Holden has had a tough end to 2014, experiencing some marked sales drops among its ageing core products (Commodore excluded) compared with those same months the year before.
But the company is undergoing a substantial change in 2015, as it begins to increase its intake in European-sourced cars above and beyond the levels it did in years past.
Eventually, as we know, about one-third of its entire range will consist of European-sourced cars. In 2015 the rollout begins with a trio of performance-focused cars sourced from General Motors’ European arm Opel, which itself sold cars here for a brief period before leaving.
But before that, a local hero gets a subtle rework.
Holden Cruze — February
Holden’s locally made Cruze sedan and hatch gets a mild update at the start of the year. It’s a minor refresh, potentially bringing some more equipment and maybe some mild cosmetic tweaks.
Full details are being kept under wraps, but you won’t have to wait long. No doubt a big part of the launch will be Holden promoting the car in a big way, given sales dropped 26 per cent over the first 11 months of the year and fell behind the cumulative total of the Volkswagen Golf.
Holden Astra GTC and VXR — April
A very well-known badge returns — again — for now in performance guises only. That said, expect the regular versions of the next-generation car to launch here inside a few years.
The Astra GTC three-door model will offer buyers a warm-hatch experience with a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing an expected 125kW of power and 280Nm of torque. It’s essentially the same model that was sold here in Opel badges in 2013.
The Astra VXR is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with 206kW of power and 400Nm of torque, which sends its power to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. It’s getting on in years, but remains one of the market’s more potent hot-hatches.
Holden Insignia VXR — May
The Insignia was sold here in numerous form with Opel badges, but only the 239kW/435Nm turbocharged 2.8-litre V6-powered all-wheel-drive Insignia VXR will return.
Expect it to cost less than the $60K Opel charged for it. Once again it will be pitched as an upmarket Euro-flavoured mid-sizer with some serious punch. See our review of the Opel version here.
Holden Cascada — May
The final member of this Euro-flavoured Holden trio — for the short-term — is the Cascada soft-top convertible, powered by a 1.6 turbo-petrol engine via the front wheels.
With Insignia insides mixed with Astra styling, the Opel measures the same width the Audi A5, but is slightly longer at almost 4.7 metres. That makes it larger than its price-point rivals in Europe at least, including the BMW 1 Series Convertible, the VW Golf Cabriolet and A3 Cabriolet.
Check out our European review of the Opel/Vauxhall here.
Holden Zafira — Q3/Q4 (unconfirmed for Australia at this stage)
Holden is understood to have its eye on a fourth Opel vehicle in 2015, and we suspect it could be the Zafira people-mover.
This small seven-seat MPV was slated to go on sale as an Opel for $36,990, but never quite made it here before Opel Australia shut its doors. It would fill a niche for the brand and Holden has sold a previous-generation version of the car before.
Note: In 2016, expect more Opel vehicles such as the all-new Astra, and possibly the Corsa (sold here in past decades as the Barina before that car’s sourcing switched to Chevrolet South Korea) and perhaps even the Viva.