Cruze: Holden’s cunningly hatched plan.

Cruze Hatch Design ThemeHolden Cruze Hatch ManufacturingHolden Cruze Hatch ManufacturingHolden Cruze Hatch Engineering Test TripHolden Cruze Hatch Engineering Test TripHolden Cruze Hatch Engineering Test TripHolden Cruze Hatch CDX LocationcruzeHolden Cruze Hatch SRi-V LocationHolden Cruze Hatch SRi-V LocationHolden Cruze Hatch Hero ImagesHolden Cruze Hatch CDX LocationHolden Cruze Hatch StudioHolden Cruze Hatch Hero ImagesHolden Cruze Hatch Hero Images2011 - Series II Cruze CDX2011 - Series II Cruze CDX2011 - Series II Cruze SRi-V interior2011 - Series II Cruze rangeSeries II Cruze launch - Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Cruze hatch is something Australians can feel just a little bit smug about. GM’s global Cruze was given a rear door right here in OZ courtesy of our very own Holden design team. What a shame Holden is considering disbanding them.

I’ve never been in love with the rear of the Cruze which looks just a little too chunky. The hatch has seen off the worst of the chunkiness, and as well has added an extra couple of trim levels. There was a real chance to do something special which I feel might have been missed.

Both the CDXD and SRIV hatches got a good workout in and around Sydney. There is little difference in the drive between the models and indeed between the sedan and hatch. The only difference is the watts link rear suspension in the SRIV (which I couldn’t notice) and the electric power steering for the 1.4L turbo petrol (which was as obvious as dogs bollocks). As with most cars with such a setup, there is a certain vagueness about it which tends to rob the driver of a degree of road feel and feels slightly unearthly. Some car makers have managed to insert a bit of road feel but not in this case with Cruze. On the upside you don’t have a nast old belt chewing up valuable engine power. The steering is driven by an electric motor instead of a hydraulic pump driven by the engine The SRIv’s electric steering feels twitchy, vague and over-baked. Both test cars had a 6 speed manual but the second gear on the diesel was not playing nice with the other children. It was hard to select whether going up or down.

So, let’s get to the nitty gritty:

Outside:

Until you get to the back, the Cruze is the same as her 4 door sisters. It’s a conservative bunch at General Motors and when let loose with a pen and ink (ok, a computer), they design something looking not unlike just about everything else in the class. To my eye the hatches rear is more of a success than the sedan. If you want to see what stunning design looks like than the Hyundai Veloster for 2012 is the car to watch, and the new Honda Civic which looks fabulous and is loaded to the gunnels with techy stuff.

I don’t love the exterior, but I don’t hate it either. There is something a little slab-sided in profile and the front and rear lights just look a little too big for the car. I can’t put my figure on it, but something about the exterior looks a little old fashioned however I love the wheels on the SRIv. They look butch and manly with a fabulous road presence.

The main feature of the hatch is, of course, the rear door. The extra space is welcome and the boot has oodles of space which swallows our “two bags” and leaves room for several faux-fur throws, and for that romantic weekend away, an esky full of champers and nibbles. There are those among us who will loathe a coupe with its passenger limiting lack of back doors but the Cruze has 4 passenger doors so there is more than enough to go round. Only the unfortunate lad in the middle isn’t next to a door, but that can be an advantage in some circumstances, but back to the review.

You also notice the keyless entry/exit pad which allows a simple press to lock the doors, and a pull of the door handle to unlock again. It can drive you potty if your OCD side just won’t let you walk away from you prize possession without trying the door handle to make sure you remembered to lock it. Doing so will tell Cruze you want to get back in and will unlock again.

Not a bad effort. The styling will appeal to those wanting a conservative vehicle in the carport.

Inside:

Inside is identical to the sedans in every way from the back seat forward. The rear has the hatchback flexible seating in the back so you can cram the boot chock-a-block full stuff. There is no end to what the imagination can do with a space that big. On the subject of seating, the accommodation is leather covered in both diesel and petrol top models and fairly comfy if a little on the firm side. Our recent drive to Canberra in a CDXd showed the firmness didn’t make your bum numb. It was a very nice drive indeed.

