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Bouncing baby Barina: Holden's baby has chunky new lines and bold styling graphics.

Opel in Germany wheels out a sneak preview of the next Barina, a new generation hatch due next year

6 Apr 2000

OPEL in Germany has taken the covers off the latest Corsa, which will come to Australia as the next generation Barina next year.

But if the German version is anything to go by, the new car will be almost impossible to sell at the $13,990 bargain basement price for which the light car market in Australia is famous.

Opel has not only made this third generation Corsa bigger, but built it to the sort of safety and quality standards that inevitably increases production costs.

Opel chairman Robert Hendry said it was a determined strategy to take the Corsa upmarket.

"The new Corsa is a prime example of our strategy of making high technology available in smaller cars, too, and thus accessible to a wide variety of customers," he said.

The fully galvanised body - guaranteed against rust for 12 years - sits on a wide track chassis (1429mm at the front and 1420mm at the rear) which has the longest wheelbase in its class at 2491mm.

The extra size provides 80mm more shoulder room and additional rear seat legroom.

A separate front subframe which carries the engine, transmission and suspension has been adopted to isolate noise and bumps from the cabin.

Safety was a major factor in the design of the Corsa as the engineers sought to score the highest rating currently possible in the Euro-NCAP crash test.

Consequently, the comprehensive safety equipment list includes 'intelligent' front and side airbags for both driver and front seat passenger, three-point harnesses for all five occupants, belt pre-tensioners, force limiters and active head restraints at the front and a new pedal release system.

The low-drag body was designed to look like a logical progression of the current model, with the three and five-door hatchbacks now having the same rear ends with high-mounted tail lights.

Opel offers six engine options, including a pair of direct-injection turbo diesels, but Australia is likely to continue with the largely unchanged 1.4-litre petrol engine only.

Opel boasts that all four petrol engines - 1.0, 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8-litre - already comply with the 2005 European emissions standard.

The 92kW 1.8-litre engine is fitted to the top of the line GSi model, which has a top speed of more than 200km/h.

As well as conventional five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions, Opel is offering for the first time a semi-automatic tiptronic five-speed.

Another feature being offered is an advanced 'infotainment' centre which combines an integrated four-disc CD player, radio, telephone and navigation system.

Holden has been selling the Barina since 1985, but it has only been Opel-based since 1994. Prior to that, the Barina was a rebadged Suzuki Swift.

Apart from Australia, the Corsa is sold in about 80 countries and is built in 11 plants on five continents.

It has been the top-selling light car in Germany, Britain, Portugal and the Netherlands, helping it to sales of more than nine million units - two-thirds of which have come since the introduction of the current model in 1994.

Platform sharing promise The fourth generation Corsa - said to be coming as soon as 2005 - is expected to share its platform with the next Fiat Punto under an alliance between GM and Fiat announced three weeks ago.

The platform sharing will also extend to GM's next Astra, Vectra and Omega, which will have the same underpinnings as the next Fiat Bravo and Alfa Romeo 156.

Importantly, the new platforms will be spaceframes to allow the flexibility of different wheelbases, enabling GM to build the small Astra and large Omega on the same platform.

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