The Australian hot-hatch market is about to get a rev-up with the arrival of the Opel Astra OPC.
Europe's hottest four-cylinder front-wheel-drive hatchback will have its Australian debut in Sydney this week.
The car on which it is based, the Astra GTC, was launched in Australia - along with some of the Opel line-up - last month.
The Astra OPC will be pitted against the likes of the next- generation Volkswagen Golf GTI, the recently upgraded Renault Megane RS265 and the Ford Focus ST that was launched here last week.
But with its 206kW/400Nm turbocharged direct-injection 2.0-litre engine, the Astra eclipses all of its front-wheel-drive rivals - in raw power, at least.
Opel Australia is yet to reveal pricing for the OPC but it will sit above the current GTC performance leader, which comes in at $34,990.
While the 132kW/230Nm 1.6-litre GTC gets from 0-100km/h in 8.3sec., the OPC cuts that to 6.0sec. flat, making it faster than the seventh-generation Golf GTI (6.6sec.) but the same as the Renault Megane RS265.
Opel Australia managing director Bill Mott said this country had a long history of, and passion for, performance vehicles.
"Since launch we've continually been asked if and when the OPC is coming and we are very excited to confirm that it will be available in our showrooms next year," he said.
"From early 2013 Australians will be able to experience what we think is the ultimate driver's car.
"It is a car that driving enthusiasts can comfortably commute in during the week and on weekends enjoy on the track."
PRODUCTION A POSSIBILITY
Kia has ensured it will gain plenty of attention at this year's show by securing the funky Track'ster concept to make its Australian debut.
The sporty three-door hatch was first shown at Chicago earlier this year and again in Geneva in March, and it sparked plenty of interest at both venues.
While the Track'ster has not been confirmed for production, the fact it is being shown at a third big motor show this year is an indication the Korean car maker is thinking seriously about making it a reality.
It would certainly be the top model for a car company that has aspirations of becoming known for developing and building cars with a sporty emphasis.
The Track'ster concept is based on the distinctive five-door Soul, but it has a wider track, bulging guards and a lower ride height designed to improve handling and give it a menacing attitude.
The show car is fitted with a 158kW 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that would make it one of the hottest little hatches on the Australian market.
But in reality it is more likely to get the same 1.6-litre turbo motor already used in the Kia Rio three-door and Hyundai Veloster turbo, which will still ensure it has plenty of zing.
At the recent launch of the next-generation Sorrento SUV, Kia's national public relations manager, Kevin Hepworth, admitted the car was on the "wish list" for Australia.The presence of the Track'ster follows hot on the heals of speculation that Kia Australia is keen to also get the hot-hatch version of the Cee'd to our shores along with the more practical Cee'd Sportwagon.