2013 HOLDEN CRUZE REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small hatchback
Price: $22,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/transmission: 1.6 litre turbo/six-speed manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.4 l/100km | tested: 11.0 l/100km
With a price tag well under $23k, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Cruze SRi is just another small hatchback.
But you’d be mistaken.
Here is a car that performs so well for its price that its bang-for-buck equation results in plenty of the former - that is, "bang" - for just a modest amount of the latter - "buck".
Interestingly, aside from a fiesty donk and the addition of Holden’s MyLink infortainment system it’s broadly the same ol’ Cruze as before.
But if you value on-road performance and stunning grip, the Cruze SRi is hard to look past.
Quality: The Cruze’s interior is pretty ho-hum by now. The small car segment has some really classy interiors. The Cruze is outclassed with plastics and an interior feel that lags behind cars like the Golf, i30 and Corolla.
It's no doubt robust, Holden builds durable cars, but some of the finishing off and trim edges is also behind the segment leaders.
Comfort: The front seats are commodious and comfortable, with fairly good lateral support in the backrest.
Headroom and legroom are plentiful and the tilting and telescoping steering column makes it easy to get settled behind the wheel, but the absence of a proper footrest is irksome.
The back seat is just as accommodating as the front, with good legroom and ample headroom. The Cruze isn’t quite wide enough to comfortably seat three adults across the rear bench, but two adults are an easy fit.
There’s a wide centre armrest too (no squabbling for elbow room here), as well as rear door bins, map pockets and a 12 volt outlet. However, there’s no face-level air vents - a liability in a hot Australian summer..
Equipment: Standard on the SRi are features like cruise control, manual airconditioning, Bluetooth phone and audio integration, a trip computer, dusk-sensing headlamps, power windows and power mirrors.
One of the SRi’s more notable features is the MyLink infotainment system, which is a new addition for the 2013 Cruze range.
Able to connect to the internet via the driver’s mobile phone data connection, MyLink also integrates Bluetooth audio streaming and a USB auxilliary input with the car’s stereo system.
Currently the only internet-enabled MyLink apps are for the audio streaming Pandora and Stitcher services, but more apps will be added as the MyLink system matures. Additional apps can be added by Holden dealers as they become available.
With car buyers placing an increasing importance on infotainment and connectivity capabilities MyLink’s expandability could hold significant appeal to tech-savvy motorists.
Storage: At 413 litres the Cruze hatch’s boot space is large compared to many of its competitors. Go for the optional full-size spare, though, and storage space is slashed to just 325 litres.
With the 60/40 split fold rear seats folded, luggage capacity rises to a handy 1254 litres.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Although it may look pretty similar to last year’s Cruze, the 2013 Cruze SRi is a very different machine indeed.
The previous model’s 1.4 litre turbo four-pot has been replaced by a 1.6 litre turbo borrowed from the Opel Astra GTC, and power and torque have risen to 132kW and 230Nm - an increase of 29kW and 30Nm.
It’s a tractable engine out on the road, with ample midrange torque and a willingness to rev freely. It’s a big step up from the previous SRi’s 1.4 turbo.
Performance is quite brisk for something that’s not billed as a hot hatch, and the shift feel of the six-speed manual is smooth and light.
Although it’s not ultra-quick in a straight line, this is a very satisfying powertrain - and one that’s best experienced with the standard manual gearbox.
There’s one downside though: drive it enthusiastically, and it becomes extremely thirsty. After a week behind the wheel, we averaged 11.0 l/100km.
Refinement: At highway speeds the Cruze SRi is smooth and muted, and it’s only when you get into the upper reaches of the tachometer that things get properly vocal.
The new Bridgestone tyres are fairly quiet on all but the coarsest asphalt, too.
Suspension: The 2013 Cruze’s suspension is a revelation. Tweaks made by Holden’s local engineering team have transformed the Cruze’s chassis into one that’s just as compliant yet better behaved than ever before.
It’s also got stunning grip, thanks in large part to its improved tyres and more balanced suspension tune.
You can throw the Cruze into a corner with vigor and it will maintain its hold on the tarmac. It requires quite some effort to break through the understeer threshold as well, and Holden deserves much credit for bringing the Cruze’s suspension to this standard.
Not only is it fun to drive, but all that grip makes it much safer too.
The electric power steering has decent weighting to it, but unfortunately has a slight notchiness around dead-centre. You won’t feel it most of the time, but it becomes apparent during long stints on the highway.
Braking: Braking performance is good. Because of the extra grip offered by the new Bridgestone Potenzas, the Cruze SRi has solid stopping ability.
ANCAP rating: Five stars
Safety features: Six airbags are standard (Front, front side and full-length curtain), as are anti-whiplash front headrests, Brake Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Traction Control, and Electronic Stability Control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three year/100,000km
Service costs: Under Holden’s capped-price servicing scheme, the first four services (covering the first 60,000km or four years of ownership) cost $185 at a maximum.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Nissan Pulsar ST-S ($24,990) - Nissan’s freshly-launched Pulsar ST-S is more expensive than the Cruze SRi, but packs a 1.6 litre turbo engine that feels more potent and an interior that’s more robust.
It loses out on value though, particularly when it comes to infotainment options. Still, it’s a solid machine that feels like it will last a lifetime. (see Pulsar reviews)
Ford Focus Sport ($25,890) - Although one of the sharpest-handling machines in the small segment, the Ford Focus makes do with a 125kW/202Nm naturally aspirated 2.0 litre inline four.
But it’s a joy to drive regardless, and if you can live with the edgy interior styling it’s also a comfortable car to be in too.
Build quality is high, but as the most expensive car here you’d expect it to be so. (see Focus reviews)
Toyota Corolla Levin SX ($23,990) - A perennial favourite among small car buyers, the Corolla doesn’t quite stack up when you want a humble hatch with a little bit of zing.
With only 103kW and 173Nm from its 1.8 litre engine, the Corolla is far from fast. Its interior is very plain-Jane too, and doesn’t feel quite as large as the other cars here. (see Corolla reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Holden has hit the mark with its Cruze SRi. It’s the standout offering in the Cruze range, not just for its impressive on-road performance, but also for the value for money that it represents.
Loads of turbo torque for less than $22.5k? It’s a steal, and the addition of capped-price servicing only sweetens the deal.
The interior still needs much improvement if it’s to equal its competitors for quality of both fit and finish, but in terms of sheer car-for-dollar the Cruze SRi is one enticing proposition indeed.