2014 HOLDEN CRUZE REVIEW
What's Hot: Local chassis tuning hits the mark, zippy 1.6 litre turbo, MyLink could be a winner
What's Not: No interior improvements in trim or build quality
X-Factor: TMR top tip: Buy the SRi manual. It's a proper performance bargain.
Models Driven: Cruze SRi hatch manual, Cruze SRi-V hatch automatic, Cruze Equipe sedan 1.4t automatic, Cruze CDX sedan 1.8 automatic
Vehicle type: Small sedan/hatch
Price: $19,490 (Cruze Equipe 1.8 manual) to $28,690 (Cruze SRi-V auto)
Power/torque: 104kW/175Nm (1.8 petrol), 103kW/200Nm (1.4 petrol), 132kW/230Nm (1.6 petrol), 120kW/360Nm (2.0 diesel)
Fuel economy claimed l/100km: 7.0 (1.8 petrol MT), 6.8 (1.4 petrol AT), 7.4 (1.6 petrol MT), 6.7 (2.0 diesel AT)
It’s world’s apart from its predecessor, but you’d struggle to tell them apart.
That’s because the improvements to Holden’s Cruze sedan and hatch are largely under-the-skin. And, although the changes aren’t readily visible, there is a world of difference between the MY14 Cruze and the car it replaces.
Holden has extensively re-engineered the Cruze, revising the suspension and tyres of all petrol models, while adding a punchy 1.6 litre turbo to the SRi grades.
The 1.8 litre petrol, 2.0 litre turbodiesel and 1.4 litre petrol turbo carry over, however the six-speed auto that’s offered on petrol models has undergone substantial revisions to improve driveability.
There’s also enhanced connectivity, thanks to Holden’s MyLink infotainment system now standard across the range.
But most enticingly for new car buyers, the prices have been slashed.
Officially on sale at the end of this month, the 2014 Cruze line-up will start from just $19,490 for the Cruze Equipe 1.8 petrol manual, which replaces the $21,490 CD 1.8 as the entrypoint to the range.
The range tops out at $28,690 for the SRi-V auto, representing an $800 saving in retail price - not counting the added value from the more powerful 1.6 turbo engine and MyLink system.
In fact, every model has had its price clipped, with up to $3500 being lopped off pricetags. Good value? You betcha.
So the Cruze is now a better car to drive, but costs less.
Is that enough to keep it relevant against a brace of new small cars from Holden’s Japanese and Korean competitors - not to mention its traditional rival, Ford? That's the question.
We went to Tasmania to sample the 2014 Cruze range to find out.
Were it not for the new seven-inch LCD touchscreen of the MyLink system sitting atop the centre stack, you’d be hard pressed to identify the 2014 Cruze’s cabin as being any different to the outgoing model.
Seats, trim and switchgear are unchanged, and although there’s plenty of room front and rear, material-quality throughout is average.
Still, it’s a functional cabin, and one that’s now a lot more inviting thanks to the MyLink infotainment hardware.
Besides the usual radio/CD/Aux audio functions, MyLink is designed to work in conjunction with the driver’s mobile phone to deliver enhanced connectivity options.
When hooked up to a mobile’s data connection, MyLink can stream music using the Pandora or Stitcher ‘apps’, in a similar way to how a modern smartphone uses apps.
There’s a home screen with big icons showing which apps are installed, and you navigate using a touch-sensitive screen.
It’s not as slick an interface as your average iPhone or Android device, but when more apps become available the MyLink system should come into its own.
There’s no plans for an internet browser app, but future apps could deliver weather and traffic information to the driver. Those with a Siri-enabled iPhone will also eventually be able to access the versatile voice assistant using a steering-wheel mounted button, rather than having to touch the phone itself.
Besides the high-tech gadgetry, the feature count has risen for 2014. On the base model Equipe, foglamps 17-inch alloys and reverse parking sensors are now standard.
The CDX adds keyless entry and start, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a reversing camera, while the SRi-V gets all of the above along with climate control.
ON THE ROAD
Key criticisms of the Cruze since its introduction centered around poor grip from its Kumho tyres and an automatic transmission that although adequate, could be indecisive whan faced with a hill.
That’s now all changed with a newly-honed chassis and driveline.
The changes apply only to the petrol-engined models, but they are extensive. There is new shift mapping for the six-speed auto and upgraded internals give it better driveability.
While the previous model tended to 'hunt' on inclines, the new auto picks the right ratio and holds it until the road starts to level out.
It’s something that you appreciate more in the 1.8 litre models, where peak torque is just 175Nm and peak power of 104kW arrives at 6300rpm.
SRi and SRi-V variants get a sport-shift mode for the auto, which holds gears for longer and kicks down when braking into a corner.
It does a pretty fair job of predicting which gear the driver wants to be in, and we didn’t feel the need to resort to manual mode.
The Cruze SRi, with a cracking new 1.6 litre turbo engine, is a whole new kettle of fish.
With 132kW and 230Nm it’s got enough pull to make the SRi feel quite sporty at the wheel. And, with peak torque on tap from just 2200rpm, it’s got plenty of tractability for around-town driving
The manual transmission that’s hooked up to the 1.6 turbo as standard is a slick unit too, with a nicely defined gate and a light clutch.
But as impressive as the powertrain and drivetrain improvements are, it’s the chassis that truly shines.
By switching tyre supplier from Kumho to Bridgestone, the Cruze has greatly improved mechanical grip.
On the SRi and SRi-V variants, firmer spring and damper rates sharpen 'turn-in' and feel for the road, while a re-profiled rear-axle improves resistance to body-roll.
It feels a much better balanced car all round.
For the driver, it means a car with improved agility and grip that can be pushed harder - especially on the 18-inch wheels and Bridgestone Potenzas of the SRi-V.
On the twisting mountain roads of Tasmania, chassis competence of this kind can come in handy.
If there’s an area that needs improvement (besides the lack of suspension changes for the diesel), it’s the electric power steering in the SRi. Although accurate and smooth, it doesn’t convey as much feel as we’d prefer for a ‘sporty’ model.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
Although still dominant in the sector, Holden’s Cruze sales have been in decline lately, a result of being near the end of a model cycle.
This greatly improved 2014 Cruze range however, which offers more for less, and, in the case of the 1.6 litre turbo, also offers a fiesty drive, will help arrest that slide.
It really is a compelling buy; the new Cruze gives you plenty of car for your money.
In our opinion, the pick is the SRi manual. For $22,490 you get a car that handles superbly, comes well-equipped, has enough power to keep a Veloster Turbo honest, but costs nearly $10k less.
Now, if only Holden could have spruced up that interior...
PRICING (excludes on-roads)
The 2014 Holden Cruze officially goes on sale at the start of April.
- 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