Car reviews - Holden - Cruze - SRI-V
Turbo 1.6 is good bang for bucks, second-gen auto gains some intelligence and refinement, new Bridgestone tyres helps to get more out of nicely tuned chassis
Room for improvement
Changes don’t extend to exterior, constant drop-outs on the MyLink streaming data service can make the experience worse than DAB radio, can be a bit heavy on fuel for a small car
22 May 2013
By BARRY PARK
Price and equipment
WE’RE driving the high-end SRi-V model, which has a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine pushing drive to the front wheels via a $2200 six-speed automatic transmission in place of the default six-speed manual.
It’s sort of the hero model of the Cruze range, and the most expensive one, too, at $28,690 before any on-roads are added on. The cheapest Cruze, using a 1.8-litre atmo engine, sells from $19,490.
At the SRi-V’s sort of money, you’re looking at the likes of Mazda’s 2.0-litre SP20, a 1.8-litre Toyota Corolla Levin (although with a manual gearbox instead of the dull, $2000 more expensive continuously variable transmission), and a slightly more expensive, although richly equipped 1.8-litre Hyundai i30 Elite.
Note, though, that all those cars don’t have performance-enhancing turbochargers strapped to them. This one does.
Holden has thrown a fair bit of gear at Cruze to make it more competitive against lower-cost rivals – it had to, as nothing else could be done to stem the tide.
Our “Redhot” red SRi-V test car sat on big 18-inch hoops clad in Bridgestone Potenza rubber – out go the not-so-grippy Khumos – a six-speaker audio system with a CD player, voice recognition, a USB port and Bluetooth phone connection that also streams audio, the MyLink internet-based smartphone audio streaming system, climate control air-conditioning, electric windows, reversing camera, a folding key with keyless opening and start and boot release, fog lights, an oval-shaped chrome exhaust tip, leather seats, steering wheel and gear selector boot, and that’s about it.
You’ll still have to manually adjust your seat, hope everyone is comfortable with the same climate control temperature feeding out of the dashboard vents and flip the mirror over to its dimmed setting at night, though, but you do also get that turbo motor.
As for MyLink? It’s a great innovation, allowing you to stream internet-based music and podcasts through the Cruze’s audio system. Our experience with it on the Optus network, though, was marred by constant drop-outs as we moved through south-eastern Melbourne’s many phone reception blackspots.
MyLink uses two streaming services for now – Pandora for music and Stitcher for podcasts – and both are somewhat flawed in the early days of their roll-out across Holden’s range. In the case of Stitcher, it’s the annoying US market ads and the distinct lack of Australian content, while for Pandora, it’s the long pauses between tracks, and the need to refine your music tastes online before jumping in the car. As they say on the internet, YMMV*.
You have to pay for a spare wheel to put under the boot floor.
Apart from the yawing seven-inch touch screen that now dominates the dashboard, there’s nothing else remarkably new about the Cruze’s interior.
It’s still wonderfully presentable, comfortable – apart from the lack of a driver’s footrest – and useful, but on the flip side it still looks like a cheapish car with hard plastics and faux chrome highlights to help lift the sombre nature of the blacked-out theme.
The nicer-looking dash-mounted start button is a bit hidden behind the multifunction steering wheel that includes audio and cruise controls, but once you know it is there it’s almost instinctive to find it, even in the dark.
The blue-lit instrument binnacle is clear and well laid-out, and houses a small, monochrome screen for the trip computer that includes a handy digital speedo.
Rear-seat space in the hatchback is comfortable for larger adults, the spilt-fold seats add plenty of interior versatility, and the boot has a class-competitive 413 litres.
Engine and transmission
Let’s start with the numbers: multipoint fuel injection and a turbocharger combine to provide 123kW of power and 230Nm of torque, which make for a big serve of power in a part of the market that prides itself on mediocrity. Nothing else comes close in terms of under-bonnet bang for buck.
