handmade netting

 Wood door applique with steel inserts

 Two tone instrument panel inserts with detailed stitch

 Chrome details

 Matching floor mats that compliment seat & instrument panel insert detailed stitch

About GM Australia Design

GM Australia Design is one of the most advanced automotive studios in the world, the largest in Australia, and one of the two design studios in the GM world with the in-house capability to fabricate a fully functioning Concept Car.

The 140 person strong design team plays a vital role as a genuinely innovative and creative contributor to major General Motors vehicle design programs

New Micro Car is a Spark-le in Holden’s Eye

MY16 Spark_F3Q3_Static model

MY16 Spark_R3Q_DynamicSpark Lang Lang PG small (1)

MY16 Spark_Interior_angleMY16 Spark_Interior_model

MY16 Spark_Interior_straight

Spark Lang Lang PG large (2)Spark Lang Lang PG large (4)

Spark Lang Lang PG large (5)

 

 

Yes yes yes oh YES: handling, Apple Carplay, engaging drive

Oh dear me no: uninspiring exterior, lack of support for larger drivers, 5 speed not 6 speed manual

Exciting, clever, spacious and fast, are words never spoken about micro-cars. In fact, I’d go one further and say the outgoing Spark was appalling.

The first few years of its miserable existence were spent with a manual gearbox most of its target group didn’t know how to use. The interior was nasty with cheap poorly designed plakky parts. The performance could most kindly be described as meagre and the comfort was, well, absent. Similarly, the exterior styling was slab-like and dull with a faint hint of last century lingering about the build quality. The less said about it the better. The words “Out damn spot”, come to mind.

Europeans have known the advantages of small and micro cars for decades. The formula is simple: small exterior, small engine, small fuel bill and small purchase price, inexpensive, but not cheap. Australia just doesn’t get it.

Spark Lang Lang PG large (1)

So, to the new car:

The exterior isn’t as different from the old car as I would like, but then there isn’t much metal to work with. Chief designer, Mike Simcoe, described the character lines as providing shadows and points of interest. He also explained that designing a new headlight costs a million bucks, per headlight (“that’s expensive to replace”, I quipped). This explains why there isn’t a different face for each and every market, and the Spark has a similar feeling to the rest of the Holden range. The body coloured bar across the middle of the grille makes the lower section look a bit heavy, and the top section a trifle insignificant. Holden have made a decent fist of the headlights which have a sculptural hi-tech look. They have internal features which add interest even when not illuminated.

There are 2 models, LS and LT. The LS has either a 5 speed (yes 5 speed) manual or a CVT. The LT comes in CVT only, and scores a nice set of alloys. The standard steel wheels and hubcaps on the LS look a bit low-rent for my liking. Holden says the side profile has a hint of coupe with the rear doors having concealed door handles. 4 doors appeal to the “millennial” target market. Yes, I hadn’t heard the term millennial either. I’m told by Holden marketing that it is those born after Gen Y, and shortly before 2000. The age range tops out at around 26-ish. Holden says coupes, IE 3 door hatches, don’t sell well. I’m learning new things all the time it seems.

Inside:

Holden made much of their infotainment system which features Apple Car Play. You plug your Iphone into it and many of the features are mirrored on the screen including maps, music, messages etc. It will allow MY16 Spark_Apple Carplaysome 3rd party apps like Spotify to stream music through the internet. Carplay allows Siri to connect the driver to the car, and the car to the world. That’s an awful lot of connecting. For example, if you want the car to take you home, you press the voice button, and ask Siri. Siri will open “Maps” and bobs-your-uncle, the map pops up on the screen and the directions begin.

You swipe the screen like you do your phone, which allows you treat the car exactly like you treat your phone. There is no need to pair your phone as the system is wired only. Because you have to be physically plugged in, security isn’t a problem. Once plugged in, there is a little shelf under the console for your phone. They’ve thought of everything.

The one small fly in the ointment is Siri’s need to be connected to the network. No network, no Siri. That means no streaming music, no texts, no maps and no voice system. Other than that, it’s happy days. Oh, and it also works with other mobile OS systems.

The cabin is reasonable quality for an entry level car. It seats 4 in relative comfort, 5 if you’re all midgets. The small boot easily passes the “2 small bags“test”. Holden claims Spark will “reset the benchmark” Spark Lang Lang PG small (2)which seems a bit boasty-pants to me. It is good, sure, but the seats squabs are a bit small and don’t provide enough support for a taller occupant. Having said that, it is a city car and will be used for city travel. The execs said “we don’t want the car to be a reason you don’t do something” meaning apart from carrying something that won’t fit into it, you can do everything else.

The dash is neat and uses GM’s “double cockpit” design. There are two lines scooping in to the middle from each side of the car. The console centre stack has A/C controls, a vent, and some auxiliary buttons for the largest-in-class 7” LCD screen. There are 3 A/C knobs, and buttons for on/off, home, phone answer, and back and forward. That’s it, unless you want to count the hazard flashers. Both models get power windows and mirrors, and the LT adds reverse camera and rear parking assist, keyless smart start, and white interior highlights which may well get interchangeable panels later.

