You’ll definitely spot the facelifted Holden Cruze coming. But are the changes for this Australian-built small car more than skin-deep?
Base price: $39,990.
Powertrain and performance: 1.6-litre petrol four, 132kW/230Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 7.9 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 9.5 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4542mm long, 1477mm high, luggage capacity 413-1254 litres, 18-inch wheels on 235/45 tyres.
We like: Feels sprightly, good handling and ride, MyLink system.
We don’t like: Clunky gearbox at urban speed, low-rent cabin finish.
How it rates: 7/10.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? A lot of people are lamenting the demise of the Commodore, as Holden heads towards a complete shutdown of its Australian manufacturing operations in 2017.
But the hero status of Commodore has somewhat overshadowed the fact that there’s another Australian-built Holden facing extinction: the Cruze small-car, which has been made Down Under since 2011.
True, it’s not quite an all-Aussie icon. It was initially sourced from Korea, but Holden played a big role in the design of the hatchback model and in fact created its own hybrid version of Cruze for the Australasian market. Not hybrid as in petrol-electric, but hybrid as in using bits from different General Motors models to enhance the basic car.
The top-line SRi and SRi-V models build on the basic Cruze but add a direct-injection turbo-petrol engine and more sophisticated rear suspension from the European Astra (which is also heading our way this year, but that’s another story).
We know the ultimate fate of the Cruze, but even its medium-term future is in doubt: it’s now eight years old and some Australian media have speculated that it won’t even last until 2017 in local assembly. There’s an all-new model due globally this year, but of course it make no sense for Australia to tool up for that when the factory doors will close in two years. The continued viability of this current model will no doubt depend on sales volume, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Consider this is a last hurrah for Cruze, albeit one of indeterminate length. The facelift model has gained a weird new double-grille nose and daytime running lights, while the flagship SRi-V tested here also gets new wheels, suede seat inserts, automatic wipers and remote starting technology from the Commodore.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The turbo engine and sharper chassis certainly give the Cruze a lift in dynamic terms. The powerplant has verve, even if it sounds a little coarse under load. The claimed 0-100km/h figure of 9.5 seconds is brisk rather than beltingly fast, but it actually feels more dramatic than that: the engine is torquey and it’s not hard to generate tyre-chirping wheelspin under hard acceleration.
The sprightly feel is partly due to the calibration of the six-speed automatic gearbox, which can be quite aggressive – presumably in the pursuit of a sporty feel. It succeeds in that when you’re pressing on, but the downside is that is can it feel a bit clunky at more sensible speeds. It thumped from second-to-third quite abruptly in urban driving on a couple of occasions during our test, necessitating a careful approach to the throttle.
But the Cruze SRi-V is accomplished on the road nonetheless, as you’d expect: the Australian redesign that produced this model allowed Holden to finesse the chassis of this little hatchback quite a lot.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The Cruze betrays its age most of all in the interior, which works well enough but suffers from dowdy design and a severe lack of tactile pleasure.
The SRi-V is well-equipped, though – as it probably should be for a $40k sticker price. The leather seats have gained suede centre inserts in this facelift model, which add to both comfort and appearance. Holden has rectified the omission of automatic wipers in this car (the auto lights continue) and it has a fully featured version of the MyLink touch-screen information and entertainment system, including satellite navigation.
The cluster of pushbuttons to operate MyLink is a bit confusing at first, but you can ignore those and simply use the touch facility – which is very responsive, although the screen is too far away to reach without leaning forwards. It’s clear that the Cruze cabin was not originally designed with this technology in mind.
You might have seen a new television advertisement for Cruze that makes much of the voice control for MyLink. In my experience it worked acceptably well for telephone and even music selection, but was dire for navigation and didn’t seem to understand a single thing I said. Perhaps I should have tried speaking in an abusive Australian accent.
The other novel addition to this car is remote start. From outside the vehicle, you can press a button on the keyfob and the engine will fire up. The car remains locked of course and can’t be driven away until you enter the vehicle with the key and press the start button again.
This is a relatively new thing for New Zealand but very common in markets where you get extremes of temperature: it’s handy to be able to heat/defrost or cool the car before you actually get in and drive away. Use it, you’ll like it.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? Tricky one this, when the small-car market is overloaded with talent. The Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf are both cutting-edge models that make the Cruze SRi-V feel well past its use-by date.
There’s also a bit of an identity crisis going on with this car. Is it supposed to be semi-luxury or pseudo-sporty? It’s not refined enough be the former, but the powertrain and chassis do ensure some proper driver appeal for the SRi-V. It’s still quite likeable and enjoyable, even in its twilight years.
- Air conditioning: Climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible, MyLink control for Pandora and Stitcher
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/Yes
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes, three-level/No
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/No
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: No
- Trip computer: Yes
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