2013 HOLDEN CRUZE REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small hatchback
Price: $28,690 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 132kW/230Nm 1.6 petrol turbo / 6sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.9l/100km | tested: 10.4l/100km
You could be forgiven for not noticing the new Cruze SRi-V - external changes are minimal, with a set of bigger wheels and a chrome exhaust tip.
Get behind the wheel though, and you’ll find that Holden’s engineers have massaged everything they can in the pursuit of a better car.
The headline act is a new 1.6 litre turbo engine, cribbed from the Opel Astra GTC.
But beyond that there are adjustments to suspension, transmission mapping and even a set of grippier tyres better suited to Aussie tarmac.
There’s lots of competition in the segment - and the Oz-spec, Oz-built Cruze is one of the better ones - but the Cruze’s knock-out feature is a reduced price. Who said anything about fighting fair?
Quality: While the design of the Cruze interior still holds up well, the material quality is starting to show its age.
The sole highlight is a brilliant-looking brushed-metal effect around the gear shifter, but mysteriously, a murky silver plastic is then used on the steering wheel and gear lever itself.
The cool looking contrasting coloured fabric inserts of the SRi dash are absent too, replaced with drab vinyl that lowers the overall presentation.
That said, there’s no issue with how it all goes together - solid feeling and well-fitted the whole way though.
Comfort: Be it front or rear, there’s plenty of room in the Cruze. Rear seats in particular offer generous headroom, just bob your head to avoid the sweep of the door frame.
Back to material selections - leather trim is a nice feature, but the hard hides and large sections of vinyl at the edges and sides of the seats aren’t terribly inviting (should be durable enough to deal with plenty of wear and tear though).
Equipment: Headlining the Cruze spec sheet is MyLink, Holden’s clever infotainment system that combines touchscreen inputs and traditional CD, USB, radio and Bluetooth audio with data tethering to provide streaming apps like Pandora and Stitcher.
Navigation will be offered soon and more apps are promised.
That mobile data reliance might be an issue for regional travellers; we spent a good three hours with no connection in and around Kinglake to the near-north of Melbourne.
Also missing is the previous unit’s ability to record tracks to a hard drive.
But among the feature list is single-zone climate control, proximity key with push-button start, rear park sensors, rear view camera, heated front seats, multi-function leather wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, auto headlights, front foglights and a sports bodykit with 18-inch wheels.
Storage: A roomy 413 litre boot with a low floor grows to 1254 litres with the split rear seats folded. Opting for a ‘full size’ 16-inch spare wheel reduces capacity by 88 litres, leaving plenty of useful space.
Inside the cabin There’s generous door pockets, four bottle holders, four cup holders and a pocket at the base of the centre stack. Anything longer than a wallet in that one tends to prevent the gear lever from going into park though.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Not quite hot-hatch, but hardly pedestrian, the 1.6 litre turbo in the SRi-V adds a decent poke of power and breadth of ability to Holden’s small car.
Interestingly though, when matched to the optional six-speed auto, it is a very different beast to the manual version.
With 132Kw at 5500rpm and 230Nm from just 2200rpm, the Cruze is powered more like a midsize car. Power delivery too feels very familiar to anyone stepping out of a Commodore.
There’s no mad turbo rush, this is a more relaxed engine, but across the board it offers plenty of urge. Tractable in the city and well-rounded for the open road.
Despite the work of Holden’s engineers to calm the six-speed auto, it can be prone to picking a gear too low for the task - surging - dithering - before then settling on a ratio, particularly on approaches to roundabouts and speed humps.
Freeway kickdown and gear-holding on hilly roads however is certainly far improved. Out on the highway, it’s very nicely settled and well-matched to the turbo’s surge of torque.
Refinement: As an engine picked from the GM powertrain list, the 1.6 turbo isn’t the newest engine available (this isn’t the recently announced Astra 1.6, but its predecessor) and it a bit ‘vibey’ at idle.
That said, once rolling the engine is quiet, road noise is hushed (but a touch more noticeable in the rear), and wind noise is well isolated.
Suspension: While the basic MacPherson front struts and Watts-link hardware carries over, much work has gone into making the sporty Cruze models a rewarding steer. Put it through a series of corners, and that work shines.
Understeer takes hold much later than before, with a planted feel that entices higher corner speeds and a level cornering attitude to match.
Well-weighted electric steering responds deftly through flowing curves, but on the freeway feels notchy just off centre, making minor adjustments on long straights a niggle.
Braking: Four wheel discs provide confident braking. On a lengthy, brake-intensive downhill run there were no signs of fade of overheating.
ANCAP rating: Five stars.
Safety features: Six airbags are standard (Front, front side and full-length curtain), as are force limiting front seatbelt pretensioners, anti-whiplash front headrests, break-away pedals, Brake Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Traction Control, and Electronic Stability Control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: Holden offers capped-price servicing for the first four services, covering the first 60,000km or four years of ownership and costing $185 per service.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY RATING: 4.5 /5
Nissan Pulsar SSS CVT ($31,740) - Beneath an unassuming exterior lies something of a firecracker engine. More zesty than the Cruze, but the suspension is less finessed.
There’s plenty of useful rear seat and boot space, but the CVT transmission just isn’t the right match for this package. (see Pulsar reviews)
Mazda3 SP25 Activematic ($33.670) - Mazda 3 is rampantly popular with Australian shoppers, and in SP25 guise its not hard to see why, with a well-sorted handling package, and revable naturally-aspirated engine.
The range is about to be replaced though, and age as the enemy sees a few glaring shortages in the equipment list, despite the higher price tag. (see Mazda 3 reviews)
Hyundai Veloster + DCT ($31,290) - Hyundai’s oddball coupé/hatchback creation continues to polarise, but for style-driven purchasers it could be just the ticket.
Among this company however, the less-powerful engine and more cramped rear-quarters stand out as significant detractions.
On the road, the dual-clutch transmission and nimble handling make for a rewarding drive. The interior quality is also impressive. (see Veloster reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
When it comes to the value equation, Holden looks to have a very good answer in the Cruze SRi-V for the small car segment - strong performance and strong specification make the imported opposition look over-priced by comparison.
For down-sizers coming out of something bigger, the Cruze answers the call with room and pace. For young buyers, the looks and features are certainly compelling.
Interior presentation is perhaps a personal thing, and for a purer driving experience we’d suggest taking a look at the manual.
Those issues aside though, the Cruze SRi-V presents a well-rounded package that small hatch buyers would be mad to ignore.
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