Its one flaw, though, is the fact that it is a peaky engine, working best when it has a few revs on board. It’s a smooth, willing engine once it gets up to speed, but low down it lacks that little bit of sparkle, feeling more like one of its normally aspirated rivals.
This hurts fuel economy, too. At times, we almost tipped above 10.0L/100km of the more expensive premium fuel around town, but finished our time behind the wheel with 9.2L/100km on the trip computer. That compares with an official combined 7.9L/100km average.
Carbon dioxide emissions are rated at 186g/km, giving it a middling Green Vehicle Guide rating.
A big improvement, though, is the transmission. It’s lost a lot of the vagueness associated with the older version of the six-speeder, holding gears on hills rather than hunting for lower ones and down-shifting on hills.
Ride and handling
The SRi-V badge means this version of the Cruze is a bit more special than its more pedestrian siblings.
It’s all down the rear end, where the multilink suspension is replaced with a locally developed Watts linkage to help the Cruze stick to the road.
Combined with the new rubber, the set-up gives the Cruze very good road handling well beyond the abilities of the engine – a shame when you consider Holden’s HSV go-fast team has overlooked the Cruze based solely on the powertrain limitations it would need to work with.
One thing we have noticed, though, is the electrically assisted steering. It now feels a lot quicker than before, giving a sharper feel as you carve through a series of corners.
If you’re going to be picky, the Cruze’s steering probably feels a bit vague at the straight-ahead as you lope along the freeway. You’ll notice that you’re making many small adjustments to the steering as a consequence.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags and a five-star crash rating make the Cruze an easy pick for those shopping for a safe, well-made Australian car. If we’re going to be picky again, though, it gets none of the suite of driver assistance packages that soon rolls out in the bigger Commodore, including an alert system that warns a driver if they’re about to smack into the car in front.
There’s a reversing camera, too, which is a handy inclusion given the relatively poor rearward vision. It is also combined with parking sensors.
The Cruze falls under Holden’s capped-price servicing program, covering four service intervals or 60,000 kilometres. For petrol models, this costs $185 – much cheaper than the diesel models’ $335 slug.
Holden’s standard warranty covers three years or 100,000 kilometres.
Apart from a huge screen that now dominates the dashboard, Holden’s updated Cruze is a sleeper, with most of the changes coming in areas that you don’t really notice them.
If there was an award for consistency, the Cruze SRi-V would win it. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about the car, or its updates apart from a chassis that holds more promise than the drivetrain can deliver and an engine that shines rather than sparkles.
What is outstanding, though, is sharp new value that puts it ahead of a number of under-paced rivals in one of the most crowded corners of the Australian car market.
Being good at everything will probably mean more to buyers than excelling at just one or two.
* Your mileage may vary. In other words, your experience of MyLink may be completely different depending on whose phone network you piggyback off.
Mazda3 SP20 (From $27,990 before on-roads)
A strong combination of efficiency and performance from first-generation Skyactiv fuel-sipping technology. However, still struggles with road noise and soft steering. Also up for replacement early next year.
Hyundai i30 Elite (From $26,590 before on-roads)
Richly equipped, and made even more attractive with a long five-year warranty. The payoffs are an uninspired engine and lack of feel from overly assisted steering. You also get a full-size spare tyre.
Toyota Corolla Levin ZR auto (From $30,490 before on-roads)
Expensive in this class, although spacious and there is Toyota’s bulletproof reliability to factor in. Decent drive dynamics, but dull continuously variable transmission, drab interior and lifeless steering mar the experience.
MAKE/MODEL: Holden Cruze SRi-V hatch
ENGINE: 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder
POWER: [email protected]
TORQUE: 230Nm @ 2200rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic, FWD
TOP SPEED: N/A
FUEL: 7.9L/100km, premium unleaded
EMISSIONS: 186g/km CO2
SUSPENSION: Macpherson (f)/Watts link (r)
STEERING: Electrically assisted rack and pinion
BRAKES: ventilated disc (f)/disc (r)
PRICE: From $28,690 before on-roads
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