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by Tim Beissmann

Opel – General Motors’ premium European brand – will enter the Australian market as a stand-alone brand in 2012.

Following years of speculation, Opel CEO Nick Reilly and Holden Chairman and Managing Director Mike Devereux, made the announcement at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit today.

Mr Devereux said Opel represents a new opportunity for General Motors in Australia, a market that he said has a growing demand for German design and technology at an affordable price.

“Australian drivers have a strong affinity with Opel vehicles like Astra which were previously sold under the Holden brand,” Mr Devereux said.

“We look forward to supporting our sister brand establish itself as a strong competitor in the growing premium European segment.”

The Australian line-up will include the mid/large-sized Insignia, the familiar Astra small hatch and the light Corsa (the previous generation was sold as the Barina in Australia).

The complete vehicle range and dealer network will be announced closer to next year’s launch.

Of considerable interest in the Australian market is the Opel Insignia. Although generally referred to as a medium car, is comparable in size to the Commodore, and sold as a four-door sedan, five-door hatch and five-door wagon. The Insignia sedan/hatch are 4.83m long (Commodore 4.89m), while the wagon is 4.91m in length (Commodore Sportwagon 4.90m).

The Australian range is likely to start with a 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, which has combined cycle fuel consumption between 8.2 and 9.3 litres/100km.

Also expected is a Commodore-rivaling 2.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which produces 191kW of power and 350Nm of torque, although its combined cycle fuel consumption of 11.0 litres/100km may put off some buyers looking to save fuel. A manual version of the 2.8 is also available, although with a mightier 239kW and 435Nm and similar economy.

The smaller offerings are likely to be the serious volume sellers for Opel in Australia, however.

The Corsa is available overseas as both a three- and five-door hatch. In the UK, it is offered with five different engine options, ranging from 1.0- to 1.7-litres, including two diesels and three petrol units. Power ranges from 48kW to 96kW, while the 1.7-litre diesel produces 300Nm of torque. Combined cycle fuel consumption of the 1.3 CDTi ecoFLEX is just 3.6 litres/100km.

Likely options for Australia include the 63kW/115Nm 1.2-litre and/or the 74kW/130Nm 1.4-litre petrol engines and the 75kW/190Nm 1.3-litre diesel.

The five-door Astra is available with seven different engines in the UK – three diesels, four petrols – ranging between 1.4- to 2.0-litres.

Good matches for the Australian market would appear to be the 85kW/155Nm 1.6-litre petrol (fuel consumption 6.3-7.1 litres/100km) and the 118kW/350Nm 2.0-litre diesel (fuel consumption 4.9-5.8 litres/100km).

Hot hatch fans will also be licking their lips at the prospect of the turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol, which puts out a more powerful 132kW and 230Nm of torque.

Another potential (yet so far unconfirmed) vehicle from the Opel range is the Zafira people mover, which was previously sold as a Holden in Australia.

Holden spokeswoman Emma Watts said the premium brand would definitely launch in Australia in 2012, but said specific timing was still to be determined.




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