2012 HOLDEN CRUZE REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $24,490 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.9 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 7.4 l/100km
Holden’s Cruze finished 2011 as the third most popular small car in Australia, and for good reason.
Inoffensive lines, sharp pricing and good interior space, combined with a selection of powertrain options, give the Cruze showroom appeal for both fleet and private buyers.
In base-grade CD hatchback form it can seem a bit bare-bones, however that’s compensated for by a perky turbocharged powertrain and well-tuned chassis.
Quality: Plastics are hard and feel below-par for quality. The layout however puts all controls within easy reach of the driver and the build is generally solid.
The seats are upholstered in black cloth on the entry-grade Cruze CD. It feels durable and is actually preferable to the slippery ‘pleather’ in higher-grade models.
Comfort: Headroom and legroom aren’t a problem for front seat occupants, and the manually-adjusted seats are supportive and comfortable.
Back seat headroom is good and there’s a roomy bench that’s wide enough for two adults (or three kids), however legroom isn’t quite as generous as some other cars in this segment.
Equipment: Standard features on the Cruze CD include cruise control, trip-computer, auto-on headlamps, Bluetooth phone integration, USB input for the single-CD audio system, air-conditioning, power windows and 16-inch steel wheels.
Storage: The Cruze hatch offers a more practical (yet slightly smaller) load space than the sedan, with a boot that measures 413 litres with the rear seats up.
The large rear hatch opening makes it easy to load luggage into the back of the Cruze, and folding the 60/40 split second row opens the cargo area up to 1254 litres.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The standard engine for the Cruze CD is a 1.8 litre naturally-aspirated petrol inline four, but it’s comprehensively outclassed by the optional 1.4 litre iTi turbo four - which commands a modest $1250 premium.
Opt for the 1.4 turbo and you’ll be rewarded with a flexible powerband that puts plenty of torque down low, and a useful amount of power up high.
Its 103kW power rating may be 1kW less than the atmo 1.8, but peak power arrives 1300rpm sooner and the 1.4’s peak torque figure - 200Nm - is 24Nm more than the 1.8 and available from as low as 1850rpm.
The optional six-speed automatic is a smooth unit, although it saps some of the fun out of that perky 1.4 turbo engine.
It’s perfect for around-town and highway motoring though, and a manual shift mode is available should you ever need it.
Refinement: The turbo engine is quieter than its naturally-aspirated alternative, and road noise is adequately suppressed by the 16-inch tyres.
The cheap-ish feel to the Cruze’s cabin materials might lead you to think otherwise, but overall refinement is actually quite decent.
Suspension: All Cruzes are equipped with a simple torsion beam rear axle and MacPherson strut front suspension.
However, models equipped with the turbo petrol engine benefit from an additional rear Watts linkage which helps locate the beam axle during cornering to improve stability and grip.
It translates into solid, confidence-inspiring handling; the turbocharged Cruze corners pretty well for a non-performance hatchback.
It transitions into understeer smoothly if overstepping the limits, but all things considered the Cruze handles quite well.
It also rides well. Ride comfort around town is great, with choppy roads easily soaked up by the suspension.
Braking: We’ve got no complaints about the Cruze’s all-disc braking system; pedal feel is good with the right weighting and braking response.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Front, side and curtain airbags,front active headrests, brake assist, EBD, traction control, stability control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three year/100,000km with roadside assist.
Service costs: Service costs vary, check with your Holden dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Focus Trend hatch automatic ($26,790) - Ford’s impressive Focus is well-built and boasts a finely finished interior that eclipses the Cruze’s for quality.
It drives extraordinarily well thanks to its multi-link rear suspension and there’s good power from its 125kW/202Nm 2.0 litre petrol four, however the trade-off is a list price over $2k higher than the Cruze. (see Focus reviews)
Mazda3 Neo hatch automatic ($22,330) - The Cruze might be the third highest-selling small car right now, but the Mazda3 is the most popular small car.
It’s not hard to see why. Great build quality, excellent handling, good engines and an eye-catching design give it loads of appeal, and its retail price undercuts the Holden by more than $2k.(see Mazda3 reviews)
Hyundai i30 2.0 automatic ($24,090) - The i30 proved a real success story for Hyundai in Australia, and despite its age the i30 is still well within the top five highest-selling small cars.
The i30 is well built and a good drive, but its interior is starting to date and its engine is slightly less torquey than the Cruze’s 1.4. Its four-speed automatic is also old-tech compared to the Holden’s six-speed. (see i30 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Cruze CD 1.4 iTi Hatchback has a lot going for it, not least its sticker price and zesty free-spinning turbo engine.
However, despite its price advantage, with competitors like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, the quality and trim of the Cruze CD’s interior needs to come in for some attention from Holden.
That 1.4 litre turbo engine, however, is brilliant. It’s fun to drive, reasonably fuel-efficient and well worth the extra outlay. If we were buying a Cruze, it’s definitely the powertrain we’d opt for.