2013 HOLDEN CRUZE REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five-door small car
Price: $25,690 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 120kW/360Nm 4cyl turbo-diesel | 6spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.7 l/100km | tested: 10.5 l/100km
Just about every small car has a diesel in the range. It makes plenty of sense: loads of torque, relaxed driving manners and good fuel economy.
Holden’s foray into small diesels is the built-right-here Cruze and, using a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four, it has a full 360Nm to get it up and going.
Sound okay? Well, that part does, but does the Cruze diesel have what it takes to really compete in this already-full segment? We spent a week behind the wheel to find out.
Quality: While the outside panels have been assembled very well, the interior is a bit hit-and-miss.
The dashboard is fashioned from extremely hard plastic, though it is nicely grained and well coloured, but the lidded cubby-hole in the centre doesn’t locate properly and is made from an obviously different plastic.
The sides of the centre console have several panels and not all of them meet evenly, while the glovebox doesn’t line up with the dash sides.
The textured panelling for the fascia looks quite good in the black and grey pattern (certainly more appealing than the brightly-coloured SRI-V variants) and it flows nicely onto the door trims. But the door trims are hollow and the armrests feel cheap to the touch.
Comfort: The front seats are very hard, though they’re fine on long journeys, however rear passengers may not fare as well. The bench is extremely firm and trounced by most competitors for comfort.
That said, there’s good legroom there and despite the sloping roof-line of the hatch, there’s headroom to spare for even tall passengers.
Equipment: As standard, the Cruze Equipe comes with 17-inch alloys, cruise control, rear parking sensors, height and reach adjust steering, automatic headlight mode, Bluetooth for phone and music, as well as the oft-opined-on MyLink.
MyLink gives you six-speakers, USB/iPod connectivity, voice control, Siri Eyes Free control, text-to-speech functionality and apps like Pandora and Stitcher radio. We’re also hoping that more apps get added soon.
Storage: With a boot-size of 413 litres, the Cruze hatch has adequate room for packing in the shopping. The door pockets are spacious enough to hold bric-a-brac and there are four cupholders in total (two up front and two in the rear).
A small coin tray sits forward of the gear shift, while the glovebox is of average size.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: While the Cruze’s diesel isn’t the most refined oiler we’ve come across (more on that later), its figures aren’t too shabby at all. With power at 120kW and 360Nm of torque, there’s plenty of poke on offer.
There’s some turbo lag though, which, when coupled with the auto’s tendency to resist downshifts on light throttle prods, can make for some slow progress accelerating out of a corner.
But once on the move it's much more lively with peak torque available from 2000rpm.
The auto, while smooth-shifting, occasionally shows some glitches, such as when rolling down a slight incline.
It couldn’t decide whether to downshift or hang onto the same gear and would jerk as it jumped from one ratio to the other and back again. Manual control can be taken, but it’s doubtful whether most owners would use it.
Refinement: Unfortunately the diesel falls down this area. There’s a very pronounced clatter when cold, and at idle it competes with commercial diesels for volume.
Thankfully it’s quieter inside when the windows are up and it does settle down when it warms up. But it’ll never come close to a Korean or European diesel for refinement.
Ride and Handling: With Holden’s work on the suspension to fine-tune it to Australian conditions, the Cruze is a competent handler without sacrificing ride quality.
It’s definitely on the firm side and doesn’t ride nearly ad well as a Golf; but, that said, it will handle rough tarmac without crashing and jarring.
Using a MacPherson strut front and the slightly different compound-crank rear suspension, the Cruze’s forte is its handling.
It feels quite neutral during cornering and will take more than the average person will throw at it. Its hydraulic steering also inspires confidence with its excellent weighting, although it doesn’t have as much feel as we’d like.
Braking: The Cruze uses ventilated front discs and solid rears and while the braking performance is good, it does require a bit of pressure when quick stops are called for.
ANCAP rating: The Cruze scored 35.04 out of possible 37 points.
Safety features: Holden has equipped the Cruze with dual front airbags, side airbags for chest and pelvis protection plus side curtains. ABS, EBD, brake assist and ESC are standard, as well as seatbelt reminders and dual pretensioners.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: The first four services on the diesel Cruze cost $335 each, covering you for 60,000km. By comparison, the petrol models cost just $185 per service.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Focus Trend TDCi hatch ($28,090) – For only $2400 extra, you get a car with a better interior, a nicer drive and a much smoother and quieter drivetrain. Well worth the additional spend (see Focus reviews)
Mazda3 2.2 Diesel hatch ($27,360) – Like the Focus, the Mazda’s interior build is superior to the Cruze, although its drive experience isn’t quite as driver focussed. It's also about to be replaced. (see Mazda3 reviews)
Volkswagen Golf 110TDI Highline ($34,490) – Yes, it’s more expensive than the Cruze, but it’s easily the benchmark for the category.
Powerful, quiet diesel, the best interior in the segment and the best ride/handling balance on offer. (see Golf reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Cruze diesel is definitely a mixed bag, with some good points and some not so good.
It’s very safe, has predictable handling and steers faithfully. Couple that with plenty of torque and its drive experience is reasonably gratifying.
But its lack of refinement and lacklustre interior, against a market segment that is seeing constant improvements to quality and efficiency, it is not difficult to find a more appealing competitor.
With plenty of excellent small diesels around the place, the Cruze has its work cut out for it. But the problem isn’t necessarily with other brands, it’s right in its own backyard.
As a diesel passenger car, the Cruze doesn’t acquit itself nearly as well as its 1.6-litre petrol siblings. The petrols are punchy, smooth and quiet.
The fact they’re cheaper to buy and service puts the nail in the diesel’s coffin.
PRICING (excludes on-roads)
- Cruze Equipe 1.8 MT - $19,490
- Cruze Equipe 1.8 AT - $21,690
- Cruze Equipe 1.4 AT - $23,190
- Cruze Equipe 2.0 AT - $25,690
- Cruze CDX 1.8 AT (sedan only): $24,190
- Cruze CDX 2.0 AT (sedan only): $28,190
- Cruze SRi 1.6 MT - $22,490
- Cruze SRi 1.6 AT - $24,690
- Cruze SRi-V 1.6L MT - $26,490
- Cruze SRi-V 1.6L AT - $28,690