Other than the hatched boot area, the Cruze models differ only in trim. The dash, doors and other plastic surfaces don’t differ much between the bottom and the top of the range. What this means is if you are a cheapskate you can make do with the lower spec model. As with most car makers, the second you start adding options, you’ll quickly add enough to the total to make your eyes bleed. The SRIv gets the top of the line audio but for a car costing over 30k one might expect audio streaming with your bluetooth, but that can’t be had even as an option. Another thing about the infotainment system is the LCD is used to control many of the functions. “That’s good isn’t it” I hear you say. But try changing the radio stations. There’s a button on the steering wheel but should you want to use the buttons on the screen you have to slide your fingers along the recess into which the screen is set. Obviously it’s so far back to avoid the nasty reflections one often gets from bright daylight but surely someone tried using the system during the design stage. If they had, GMH would have given you a bit more space for those pesky fingers of yours.

Holden Cruze satnav chevrolet (1)Holden Cruze satnav chevrolet (2)

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The dash design is simple but I’d prefer textured plastic to fake chrome. There is nothing less attractive than the finish coming off metalised plastic in a year or two. I’ve seen it happen in far less time if a car is treated with a roughness not befitting a lady.

The Satnav, also controlled via the infotainment system, is hopeless. It’s pernickety to program and usually gives you 2 or 3 options route-wise. I’ve never found a way to make use of it because the map is the size of a postage stamp so all you see is 2 or 3 different coloured lines more or less on top of each other. The idea is you pick the one you would most like but most of us will simply keep pressing START until something starts happening. Once you’re underway you’ll get bings and bons and a lady talking at you. Annoyingly she won’t tell you street names but you can get a repeat on the directs if you wish. Some bright spark thought you might like to know where the good eating places are. If like me you live in an area with more cafes than letter boxes you’ll find your route obliterated utterly by useless eatery icons. Looking at the screen is useless because you can’t see your route, only strings of café icons covering the streets and their names, and there is no way to turn that off, The system also has a way of taking you on unique diversions because the software seems slightly psychotic. It could do with a lesson in manners too as it can sound a trifle brusque should you miss your turning.

The Drive:

the mountains cloaked in cloudsview on grand pacific drive

We tested several Cruzes on many kilometres in sun, wind and rain to make sure she didn’t disgrace herself the second things turned pear-shaped. Both the 2.0L diesel and the 1.4l petrol had similar problems relating no doubt to the turbos. You quickly realise the turbo must be kept spinning frantically with a small engine pulling a farily big body. If it is allowed to slow down, thus reducing boost, the torque is insufficient to get you moving again so you must sit like an impatient schoolboy waiting for the power to come, eventually. You can imagine the tight spots this might get you into but it is a problem common to most cars with turbo written on the boot. Once you get moving the revs quickly rise where you hit your next hurdle in the form of some kind of manic engine protection. It the driver fails to select the next gear in time, the engine reaches a presumably preset limit where it promptly dies. It doesn’t simply stop accelerating but the power vanishes as if spirited away by god herself. It seems daft but the Minis and Peugeots do it too. It’s annoying beyond belief but I’m told it protects your expensive motor by making sure she doesn’t throw a shoe before you slip her into the next cog.

We’ve already mentioned we had the CDXd sedan on a trip to Canberra a few months ago where it excelled. It was quiet and comfy and the air kept me frosty cold despite a warmish 35c just beyond the glass. One thing that needs fixing immediately is a drivers footrest. Like the audio streaming, it went AWOL.

I found the bluetooth easy to connect to but there are certain things you can’t do. The system is the type which wants to use an system phonebook rather than simply using the one in your phone. Honda’s old add-on system, and Holden’s own IQ both allow you to voice dial straight from the phone. IQ also displays the contact list in the LCD screen so you can select from the list as if the phone was in your hand. I’m not sure why anyone would consider it a good idea to either upload your phonebook into the car, or worse still add them one by one into the system.

As most of you know, there has been a spot of rain around for the last few months so the auto lights worked well. I was disappointed that the auto wipers are absent which is a booboo at this price. At 30k for the top model, Cruze is in Accord Euro territory which is a class bigger and a much better drive and $2,000 cheaper in the base model. The most impressive car in the “small” class is Ford’s fabulous Focus Titanium (for a few extra shekels) which is stunning to drive, stunning to look at, fabulously fitted out and has tech oozing from every pore.

The highway is where the manual Cruze feels most at home. It has lovely long legs with that 6 speed manual but the 108kw petrol and 120kw diesel don’t have a lot of power in reserve so overtaking can be a leisurely affair. There isn’t a vast amount of torque either, so with the cruise control doing the boring highway work for you, you’ll need to drop a cog when hills approacheth. This pauses the cruise control which then has to be told to resume once you’re back in top gear again.

