New premium city car to rival Fiat 500 and Mini spied during early testing

Here are new spy pics of Vauxhall’s first foray into the premium small car market, the Vauxhall Junior. It's a city car designed to compete directly with the Mini and Fiat 500.

The car, which is already in its final development phase and will go on sale in early 2013, was spied during further testing this week.

At just 3.7 metres long — the same as the Mini — the Vauxhall Junior will be made only as a three-door hatchback, as shown in the exclusive artist's rendering in the gallery.

See new spy pictures of the Vauxhall Junior as well as our rendering

The car has been in GM Europe’s cycle plan for years. It was almost killed off two years ago by GM’s then world chief Ed Whitacre, who believed at the time that global programmes should get priority. However, following extraordinary transatlantic representations earlier this year by European CEO Nick Reilly, who strongly emphasised the success of, and durable demand for, cars like the Mini and Fiat 500, the management changed its mind.  

With the Mini and Fiat 500 as inspiration, the Junior’s styling is cute and appealing. It features comparatively narrow pillars, a low beltline and large, rounded headlights.

It looks less obviously like a Vauxhall/Opel family member than some current models, with its short wheelbase and unusually wide tracks giving it a squat, sporty look. It also features a convex rear window reminiscent of the original Ford Ka’s, and an arched roofline like that of an Audi A1.

The design is the work of the Vauxhall/Opel studio in Russelsheim. Although it is focused on European motorists, GM marketing chiefs believe the city hatch could sell well in Asia and Latin America.

Despite the three-door body, the Junior has practical four-person accommodation and is bigger inside than a Fiat 500. 

The interior theme is stylish but flexible simplicity with an emphasis on a choice of options, colours and finishes; GM bosses have seen how well such things work for Mini and the Fiat 500.

The Junior will be offered with a range of economy-focused three-cylinder engines in both petrol and diesel forms, but sportier engines may also be in prospect; insiders say the engine bay can be made in two different sizes to accommodate bulkier powertrains. A battery-powered version is also understood to be under development and is due in 2015.

The Junior will be the premium-priced model in a three-strong GM small-car range alongside the Corsa and Agila, all of which use iterations of the firm’s latest small-car platform designed in Korea.

However, in production the car will not be called Junior, a tag coined for a 1983 GM concept. GM bosses say the real name has already been chosen, and may decide to reveal it at the Frankfurt motor show next month to begin the build-up to the car’s launch.

Mark Tisshaw

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