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GM's UK-bound Suzuki gets a Holden makeover

GM has begun evaluating a Suzuki-built mini-SUV for possible sale in the UK and Europe. The car, which is sold in Japan, south-east Asia and Australia as the Cruze – with Chevrolet and Holden badges – is based on the Suzuki Ignis, but features revised suspension, larger diameter wheels and a four-wheel drive powertrain.

The centre body of the Cruze is similar to that of the little-known Ignis. But the front architecture, rear bumper and tail lights are unique. The design work was done by a team at GM's Holden subsidiary in Melbourne, Australia. The team, headed by Mike Simcoe, originally developed the Cruze's styling themes for a Suzuki concept car, the YGM-1, shown at the 1999 Tokyo Show. The idea was put into production by GM in order to offer a competitive vehicle to mini-SUVs such as the Daihatsu Terios in the Asian and Australian markets.

The Cruze is available with either a 1.5 or 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine, depending on market. A five- speed manual transmission is standard, with a four- speed automatic available as an option. Wheels are 15-inch diameter, and the ground clearance is 180mm. The four-wheel drive system comprises a viscous coupling which distributes torque to the rear wheels only when there is a loss of traction at the front. The system, which does not include a low range transfer case, is similar to that used by Honda's highly successful CR-V, and is really only suitable for low traction conditions rather than serious off-roading.

The Cruze is 3625mm long, 1640mm wide and 1605mm tall. The wheelbase is 2360mm and all-up weight is less than 1000kg. If European sales are given the green light, it would be sold as both an Opel and a Vauxhall.

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