The handling is really not too shabby even with the 1.4 engines, quirky electric steering. Spirited cornering won’t usually upset her too much but she isn’t keen on off-camber bends. It tends to over steer a fraction and the electronic nannies kick in to protect the shrubberies. After all none of us wants our shiny new Cruze unceremoniously reverse parked in the Azalea patch.

The 5 STAR ANCAP rating is almost ubiquitous these days and most of us won’t buy a car which doesn’t posses those once coveted stars. Nowadays even bottom of the range city hacks have airbags etcetera. In Australia your car won’t get a 5 star rating without Stability control. This is different from brand to brand but usually refers to a veritable suite of computers and sensors and switches and actuators which along with airbags attempt to keep you on the roads, or stop your noggin from bouncing around the cabin like a ping-pong ball if all else fails.

As always we made sure that 5 adults will fit in without having to shoehorn things into places where things shouldn’t be shoehorned. There is plenty of room for 4. You would only want someone in the middle seat for a very short time as it gets a bit squeezy with 5 boys all trying to make sure their hair isn’t ruined and that they have a view. Both of these reasons are obvious I would think and the situations deteriorates rapidly if one of the boys spots something on the footpath as arms tend to be waved and heads tend to spin like a windmill in a cyclone.

Conclusion:

The Cruze range has done very well for Holden. It’s a large car in the “small car” sector which means a little extra space where it counts. For me the styling is a bit too conservative and there is the odd example of technology that appears to have been omitted to save money. I miss my auto wipers and my audio streaming, and since both are available in other Holdens it doesn’t seem like a big ask. A reversing camera and drivers’ footrest wouldn’t kill them either. Surely the General could have shoved them in their Cruze if they had wanted to. There is reasonable value for money but the top models compete directly with better kitted out brands which are nicer to drive.

Importantly the Cruzes sold here in OZ are made in South Australia’s Elizabeth assembly plant. Holden has been helped by the government to ensure jobs stay here. Prior to this Holden imported out Cruzes from South Korea where they were manufactured at the old Daewoo factory. Worldwide, GM produces Cruze under several different brands, including Chevrolet, in 5 or 6 different countries.

· Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free mobile phone use from compatible devices

· Voice recognition for certain Bluetooth functions including dial, redial, save and add voice tags

· Air conditioning

· Cruise control

· Trip computer

· Front and rear power windows

· Six-way adjustable driver and front passenger seats

· Automatic lights with programmable “follow-me home” headlight functionality and remote keyless entry

· Steering wheel-mounted remote audio and cruise controls

· Advanced six-speaker multimedia audio system with AM/FM radio, in-dash MP3 compatible CD player, and USB input with iPod compatibility to enable complete control of the device through the audio system controls.

· Cruze hatch CD models feature stylish 16-inch wheel covers

· Ice blue dash illumination

The mid-range Holden Cruze CDX model adds:

· 17-inch alloy wheels (four)

· Front fog lamps

· Leather appointed seats, steering wheel and gearshift

· Rear park assist

· Three-setting heated front seats

· Exterior chrome headlights

Holden Cruze hatch SRi adds over CD:

· Sports body kit comprising unique front and rear fascias and side skirts

· Rear lip spoiler

· Front fog lamps

· Leather wrap steering wheel and gear shifter

· Chrome grille header and chrome insert door handles

· Five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels (four)

· Seats with Sportec bolsters are available in a choice of Jet Black or Sonic Blue fabric depending on the exterior colour continue the sports theme

Holden Cruze SRi-V adds to SRi with

· Leather appointed seats that include a three-setting heating function for the driver and front passenger

· Passive entry and start with sensor key technology (keyless entry and push button start and stop)

· Rear park assist

· Large 7-inch full colour screen now adds touch-screen functionality to control the integrated satellite navigation and premium six-speaker DVD/CD audio system. This audio system not only offers MP3 and iPod compatibility via a USB connection but with a 10GB hard drive also enables storage of CDs and MP3s and the ability to pause live radio

· Voice recognition that allows voice control over certain radio, audio system and navigation functions including selecting radio stations, audio tracks, navigation settings and preset destinations.

Holden Cruze hatch prices:- Manual and Auto:

· Cruze CD 1.8 litre petrol $21,240 / $23,240

· Cruze CD 1.4 litre iTi petrol $22,490 / $24,490

· Cruze CD 2.0 litre diesel $25,240 / $27,240

· Cruze CDX 1.8 litre petrol $24,740 / $26,740

· Cruze CDX 2.0 litre diesel $28,740 / $30,740

· Cruze SRi 1.4 litre iTi petrol to $24,990 / $26,990

· Cruze SRi V 1.4 litre iTi petrol $28,490 / $30,490

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