$19,490 – $31,790
Good: Modern exterior and classy interior design; Lots of storage compartments; Good value for money; Our pick is between the 1.4-litre turbo petrol and the 2.0-litre turbo diesel.
Not so Good: We strongly recommend the 1.4-litre turbo over the aging 1.8-litre petrol.
Design and Engineering
Good : The Cruze arrived Down Under in June 2009 and received a facelift in March 2011, sooner than expected because of a shift in production from South Korea to Australia.
Holden have taken a quantum leap forward since their previous Asian-sourced, small family car, the unloved Viva. The Cruze sedan looks quite modern, even classy, and the build quality appears top notch with improved handling due in part to the longer wheelbase and wider track.
The facelift brings along a new styled front end, and new sound deadening material has been fitted inside, making the Cruze a quiet car to travel in.
Not so good : We think the styling is bland, especially at the rear-end.
Interior and Styling
Good : The Cruze features a well designed centre console with an instrument cluster that is easy to decipher with only a quick glance, and plenty of nice-to-feel plastics have been used instead of the usual hard stuff. The fabric on the dash is an especially neat touch.
The driving position is fantastic with firm, supportive front seats which are heated, with double-stitched leather pews on the CDX and SRi grades. Both tilt and reach steering controls make it easy to find your comfort, and there are lots of useful storage compartments around the cabin. Decent room is provided for front and rear passengers and road noise is quite well suppressed.
Not so good : Rear seats could offer more under-thigh support for adult passengers, and though the front seats are sporty, they’re also and tight, and could be a tad uncomfortable for bigger drivers. Noticeably, there is no driver’s footrest.
Good : Three four cylinder engines are on offer. The entry level petrol is a naturally aspirated 1.8L with 104kW of horsepower and 176Nm of torque. The sporty 1.4-litre turbo petrol offers 103kW and 200Nm, and the 2.0-litre turbo diesel now produces 120kW and 360Nm.
The 1.4-litre Turbo petrol accelerates smoothly and more briskly than the larger, but naturally aspirated 1.8-litre petrol. The six speed automatic gearbox offers smooth shifts, and the facelifted Cruze feels even more refined than before.
The 2.0L turbo diesel offers lots of useable torque, handling urban traffic and highways with ease. There is a slight turbo lag but it’s not uncomfortable. The turbo diesel engine doesn’t allow too much engine noise into the cabin, winning the fuel economy fight at the same time with an impressively low combined consumption figure of 5.6L per 100kms with a six speed manual.
Not so good : 1.8-litre petrol is by no means quick and doesn’t sound sporty. It is the Cruze’s weakest link. The 1.4-litre turbo petrol sounds a little coarse as the revs rise and its real world fuel economy is thirstier than it should be.
Ride and Handling
Good : The Cruze’s suspension has been specifically calibrated for Australian roads, providing a smooth, uninterrupted ride. It is perfect for daily driving, equally in traffic or on the open road.
All grades fitted with the 1.4-litre Turbo gain electric power assisted steering and a Watts link (read fancier) rear suspension setup. This steering is smooth and direct, the ride is comfortable and the handling better than the entry level grades. It won’t out-handle a Volkswagen Golf GTI, but it isn’t positioned in the same price bracket anyway.
Not so good : The Cruze’s chassis and suspension feel like they’re tuned more for comfortable cruising than carving up a mountain side, but with the engines that are available that is not such a disadvantage. It’s a notch behind the best Small class “drivers” cars.
Non 1.4-litre Turbo grades feature more basic steering, which is slightly soft with limited feedback and great for parking and low-speed maneuvers but not that helpful on fast, twisty roads. Likewise the entry level grades’ suspension is good, but not great.
Buying and Owning
Good : All grades score a five-star ANCAP safety rating for including six airbags, electronic stability control (ESC) with traction control, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and collapsible pedals.
High levels of equipment come standard, and the SRi V Series grade features remote keyless entry and start, satellite-navigation, a 10GB hard drive, CD/MP3 storage capability, DVD player and live-radio pause functionality.
Holden claims that current owners are extremely satisfied with the Cruze and we have no reason to disagree.
Not so good : The 1.8-litre Petrol engine is not outstandingly economical even with its 6 speed automatic transmission.