This brings us to the drive. I was excited, not because we were going to drive the Spark, but because we were going to drive the Spark at Lang Lang. Lang Lang is a speck of dust about an hour and a half south-east of Melbourne and is the site of Holden’s famous top-secret test facility. It is like Fight Club and you can’t talk about it. It is called The Proving Ground. Holden is so potty about secrecy, that our phones, cameras, and tablets had tape placed over the camera lenses. The Proving Ground, or PG for short, is where every Holden since Captain Cook has been developed and tested. There are a series of tracks, roads, obstacles, and terrains which simulate some of the worst terrain Australia can produce. It is so punishing, that some components are tested to destruction. Many of the tracks and roads have been used in Holden ads. A recent one had Commodores being filmed on the famous circular banked track.

The banked track is one of the few places in the country where you can start your car, put it in gear and glue your Manalo to the Axminster and leave it there until you run out of fuel. There are no corners, no bends, no straights, no traffic and no obstacles apart from the odd roo. Roos will play havoc with your paintwork so our minders did their best to keep the fauna out of harms way.

We didn’t get to use the banked track but we did get to use the skid pan, a gravel road, and a simulated country road. I want to go into this in some detail to show how brilliant the Spark really was. I told Holden’s Sean Poppitt that taking us to Lang Lang in Sparks was insane. “You’ll be right” he said. Those words were no comfort, none whatever.

Let me set the scene:

Melbourne is moody weather-wise, everyone knows that. Our drive day was positively uncooperative. Victoria sulked soporifically the whole day, making the roads treacherously moist.

Our first task was on the skid pan. We were to do a slalom, in reverse, with our mirrors taped over. After a few practice runs, we tackled a timed round. It was a doddle. I was surprised at how easy it was given I had never done it before.

Spark Lang Lang PG large (3)Next was the gravel road. This saw us tackle another slalom, a 180° handbrake turn, then the slalom back to where we started. Again, after only the briefest of briefings, we were like old-hands. Here we were, in a tiny city car, flinging it around a track like it was a toy. We had experts on board of course, but it was what we call in the industry, a hoot. No Sparks were harmed in the writing of this story.

Finally, a a circuit of hills, dips, corners, straights and a hairpin on the slipperiest tarmac I’ve ever encountered. Victoria hasn’t had a lot of rain and is horribly brown. This means the road hasn’t had a proper rinse to take away buildup. These conditions would rarely be met outside Lang Lang PG, but the Spark was an absolute champ. Despite a few tail waggles, there were no incidents.

The 90-minute road loop through Victorian countryside cemented my opinion of the new Spark. You expect me to say it was a dreary miserable box of mediocrity, but not a bit of it. The mini Holden performed flawlessly. Every claim made at the presentation the evening before turned out to be true. The nightmare of the old model faded to be filled with fun and enthusiasm. It was comfortable and quiet and handled my co-driver’s unbridled passion. He was quite a bit more eager than my good self, but even thehumble CVT did very well. The CVT is behaves like a normal CVT until high speed, hard acceleration, or sports performance is needed. It then adopts a “stepped” profile sounding more like a normal auto transmission.

But, it isn’t all good news. The manual is a 5 speed, a cog short of the industry standard of 6.

Then there is the price. The LS manual has an acceptable RRP of $13,990, but the CVT is $15,690. The CVT-only LT is a rather startling $18,990. You’ll need to add on roads which will make the top model around 20 grand drive away. For $20,000 you have options such as: Elantra SE auto, Lancer Sport CF auto, Fiat 500 Pop auto, Ford EcoSport Ambiente auto, and VW Polo Comfortline auto to name but a few (source: carsales.com.au new car search correct at the time of writing).

Spark Lang Lang PG large (6)

Conclusion:

I like Spark a lot. I like it as much as I loathed its predecessor. I liked the lively steering, sharp brakes and large-car ride which was smooth even in CVT form. It is small, so is easy to use in the city. The fuel figures of 5.2 manual, and 5.5 L/100k for the CVT is respectable. For some obscure reason the CVT has the same 73kw of the manual, but has at 128Nm vs 124Nm for the manual. We did ask why this was. The answer was to do with the way the transmissions handle torque etc. I was only 4Nm and sounded odd, but there it is.

It is a micro car best suited to smaller people for whom it would be a perfect fit.

Would I buy 1? Yes, but only after test driving other brands, keeping an eye on value for money.

price: $13,990 – $18,990

Engine: 4cyl  VVT, 1.4L, all aluminium,  73kw, 128Nm (cvt) or 124Nm (manual), Euro 6

weight: KGs: 969 LS manual, 990 LS CVT, 1004 LT CVT

Econ L/100k: 5.2 LS manual, 5.5 LS CVT, 5.5 LT CVT