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Holden’s Australian-built Cruze surfaces

Local Cruze: Australian-made small car debuts with new engine options ahead of late March release.

GM Holden reveals its big Australianised small-car hope ahead of March launch

28 Feb 2011

GM HOLDEN unveiled the first Australian-made small car in more than a decade this morning in Adelaide, the Cruze, which goes on sale in March.

Dubbed the JG Series II, the facelifted small sedan ushers in a fresh face, improved Euro 5 emissions-meeting engines and an optional 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol four that brings more advanced rear suspension and electric power steering, as well as a sporty SRi series option.

Despite the upgrades, prices stay put for the volume-selling 1.8-litre petrol versions, meaning that the base model CD still kicks off from $20,990.

Ending almost two years of sourcing from GM Daewoo in South Korea, the Australian Cruze marks the first locally manufactured small car since the demise of Toyota’s AE100 Corolla in 1999.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was on hand to drive an example off the line at Holden’s Elizabeth manufacturing plant in Adelaide, before full production commences in the last week of March.

However, as revealed earlier this year, the long-awaited (and Holden-designed) five-door hatchback version will not be released until the last quarter of 2011, leaving the facelifted Cruze sedan to soldier on alone in Australia’s booming small-car market segment until then.

13 center imageThe biggest visual giveaway is the more rounded grille, yet the bumper and air intake, wheel design, headlight and rear fascia treatments are also different.

Several new colours have been introduced, most of which are shared with the VEII Commodore and WMII Caprice that the Cruze is manufactured alongside at Elizabeth.

About half of the JG Series II’s retail value is now said to be Australian made, with the roof, body sides, closures, fascias and most interior plastics and trim made on site. Holden says local content will climb as more suppliers come on board.

Counting both the Cruze and Commodore/Caprice variants, total Holden Vehicle Operations production at Elizabeth will rise to approximately 430 vehicles per day over two shifts, five days per week. Personnel numbers now top 2500.

Holden has accessed $149 million from the federal government’s now-defunct Green Car Innovation Fund and another $30 million from the South Australian state government to help assist bring the Australian-made Cruze to market.

The headline Series II act is the all-new 1.4-litre ‘iTi’ double overhead cam four-cylinder turbo petrol – an engine that was first seen in the Cruze’s closely related Astra J cousin (due to go on sale Australia next year with Opel badges). Both GM small cars share the same Delta architecture.

Delivering 103kW of power at 4900rpm and 200Nm of torque between 1850 and 4900rpm, and paired to six-speed manual or new six-speed automatic transmissions – the latter with a sequential-shift manual mode - it averages 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres (auto: 6.9L/100km) and 153 grams carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre (auto: 164g/km).

The 1.4L iTi carries a $1250 price premium in entry-level CD guise, but also brings electric (instead of hydraulic) power steering and adds a Watts Linkage to the torsion beam rear suspension set-up, which is claimed to reduce lateral movement and cabin noise intrusion to produce a more controllable yet quieter car without the expense of a multi-link rear set-up.

The turbo-petrol drivetrain also underpins the new SRi and flagship SRi V series.

Both are identifiable by a modified grille and air intake, a rear lip spoiler and revised alloy wheels, while the latter also introduces remote keyless entry and starting, satellite-navigation, a 10GB hard drive, CD/MP3 rip and store capability, DVD player and live-radio pause functionality to the Cruze for the first time.

More information about these, as well as the mechanical workings of the 1.4L iTi-equipped models, will be revealed at the Cruze’s official launch on March 16.

Meanwhile, the least changed Series II cars are the CD and CDX that use GM’s long-lived 1.8-litre Ecotec four-cylinder petrol unit.

Holden says minor modifications have resulted in driveability and fuel economy improvements, but outputs remain at 104kW at 6200rpm and 176Nm at 3800rpm respectively.

The standard five-speed manual returns 7.0L/100km while the optional six-speed automatic gearbox ($2000) slurps slightly less unleaded petrol at 7.4L/100km (down from 7.5).

Greater efficiency comes in the form of a heavily revised 2.0-litre DOHC common-rail turbo-diesel for the Cruze Diesel, which has the distinction of being the most frugal Australian-built production vehicle.

Although power is now up nine per cent to 120kW at 3800rpm and torque jumps 12.5 per cent to 360Nm at 2000rpm, combined fuel consumption slips 0.1L/100km to 5.6L/100km for Diesels fitted with the improved six-speed manual gearbox. The six-speed auto remains unchanged at 6.7L/100km.

Holden expects the latter’s popularity to increase as fuel prices spike upwards, despite a $500 price increase for the model variant. Currently diesel sales are at about 20 per cent of total Cruze volume.

As before, all Cruze models score a five-star ANCAP safety rating and include six airbags, electronic stability control (ESC) with traction control, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and collapsible pedals.

Since its May 2009 release, Cruze demand has consistently outstripped pre-release predictions, resulting in more than 43,000 sales and making the Cruze a consistent top-three player in a tightly contested segment long dominated by the Mazda3 and Toyota’s Corolla.

Holden believes the Series II changes will keep the car at the front of the small-car sales race.

“We are absolutely delighted to be adding Cruze to our Australian manufacturing base,” said GM Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux.

“Its combination of style, fuel efficiency, Australian design and engineering will ensure it continues the Holden success story well into the future.

“The Cruze has already demonstrated that it’s a car that Australians want. In a very short time, and with only one body-style, the current Cruze model has become a top 10 seller in the Australian market. With the release of our new models and a hatchback on the way we are confident Cruze will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Ironically, the last Australian built small car also spawned a Holden version (from 1989 to 1997), although the previous non-Toyota sourced Holden model to be made locally was the unpopular RB Gemini, an ex-Isuzu co-op assembled in Elizabeth from 1985 to 1987.

The outgoing Cruze continues to be built for Asian markets at Incheon in South Korea, and the car is also manufactured in Ohio USA, St Petersburg Russia, Shenyang China and Halol India.

Globally, Australia ranks number three globally for Cruze popularity, behind South Korea and China. Global sales are now past the half-million unit mark.

2011 Holden JGIICruze sedan pricing:
CD 1.8L$20,990
CD 1.8L (a)$22,990
CD 1.4iTi$22,240
CD 1.4iTi (a)$24,240
CD Diesel$24,990
CD Diesel (a)$26,990
CDX 1.8L$24,490
CDX 1.8L (a)$26,490
CDX Diesel$28,490
CDX Diesel (a)$30,490
SRi 1.4iTi$24,490
SRi 1.4iTi (a)$26,490
SRi V 1.4iTi$27,990
SRi V 1.4iTi (a)$29,990

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