Nobody can accuse GM Holden of relaxing on the Cruze. Indeed, the Aussie auto maker has set a new benchmark with its 2014 version of the small sedan and hatchback. (American companies traditionally release their new models eight months before the start of the year, hence the MY14 designation that may appear odd to Australians.)
With 31 models selling for less than $30,000, the new Cruze which goes on sale in April, faces a congested small-car market where competition is red hot.
The entry-level Cruze CD has been cut out of the range, being replaced by the Equipe. Starting at $19,490, which is $2000 less than the model it replaces, it offers excellent value. Added features include foglamps, sports grille, 17-inch alloy wheels and rear park assist as standard.
Cruze CDX (starting from $24,190) gains premium features including keyless entry with push button start and a reversing camera. The last is also added to the range-topping SRi-V (from $26,490), while the SRi sport model (from $22,490) gets rear park assist as standard.
New Holden Cruze sees for the first time in a locally built car the introduction of MyLink, a new infotainment program that’s standard across the range.
In addition to being able to call up stored songs from a phone or MP3 player and FM/AM stations via the car radio, when a mobile device with 3G data connection is hooked up to the MyLink system, the driver will also be able to streamed digital content from applications including Pandora music radio and Stitcher on-demand radio.
Drivers can access Pandora through the MyLink touch-screen, streaming favourite radio stations as well as using the ‘thumb up’ and ‘thumb down’ buttons to tune station preferences or select music genres. They can also pick out the next track via a steering wheel button or the touch-screen controls.
Musical tastes cover hundreds of styles offering more than a million tracks representing the music of more than 100,000 artists. Holden even has its own dedicated driving music channels.
Via the Stitcher embedded app, drivers can choose from more than 15,000 news, comedy, sports and talk radio shows and podcasts from global broadcasters including NPR, CNN, Fox and the BBC.
Cruze benefits from capped price servicing – petrol $185, diesel $335 – for up to four standard scheduled services for the first three years or 60,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
Those familiar with the Aussie made Holden Cruzes will recognise three engines from the Series II range – the 1.4-litre iTi and 1.8-litre petrol engines, and 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel. Now the MY14 Cruze introduces an additional engine, a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol unit which is standard in the SRi and SRi-V sport models.
A sound insulated, lit luggage space provides 445 litres of storage in the sedan and 413 litres in the hatch with the rear seat backs up. (I once had a car salesman mate who used to illustrate boot space of a vehicle to potential buyers by climbing inside). He would have loved the Cruze; a huge 1254-litre selling point out back to curl up in with the seats folded and tyre inflator kit in place.
With safety never far from car makers’ minds, later this year Holden Cruze MyLink will take up Siri Eyes Free Integration which means owners with a compatible iPhone running iOS 6 can direct the system to perform tasks by voice.
Eyes Free integration stops the screen from lighting up, ensuring drivers are not tempted to look at their phone screen. Owners simply connect their iPhone to the MyLink radio via Bluetooth and use the steering wheel voice activation button to begin and end sessions.
Drivers can make voice-activated, handsfree calls to contacts on their iPhone, and compose and send an iMessage or text message to a phone number, or anyone in their saved contacts, and access their calendar and add appointments.
Occupants can settle in a range of supportive seats and are protected by active and passive safety systems such as electronic stability control, antilock braking, electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control and brake assist.
Six airbags - driver, front passenger, front side and curtain – and collapsible pedal release system, together with a sturdy passenger shell, have helped earn the MY14 Holden Cruze the top five-star ANCAP crash rating.
Launched in Tasmania, it was a Vivaldi sort of day – four seasons in one – from winter fog to spring rain to summer sunshine to autumn hues and back, as the Cruze convoy snaked out of Hobart.
Over the next 24 hours or so and more than 500 kilometres the motoring media were introduced to a range of MY14 models on some of the best and most testing roads in the country.
While the 1.4, 1.8 petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines hooked up to a mix of manual or automatic transmissions had the Cruze skipping along the narrow twisty roads at full tilt, it was the sporty 1.6 petrol turbo six-speed manual that offered the most driving satisfaction.
All the 230 Nm of torque was put to good use running down slower traffic, even on steep inclines. Merely dropping back to fifth gear was enough to clear the slow coach convoys.
Cruze Equipe 1.8-litre petrol: $19,490(manual), $21,690(automatic)
Cruze Equipe 1.4-litre petrol: $23,190(automatic)
Cruze Equipe 2.0-litre diesel: $25,690 (automatic)
Cruze CDX 1.8-litre petrol: $24,190 (automatic)
Cruze CDX 2.0-litre turbo-diesel: $28,190 (automatic)
Cruze SRi 1.6-litre turbo-petrol: $22,490 (manual), $24,690 (automatic)
Cruze SRi-V 1.6-litre turbo-petrol manual $26,490 (manual), $28,690 (automatic)
Holden Cruze MY14
Price: from $19,490
Safety: 5 stars (expected)
Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cyl petrol, 104kW/175Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual; 6-speed auto, FWD
Thirst: 7.0L/100km, 165g/km CO2