Of all the various segments in New Zealand's new vehicle market, in terms of sales volume, by far the most important is the small-car segment.
That's where the massively popular Toyota Corolla lives, battling away to achieve continued dominance over lots of other very good product including the Hyundai i30, Ford Focus, and Holden Cruze.
As a result, something just short of a quarter of all new vehicles sold in New Zealand are small cars.
Here's another interesting statistic - the segment is dominated by the hatchback. In fact, better than 72 per cent of all small-car sales are hatches, with sedans accounting for another 20 per cent of the sales.
Obviously then, wagons don't account for much - just 8 per cent, in fact. While sales statistics to the end of October showed that more than 12,000 vehicles had been sold, only 1418 wagons had rolled out of showroom floors.
And although there are quite a number of wagons competing in the small segment, it is currently massively dominated by just two models - the Corolla and the i30, which between them account for 72 per cent of wagon sales.
So with that as background, it's hard to say if any new player in the small wagon segment represents a threat to Corolla/i30, or if there's an opportunity to pinch sales off hatches and sedans.
Holden New Zealand reckons it's an opportunity. That explains why the company says it is excited about the launch of a Cruze Sportwagon, which will go on sale early next year alongside the Cruze sedan and hatch.
At a media function in Melbourne last week, Holden NZ's general manager of marketing Marnie Samphier said Sportwagon will offer a great opportunity to reach new customers.
"Moving into the small-wagon segment is fairly new for Holden, but this car has already been well tested so I'm very excited - it will attract not only existing customers, but new customers to the range.
"The Cruze Sportwagon has sold in excess of one and a half million vehicles globally since it was launched in 2009."
As a person who has enjoyed the look of the Cruze sedan, but been not so enamoured by the hatch, I've got to say I was really impressed with the look of the Sportwagon when I laid my eyes on it at a media function in Australia last week.
The rear design is very attractive, and as far as I'm concerned, the vehicle will immediately instal itself as one of the nicest-looking wagons on the market. It's useful too. While no firm figures were available last week, I'm told rear cargo space is just 19 litres short of that on offer aboard the larger Mazda6 wagon.
Three versions of the Cruze Sportwagon will be available here, all of them with six-speed automatic transmissions. At CD specification, there will be a 1.8-litre petrol model for $33,400 and a 2.0-litre turbo diesel for $38,400. There will be a premium CDX 1.8 petrol model for $36,000.
This Cruze CD has 16-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, six-speaker stereo, air conditioning, Bluetooth with voice recognition, rear park assist, automatic headlights, and silver roof rails. In addition, the CDX gets leather trim, heated front seats, climate control aircon with automatic defrost, 17-inch alloys, and front foglamps.
Only the 1.8-litre petrol version was available to drive at last week's media function, which was a little unfortunate because that engine doesn't offer particularly sparkling performance - with the sedan and hatch models it has been the diesel and the smaller 1.4-litre turbo petrol engines that have been most impressive.
But no matter. The big news about launch of this Cruze Sportwagon is that it is a wagon - and a pretty one at that.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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