by Brad Leach - 11/12/09
After a week behind the wheel of a Cruze CDX, Car Showroom reckons the fanfare that surrounded the launch of Holden’s small car is well deserved – it’s a newcomer with impressive credentials.
Great to look at, spacious inside and – especially with the CDX’s leather – nicely appointed, the Cruze answered questions about required extra volume for the long-term future of Holden’s production facilities.
For now, the Cruze is being sourced from General Motors’ (GM’s) plant in Bupyeong, South Korea and in the car we tested, the production quality was excellent.
While slated for production in Australia, the Cruze is a true global car for GM. With a homeroom in Germany, global design and engineering teams based in South Korea and prototype testing in the UK, USA, Canada, Sweden, China, Korea and Australia the term ‘World Car’ certainly applies to this new small car.
We tested the $23,990 CDX manual, but entry to the Cruze family starts at $20,990 for the CD. That’s competitive when shopped against direct rivals - sedan versions of the Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, Mitsubishi Lancer and Nissan Tiida – especially when you toss-in the amount of kit included in the two Cruze variants.
GM has done a great job with the styling – both exterior and interior are first-rate – and the Cruze feels spacious in both front and rear seats.
Safety gets a big tick too with six airbags, stability and traction control standard across the range. Cruze scored the maximum five-star rating from ANCAP.
Power comes from either a 1.8-litre petrol engine or a 2.0-litre common rail turbo diesel. Drive is to the front wheels via a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
We tested the range-topping CDX in manual form – it is only available with the 1.8-litre petrol. Good for 104kW/176Nm, it falls a bit short of the 2.0-litre powerplants found in the Focus and Lancer but eclipses the Tiida and Corolla 1.8-litre offerings.
One of Holden’s latest ECOTEC engines, the 1.8-litre features two continuously adjustable camshafts to optimize the charge cycle for high output with low emissions and fuel consumption. It complies with Euro IV emissions standards with the version we tested emitting 166g/km.
Combined cycle fuel economy for the Cruze 1.8-litre petrol manual is 7.0l/100kms – better than its direct rivals.
Without a doubt, the Cruze scores big-time for its interior design. Again it’s a global GM collaboration and Rebecca Christianson, Holden’s Lead Designer for Colour and Trim, logged plenty of Frequent Flyer miles between Australia and Korea during the development phase.
Those trips paid-off with the Cruze CDX we tested boasting superb leather seats with contrasting finishes between the insert and bolster. These are finished with French seam stitching and combine with the rest of the trim finishes to provide a real up-market feel.
Front seats are adjustable six ways and CDX also gains a heating function with a quick warm-up mode for those chilly mornings. We liked the leather-wrapped steering wheel with adjustment for rake and reach.
Rear seat passengers will enjoy nice sculpturing and a surprising 917mm of legroom.
The sound system is a six-speaker arrangement with four internal amplifiers, an in-dash CD that is MP3 compatible. We liked the six ‘favourites’ pages displayed on the console’s center stack screen - these store your personal AM and FM stations on one page which eliminates the need to switch bands.
Vital information is presented in a simple, easy-to-read three-dial cluster.
Boot capacity is a handy 400 litres.
Critics have unanimously installed the Cruze on the top shelf for small car designs. Even though design input came from GM subsidiaries throughout the world – Cruze is the first use of the company’s all-new global small car architecture – the final result is cohesive, sophisticated and contemporary without being edgy.
From the side, Cruze presents a slightly sloping downward shoulder line which combines with its relatively long 2685mm wheelbase and creased front fenders and doors to create a purposeful stance.
The prominent chrome grille with its large Holden logo plus the wraparound headlights are all very contemporary and stylish.
At the rear, the look is uncluttered and the large translucent taillights have modern twin circular lighting elements.
On CDX models like our test car, the 17-inch alloy wheels contribute to a more upmarket look.
Typically Holden sharp, the Cruze CDX made mincemeat of our mountain test route with its nicely-balanced chassis and precise steering.
On the move, the five-speed manual was smooth which was fortunate as we worked it hard to keep the Cruze…well NOT cruising actually, we were pushing hard through the twists and curves and enjoying the good feedback provided at both front and rear ends.
Refinement levels were generally high although there was just a bit of suspension clattering over Melbourne’s notorious train and tram track crossings.
Loaded with kit, the Cruze CDX tips the scales at 1380kgs which is noticeably more than its major rivals and almost in the same league as the Volkswagen Jetta. Combine that with its excellent chassis dynamics and we reckon GM could slot-in a more potent powerplant under the bonnet (say a 2.0-litre) and the result could be sensational.
Good as the interior is, we would like to see some more lumbar support in the front seats and a left footrest for the driver.
When you combine the standard equipment, safety features, build quality and styling – well the conclusion is inescapable that the Cruze CDX is an outstanding addition to the Holden team. The worry for the opposition is that this is Holden/GM’s first crack at a truly global small car…given its renewed focus on ‘green’ technology, by the time the company gets to the second or third generation Cruze, things could get really interesting.
Australia’s toughest market segment assembles a ‘Who’s Who’ of well-credentialed small sedans ready to eat the Cruze’s lunch.
Focus, Lancer, Corolla, Tiida are the obvious rivals but even the lower end of Honda’s Civic range (for example) goes head-to-head with Cruze.
Sensational styling; roomy interior; strong safety; value
Engine performance; some suspension noise
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