Holden Cruze

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The new Aussie-built Holden Cruze has been transformed...

Stone the crows Else, Holden’s commitment to smaller, fuel efficient cars hasn’t just been lip service. They are now assembling the Holden Cruze in house, and at the same production facility the cornerstone Commodore product is built. 

That’s great news. Across the ditch there has been a little unfair criticism about the level of actual locally-sourced parts (the main body panels are stamped in Australia and then mated to the largely imported selection of parts). That has to be expected really, but the fact is the Adelaide plant is now running at near capacity; that – and healthy sales – is the name of the game. As important as it is, even the revolution in Holden’s assembly strategy isn’t the big deal for me. I see the big story being the car itself.

I suspect a lot of media will glaze over the level of improvement evident in this Aussie-built Cruze, particularly those who raved about the previous Korean-sourced version. That’s the problem of being an industry kiss-arse: use up all the superlatives on something that doesn’t deserve it and it waters down any praise for future improvements. Fortunately, I don’t have that problem. I hated the outgoing model.

While cool to look at, the 2009 Cruze remained one of the least exciting drives of that year for me – which is exactly what I reported at the time.

Holden engineers also saw significant room for improvement and went about finessing the suspension and engine offerings to suit. The result has genuinely transformed the car in most models, and rather than tolerate the stereotypical Korean influences, you can truly revel in what feels more like a well-sorted European.

This is most applicable in the 1.4-litre intelligent turbo induction (iTi) variations, available pleasingly at both the affordable and higher spec ends of the range.

There’s a good amount of interior space and comfort in the Cruze, which impresses at the $29,000 entry point (1.4 iTi starts at $31,000) with six airbags, 5-star crash safety and stability control, steering-wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, MP3 compatible audio with usb port and a multi info display. There’s plenty of plastic on display, but you can live with it at this money.

Stepping up through the range you pick up some big ticket items, from leather, heated seats and parking assistance (CDX), to an excellent satellite navigation and 7” inch screen, keyless start and premium audio that stores 10gb of music on an integrated hard drive (SRI-V), and get this: the top end audio package also allows you to record 30 minutes of radio, so you can leave the morning show when you reach work and pick it up again on the way home.

The 1.8-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel remain but with much improved output and response, but the pick of the bunch is easily the 1.4 turbo. Sourced from Austria, the 1.4-litre follows similar trends out of Europe for high output, small capacity turbo engines. Volkswagen’s potent TFSI receives all the accolades, but the General Motors unit is considerably smoother at idle and low rpm, which is pretty important for the urban run, which the car handles well.

The miniscule turbo mill develops 103kW of power, and the 200Nm of torque delivers a rewarding surge with a stab of the go pedal. I reckon its best mated to the relaxed throw, well-ratio’d six-speed manual, I usually do, but the general consensus won’t be short-shifted with the six-speed auto which is destined to be a volume seller. Holden Australia has calibrated the drivetrain well for antipodean conditions, and the auto returns a strong performance and economy option.

The 1.4 engine and the new Watts link rear end have been pilfered from the latest Astra out of Europe. The Astra may yet return as a premium product under GM’s ‘premium brand’s’ umbrella, but it’ll be a hard sell given the Cruze’s new-found road manners. The ride is sympathetic, yet the turn in is sharper and grip levels mid corner are among the best in the class.

So, an Aussie-built small car that – with a real character injection – is finally pretty spectacular. I might be the only one to think it, but this represents a real turn around.

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  • JamesM says
    The technology in these new models never fails to impress me. They really are starting to get great integrated solutions for navigation, media and climate control.
  • Stephan says
    Well the evidence is clear - HOLDEN models work better on the lands they were rooted, not under Korean influence. ...As much as I dislike saying this; Well done Aussies.
  • This is my dream car if i won a million Bucks on Lotto id go buy one straight away love the look of man its killa! plus all the features i heard it looks like a spaceship inside with all da lights
    • JasonMantis says
      Blimy Saba, I think it's time you bought an edition of Top Gear.
    • Dansta says
      Sounds better than the old one. I test drove a 2005 model a few months ago and completely hated it.
    • Patrick says
      The Cruze reminds me of a less bulky and blingy Cadillac CTS, i quess it's the poor mans version. We have a couple of Deisel Cruzes as company cars at work, and the deisel engines really do have a bit of get up and go (not that i ever floor it in the company car), definitley sound like they are much improved. Will have to nag the boss about updateing.
    • Boks says
      Holden have designed a beautiful new cruze with incredible features that will appeal to the most fussy drivers out there,Awesome car would love to purchase one sooooon !!!!
    • Steff S says
      Is the Holden Cruze better than the Tom Cruze? i'm looking for value for money people...
    • T says
      Looks flash yet it sounds quite practical and functional! I would add one to my wishlist for next Christmas...!
    • Doiis says
      In 20 years I wonder if this style of interior (namely the dashboard) will retain their sleek elegant look and become "classic" or whether it will look tacky.
    • I'd take a 2004 Audi A6 4.2 v8 any day of the week. I'd put the money I saved into gas for a couple of years, then I'd sell it for about the same as the Holden was worth. No contest.

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