With design language filtering from the Opel Monza concept we saw at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, this Autocar sketch of the future Vauxhall Astra twists our heads around from the boring Vauxhall/GM we are used to thinking of.
In the oligopolistic market that is the automotive industry, manufacturers can only survive by stealing away consumers from other brands. In the hatchback market space in particular, consumers already know they want a hatchback; the only main differentiating factors are (1) horsepower, (2) fuel efficiency, (3) electronic capability (iPod connectivity, bluetooth, etc), and (4) styling (not necessarily in that order).
1, 2. Horsepower & Fuel Efficiency
Autocar seem to think that GM have managed to stay atop their competition with their new set of engines, ranging from the recent fad of 1.0 Liter 3-cylinder engines, yet still retaining a 2.0 Liter option for the potential performance variant.
One of the most interesting options for the Astra will be a new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo petrol engine. Good for 114bhp and 124lb ft of torque from well below 2000rpm, the engine will arrive first in the Adam and new Corsa this year.
The biggest mainstream engine is likely to be a 1.6, although the range-topping VXR coupé might get a powerful 2.0-litre unit.
I predict that fuel efficiency will begin to drop as a key factor for consumers, especially with CAFE standards being as rigorous as they are (54.5 mpg by 2025) and all manufacturers being forced to comply.
3. Electronic Capability
Electronic capability is a relatively recent requirement that automakers are scrambling to fill, some better than others. Vauxhall can tick the Steve Jobs box with Apple's CarPlay, as GM are one of the first to apply it. The Ford Focus, on the other hand, is stuck with an unfathomable Microsoft system that (a) looks terrible, (b) is near impossible to use, and (c) doesn't work half the time.
The last box for Vauxhall/GM to tick would be styling. The new Vauxhall Astra Extreme marks a shift for the European GM arm, from producing boring commuting vehicles to realizing that perhaps creating some excitement for a base vehicle might draw some consumers.
This Astra sketch looks more like a shooting brake than a traditional hatchback, and because of this I am inclined to somewhat reject the hatchback bubble model. If the the next Vauxhall Astra looks anything like these sketches, it could steal market share, not just from other hatchback models, but even from other segments; this was never something I saw the Ford Focus doing, and that should scare the blue oval.
[Images and quotes from Autocar]