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First drive: Hotter turbo energises Cruze

Lion claws: The 132kW/320Nm Cruze SRi-V warm hatch has the Mazda3 SP25 firmly in its sights, with a razor-sharp price of $26,490.

Price cuts, more features, local tuning and hot 1.6 turbo lead Holden Cruze update


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8 Mar 2013

HOLDEN has thrown its engineers behind a facelift for the Australian-built Cruze small-car in a bid to woo more buyers, while a warmer turbo version adds some appeal for enthusiasts.

It may look no different, but the updated Adelaide-built Cruze sedan and hatch is substantially tweaked under the skin and – perhaps more crucially – will be substantially cheaper to buy when it hits showrooms in early April, with a razor-sharp starting price of $19,490 plus on-road costs.

Along with the price cut, which pitches it at the heart of the likes of Toyota’s Corolla and the Mazda3, comes a longer list of standard features -- the Cruze also becomes the first Australian-made car to get GM’s MyLink infotainment system with seven-inch touchscreen on all variants, including the renamed entry-level Equipe.

Holden has also added some welcome sizzle and spice to what has been perceived as a prosaic offering with the introduction of a pair of hotter performance variants powered by the Opel Astra’s 132kW/230Nm 1.6-litre turbo engine, and priced from a tempting $22,490 in SRi guise.

Sure to throw the cat amongst the warm-car pigeons, the SRi and its better-equipped SRi-V 1.6 turbo sibling (from $26,490) easily undercut the less powerful Mazda3 SP25, which makes up around 20 per cent of all ‘3’ sales and is priced from $31,490.

In an effort to address criticism of the car’s middling dynamics, Holden tasked its boffins – led by lead engineer of the current Chevrolet Camaro – with ‘localising’ various transmissions, suspension, steering and throttle mapping across a development phase involving around 70,000km of testing.

Holden has also ditched the Kumho tyres used on the previous version and replaced them with pricier Bridgestones on all variants from base to top, helping grip levels and road refinement.

As one Holden insider put it to us: “This is really the Cruze we should have launched with four years ago, but all we can do is move forward with the stronger new product we have”.

The company won’t talk specific sales targets, but makes no bones about its need to boost sales to well above their current levels. Cruze volume is down 36.8 per cent this year, and was down 13.7 per cent for the whole of 2012 – although this was still enough to finish third in small-car sales.

With a host of Japanese and Korean rivals selling at 1990s prices thanks to a strong exchange rates that favour importers, Holden reacted by cutting $2000 from the starting price of the entry variant, now dubbed Equipe rather than CD as its predecessor was known.

The resultant $19,490 figure undercuts rivals such as the Toyota Corolla and the recently launched Nissan Pulsar (both $19,990), Hyundai i30 ($20,990) and Mazda3 ($20,330).

Extra standard equipment over the outgoing CD includes 17-inch alloys, front fog lights, rear parking sensors and the new seven-inch touchscreen with MyLink connectivity and access to internet radio and streaming services Pandora and Stitcher – already included in high-end versions of the Barina, but a first for an Australian-made car.

However, satellite navigation is temporarily missing from the range until mid-year as a new system is being developed in tandem with the VF Commodore. Expect it to be standard on the SRi-V at the very least come June.

Existing features include Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, auto headlights, steering wheel audio, phone and cruise controls, and a trip computer. This makes the Cruze Equipe not only one of the cheapest base small-car offerings, but also one of the most well-equipped.

Drivetrains at this level are unchanged, with the cheapest versions retaining the slightly asthmatic (fleet-friendly) 104kW/175Nm 1.8-litre EcoTec petrol unit matched to a five-speed manual gearbox or the $2200 more expensive ‘second-generation’ six-speed automatic transmission.

Holden’s engineers claim to have removed a major issue from the old CD by shortening the auto’s gears and calibrating it to hold onto ratios for longer rather than hunting about indecisively. See our drive report for full details, but in our experience they have largely succeeded.

Also retained are the 103kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine (matched solely with the six-speed auto and priced in Equipe guise from $23,190 – a reduction of $1850), and the punchy 120kW/360Nm turbo-diesel priced from $25,690, down $2100.

Further up the range is the sedan-only CDX, available again with either the 1.8 petrol or 2.0 diesel engine, and priced from $24,190 and $28,190 respectively. These figures represent price cuts of $2850 for both.

The new versions add features not found on the previous CDX including a reversing camera, keyless entry, push-button start, new faux metal dash highlights and revised heated leather seats. Also standard (over and above the Equipe) is climate control, leather wheel and gear-shifter and a digital speedo.

Both the Equipe and the CDX feature a revised, comfort-oriented suspension tune developed in Australia to better suit our unique roads.

Arguably the biggest news, however, is the new firebrand 1.6 turbo SRi and SRi-V hatch and sedan twins, which together give some lustre to a range once perceived as a touch lethargic. The Hungarian-sourced powerplant develops 132kW at 5500rpm and 230Nm at 2200rpm

The razor sharp price of just $22,490 for the six-speed manual version ($2200 more for the auto) not only undercuts the 122kW/227Nm Mazda3 SP25 by almost $10,000, but it also comes in $6500 cheaper than the Opel Astra 1.6 with which it shares its engine.

It is also $3500 cheaper than the far less powerful 1.4-litre pre-facelift SRi., Underneath is the carry over Watts Link suspension, however, Holden’s team has added a new sharper steering rack, a stiffer twist beam, lower suspension, larger Bridgestone Potenza tyres and re-calibrated struts and shocks.

The pedal mapping is also different to the Astra, with Holden’s engineers claiming to have removed throttle lag, while the six-speed automatic has a sports setting with something called “Performance Mode Lift Foot” (as used in the Cadillac ATS) that drops a gear in the corners to help acceleration on exit.

The SRi shares its equipment list with the Equipe, but adds different front and rear fascias, a spoiler on the sedan, leather steering wheel and shifter, better-bolstered cloth seats, and a chrome oval exhaust tip.

The SRi-V now costs from $26,490 ($3000 less than the slower 1.4-litre version that preceded it) and adds 18-inch alloy wheels, leather heated seats, climate control, keyless start and a reversing camera.

As with all Holden models, Cruze gets capped price servicing up to four standard scheduled services for the first three years or 60,000km, whichever comes first (petrol models cost $185, diesel models cost $335).

, , , , 2013 Holden Cruze pricing*, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Equipe 1.8l$19,490
Equipe 1.8l (a)$21,690
Equipe 1.4l (a)$23,190
Equipe 2.0l (a)$25,690
CDX 1.8l (a)$24,190
CDX 2.0l (a)$28,190
SRi 1.6l $22,490
SRi 1.6l (a)$24,690
SRi-V 1.6l$26,490
SRi-V 1.6l (a)$28,690
, *Excludes on-road costs

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