Oldsmobile Division hopes to regain some its lost market penetration with its new Achieva.

The 1992 Achieva, which is the entry-level Olds that replaces the Calais, is designed to attract younger customers. Olds recently has seen its sales nationally slide a bit, and this model is aimed at giving the General Motors Corp. division momentum.

In the planning stages, Olds asked hundreds of compact-car owners what they wanted in an automobile. The answers were what everyone wants: styling, performance, ride, handling, fuel economy, value and function.

The '92 Achieva did a pretty good job of balancing all those desires.

"The car had been through three changes before they finally got what they wanted," said Joe Myers, president of Collins Oldsmobile. "They made the changes to get to where they really felt they had what were the buyer's likes."

The styling is state of the art with aerodynamic lines resulting in a pleasing appearance. And a lot of effort has gone into creating the interior.

There's more room for front- and rear-seat occupants. The car's overall length of 187.9 inches is 8.6 inches longer than the Calais. The wheelbase, 103.4 inches, is unchanged.

"They've changed the interior," said Dave Watts, general sales manager for Dellen Oldsmobile. "I haven't been with Oldsmobile that long, but the people who have are talking about the positive changes that have been made. They're going to appeal to the younger buyer."

Controls for the new car are ergonomically placed in a sporty wraparound cockpit. The instrumentation includes an 8,000-rpm tachometer plus a standard oil-level sensor that alerts the driver if oil falls below the recommended level.

It is in the power plant, especially in the Sport Coupe version, that the Achieva gets interesting. Standard is Olds' 2.3-liter dual-cam, 16-valve Quad 4 H.O. (high-output) engine that puts out 180 horsepower, a quite respectable number of horses when they are pulling along just 2,690 pounds. The standard gearbox is a manual five-speed, with the engine/transmission package a type that appeals to the sports-car crowd.

Olds will introduce a special-performance version of the Achieva during the 1992 model year. The Achieva SCX will have a specific W41 190-horsepower version of the Quad 4 H.O. engine coupled to a five-speed heavy-duty manual gearbox that has special gear ratios.

The Sport Coupe is not where Olds' mass market lies. That will be with the two-door and four-door models equipped with the division's new single-overhead-cam Quad OHC, its 160-horsepower 16-valve Quad 4, or a 160-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6. Three-speed automatics are available with these engines, and give the Achieva a young-family-car orientation.

Engine choices among buyers are expected to be split. Watts said they are beginning to sell more V-6s than four-cylinders.

"We've got some very loyal Quad 4 owners. But pre-eminent today, especially with gasoline prices what they are, is the V-6," Myers said.

The new single-cam Quad OHC is the Achieva's base power plant. The engine is a spinoff from the Quad 4, and shares many components of the double-overhead-cam engine. With eight valves instead of the Quad 4's 16, power is less, but still a respectable 120 horsepower.

Olds' game plan with its new car is to offer a variety of American-built automobiles to compete against the imports in the compact segment of the market. On line will be two body styles, three trim levels and four different engines.

The Achieva is expected to appear in the Indianapolis market in mid- to late December. Its pricing structure will be comparable to that of the Calais.

"It's (the price) a big secret," Watts said. "I would speculate that a base model with a manual transmission and no air will come in at up to an $11,000 window sticker, whereas right now with the Calais we're at ten seven ($10,700).

"If you get up to their top-of-the-line series, it's probably going run in the 17s ($17,000) to 18s ($18,000)."

The Calais has accounted for a good chunk of Oldsmobile dealers' sales both locally and nationally, and Myers says he expects the Achieva to do everything that the Calais does, and be more competitive in that marketing area.

"As far as I'm concerned," he said, "it's going to be 15 to 20 percent of our sales. And we think it's going to give Oldsmobile something that will turn a few heads."