IT’S no secret that car-buying trends in Australia have shifted dramatically these past few years, with an ever-increasing sway towards small, affordable, economical and environmentally friendly transport.
Holden knows it can’t survive relying solely on its flagship Commodore model, meaning it has to sell appealing small and mid-sized offerings to compete with a glut of talented Japanese, Korean and European rivals.
The mid-size Cruze is a car that Holden needed to get right to take on the likes of the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla, and thankfully for our local car industry, it’s a tremendous all-rounder that offers great value for money.
New turbo powertrain
The recently launched facelifted Series II Cruze is Adelaide built and features a choice of four-cylinder engines: 1.8-litre petrol, 2.0-litre turbo diesel and a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol.
All things considered, the frugal and torquey turbo-diesel is widely regarded as the pick of the range, but for those still preferring petrol power, the little turbocharged 1.4-litre is a sporty and rewarding choice.
Maroochydore’s Sunco Motors loaned me a demonstrator Cruze SRi with 1.4-litre turbo engine offering 103kW and 200Nm of torque, and it proved a fine blend of usable performance without being thirsty, attractive sporting looks and decent comfort and space.
Holden’s red hot paint accentuates the Series II Cruze’s racy styling that should appeal to young and old alike. Its sports body kit, 17-inch alloys, front fog lights and rear spoiler all combine well to offer both class and style.
Inside there’s more of the same. It feels sporty in here with leather wrap for the steering wheel and gear shifter, while there’s cloth trim for the seats, door cards and rather impressively for a portion of the dashboard too.
The instrument cluster and control panel are well laid out and look and feel particularly modern, helped along by an appreciated digital speedometer.
Space is generous and almost of Commodore proportions and comfort, but any more than two adults in the back would be a push.
On the road
The Cruze SRi is no serious performance sports car, but it has that sporty personality that makes it great fun when you take it out for a play on the twisties.
My test car was fitted with an optional six-speed automatic gearbox that proved fine but robbed me of getting the most from the playful four-cylinder turbo.
The standard six-speed manual would be the real driver’s choice here to exploit the engine’s full potential.
The engine is flexible and proved smooth at low revs around town, but for more enthusiastic driving you need to play in the higher rev range to get real shove from the four-potter.
Opting for the manual gearbox would make this easier as the tiptronic auto is slow to react to gear changes. Wind and engine noise don’t invade the cabin noticeably until you eclipse 100kmh, but if you get the revs up to the red line you’re rewarded with a satisfying sporty engine note that’s most appreciated.
The Series II Cruze SRi is a real surprise.
It’s great value for a good-looking mid-size sedan with all the expected entertainment and safety features (except Bluetooth oddly), and offers an entertaining sporty drive while returning 6.9 litres/100km – impressive for a turbocharged petrol.
Holden should be commended for a great effort with its latest Cruze, at under $30,000.
Model: Holden Cruze SRi (Series II)
Details: Four-door, front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan
Engine: 1.4-litre DOHC turbocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 103kW @ 4900rpm and peak torque of 200Nm @ 1850rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual (optional six-speed tiptronic auto fitted to test car)
Consumption: 6.9 litres/100km
Bottom line: $27,990 drive away from Sunco Motors, Wises Road, Maroochydore, suncomotors.com.au. Test model is an ex-demonstrator available for $26,990
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