by Brad Leach - 09/05/12
You have to commend Holden for the success of the Cruze. Our only local-built small car has been a hot-seller and is now joined by the stylish hatchback version.
And of course, the latest news is a wagon model will join the Cruze team shortly.
Designed in Melbourne, made in Adelaide and showcasing the global strength of General Motors, the Cruze is a world-standard small car which Holden has priced sharply for our ultra-competitive small car market segment.
The lineup for our month-long Holden Cruze hatchback test was: CD 1.4iTi turbo (six-speed manual) $22,490, SRi 1.4iTi turbo (six-speed auto) $26,990, CD 2.0 turbo-diesel (six-speed auto) $27,240 and CDX 1.8 (six-speed auto) $26,740.
CD is the entry-level model. CDX gains 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, some extra chrome, rear park assist and leather inside (heated fronts). SRi gets the sporty touches of a body kit, five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels and sports front seats.
Our CD and SRi model Holden Cruze hatchbacks were fitted with Holden’s competent 1.4-litre iTi four-cylinder (‘iTi’ stands for Intelligent Turbo Induction) with 103kW of power and peak torque of 200Nm. Fuel consumption is as low as 6.4l/100kms (better than the 1.8-litre petrol despite the 1.4 iTi’s extra torque).
We tested two CDX models – one fitted with the naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre four-cylinder and the other with Holden’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel.
The diesel is a beauty with 120kW of power and 360Nm of torque – that’s 20Nm up Ford’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel Focus. Fuel consumption as low as 5.6l/100kms makes the diesel Cruze Australia’s most fuel-efficient locally-made car.
Holden Cruze 1.8 delivers 104kW of power and 176Nm of torque and fuel consumption is rated at 7.0l/100kms.
It’s a Holden so when you climb inside the Cruze hatchback you should not be surprised by the more spacious feel you enjoy when compared to others in this segment. And equally there is a ‘Commodore-like’ feel for the driving position thanks to multiple adjustments for the seat and steering wheel and given a sporty feel in the SRi with ‘Sportec’ bolstered front seats.
As usual with Holden Cruze, we liked the layout and simplicity of the instruments with clear graphics and modern style. Same for the centre console with easy-to-use controls for the air-conditioning and CD/USB/iPod audio system and voice-recognition Bluetooth.
The rear doors open wide and the back-seat space rivals the best in this league.
Holden Cruze hatchback delivers a handy 413-litre luggage capacity (325-litres with a full-size spare wheel) and 1254-litres with the 60/40 split rear seat folded.
We’ve always liked the look of the Holden Cruze sedan and the challenge for the Port Melbourne styling team was to craft a hatchback version. History shows it’s easy to upset the applecart deploying a later five-door version but thanks to slick work from the local team that isn’t the case with the Holden Cruze.
In fact it’s the opposite – the Holden Cruze hatchback is a standout looker with its nicely sculptured rear hatch blending with the low roof and high waistline to deliver a contemporary, stylish and – dare we say – Euro-style appearance. We like the curves around the rear three-quarters and the rear fascia does give the Cruze a substantial look which stands-out against some ‘lightweight’ rivals.
CD models run 16-inch steel wheels, CDX gets 17-inch alloys and some extra chrome, while the sporty SRi gains five-spoke 17-inch alloys, front fog lights, unique front and rear fascias, side skirts and a rear lip spoiler.
Our compliments to Holden’s PR department in supplying our four Holden Cruze models back-to-back so we could make instantaneous comparisons. The bottom line is the Cruze is a world-standard drive showing obvious benefits from local suspension and drivetrain tuning.
Because Aussie conditions and our variable roads are unique, no doubt about it.
Over our high-speed mountain roads loop, the two 1.4iTi-powered Holden Cruze hatchbacks (CDi and SRi) were sports stars with their Watts Link rear ends proving agile and refined and the electric power steering providing good feedback. The two CDX models (1.8-litre petrol and 2.0-litre turbo-diesel) were both safe and predictable, just not as progressive at the limit.
Of course in the twisty climbs and descents the CD with its made-in-Austria six-speed manual transmission and turbo 1.4-litre was the star from the sporty driving dynamics point of view. But we need to commend Holden for the Korean-sourced six-speed automatic – the auto Cruze was one of the best self-shifting small cars we have driven.
And that was especially the case back in the city where the Holden Cruze delivered nice response for freeway merging with only the naturally aspirated 1.8-litre CDX a little behind the others for that instantaneous acceleration you need to keep up with the peak hour maneuvers.
In the city, despite the thick-ish C-pillars, Holden Cruze provided good all-round visibility and was easy to park (all but the CD model come standard with ‘Park Assist’).
For us, all Cruze models should employ the Watts Link rear suspension and electric power steering of the 1.4-litre models – the extra precision and refinement is noticeable over the 1.8-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel variants.
And – especially compared to rivals like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf – the interior plastic trim of the Cruze is at odds with the stylish exterior.
Focus is a creation of Ford Germany and rivals the Golf for the best ride and handling in this segment and we prefer the Focus’ stylish interior over the Cruze. However entry-level Ford Focus Ambiente’s 92kW/159Nm 1.6-litre engine is out-muscled by the 1.4-litre (103kW/200Nm) and 1.8-litre (104kW/176Nm) in Holden Cruze. Starting price for Ford’s 125kW/202Nm 2.0-litre is $24,490 (Trend grade hatchback).
Mazda3 isn’t Australia’s best-selling car for no reason – it’s good, very good and sharply priced. 3 packs a punch with its 108kW/182Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine and the 110kW/360Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel.
Volkswagen Golf is a global superstar and comes with an armada of engine choices in petrol and diesel. Beautifully styled and superbly made, the Golf starts from just $22,990 but to rival Holden Cruze SRi spec you’re looking at the Golf in Comfortline grade which starts at $29,490.
A month in four Holden Cruze models proved the locally-built hatchback meets most imported rivals head-on. For sure the extra urge from the 1.4-litre iTi engine makes it the pick of the two petrol powerplants and the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is a smooth, powerful operator.
We actually liked the diesel engine the best, but against that we preferred the ride/handling of the 1.4-litre-powered CD and SRi models with their Watts Link rear suspension and electric power steering. If you have the choice you need to test-drive a few models to get a feel for things.
But regardless of the Holden Cruze hatchback model, there’s no denying a sense of patriotism in the excellent styling job done by Holden’s Port Melbourne team and the obvious manufacturing quality coming from the Elizabeth, South Australia assembly line.
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