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First look: GM joins steel roof brigade

Drop-top gorgeous: This new baby soft-top is being developed by GM's European division Opel.

Meet the General's baby convertible that could be on sale here in 2005

15 Nov 2002

HOLDEN could join the steel-roofed convertible craze if this little cutey gets the thumbs up for local sale.

Believed to be based on the Corsa mini car (Barina here), the as yet un-named two-seater has been developed in Europe by Opel and will be introduced there in 2004.

While official information is scant, the European press are describing the car as a new-generation Tigra, a reference to a small coupe launched in 1994 which never made it to Australia.

There has also been media speculation that this car previews the next-generation Astra's front-end looks. That car is also due in 2004.

The convertible will feature an electro-hydraulically operated, retractable steel roof and will be built by the French coachbuilder, Groupe Henri Heuliez.

Peugeot currently leads the charge on affordable steel-roofed convertibles with the 206CC on sale in Australia and the 307CC set to be launched internationally in 2003.

Others getting into the act include Citroen with the C3 Pluriel, Renault with the forthcoming Megane convertible and Nissan, which showed a concept version of the Micra called the C+C at the Paris show in September that is said to be due for production in 2004.

"This car is another milestone on our way to having attractive niche-models account for around 20 percent of our product range," explained Carl-Peter Forster, Chairman and Managing Director of the Adam Opel AG.

Holden small and medium car marketing manager Andrew Rau was not aware of the existence of the vehicle until we spoke to him, but was nevertheless enthusiastic.

"To me it's an exciting looking product and with all Opel product we examine the business case and I would presume that is underway at the present point in time," Mr Rau explained.

If it got the thumbs up for Australia don't expect it before 2005.

This car will add yet another drop-top to the GM Europe family, which already boasts the Astra Coupe and Lotus-built VX220 speedster.

Opel has already previewed a small convertible concept at the Frankfurt motor show in 2001.

Called the Frogster, it was designed to showcase new technologies and appeal to younger buyers.

The design was 3.7m long and had four individually removable seats. They could be set up to make the car a two-seat roadster, a three or four-seat cabriolet or even a small pick-up.

But the car revealed this week is not expected to have that level of versatility.

* Meanwhile GM's British affiliate Vauxhall unveiled a new Astra range-topper at the British international motor show in Birmingham last month.

The three-door Astra GSi is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo producing a hefty 150kW which equates to on the road performance of 0-100km/h in around seven seconds.

A car very similar to this one should be the hot Astra that goes on sale here early next year. A turbo Astra convertible and high-sped CDX Astra are also due early in 2003.

The Astra GSi has a modified chassis which includes lowering it at the front, stiffer springs all round and fatter tyres There's also the obligatory bodykit and alloy wheels to ram home the performance message.

The GSi - or whatever it might be called in Australia - would slot in above the local market's SRi Astra, which is powered by a 2.2-litre normally-aspirated 2.2-litre four-cylinder.

The SRi Barina also got the once-over at Brum, the latest version getting lowered suspension and red brake callipers.

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