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Used car review Holden Cruze 2002-2004

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Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the used Holden Cruze 2002-2004, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when you are buying it.

Like all cars you really need to decide what you want from a car before you hand over your hard-earned readies and find yourself driving something that’s not what you want. In the case of the Holden Cruze it’s probably even more important. From a distance the cute Cruze has all the looks of a compact four-wheel drive, but the closer you get to it you discover it lacks the credibility of an off-roader, and anyone buying it for that purpose is going to be disappointed.

In reality the Cruse was aimed at smart young things looking for cool round town transport and no intention of leaving the black top.


The Cruze began life in Holden’s design department when then styling chief Mike Simcoe was commissioned to design a small, compact commuter car for the Asian market. It was the beginning for Holden styling and Simcoe in particular as both moved towards a position of prominence within the GM design world.

It was to have a broad appeal and generally did. The boxy lines gave it the presence it needed and the overall effect was one of young and cool.

Under the bonnet lies a Suzuki 1.5-litre double overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine that pumped out 74 kW at 6000 revs and 138 Nm at 4500 revs. It’s a reliable and durable little unit, and tractable too. If it lacks anything it’s in the mid-speed range where it needs to be kept spinning for any sort of response.

The engine output was put through either a five-speed manual or the optional four-speed auto.

With its short wheelbase and tall body the Cruze was in for a hiding on the road. The short wheelbase meant its ride was going to be choppy and uncomfortable, and while it was stable enough when flung into a curve there were times when you reckoned it was going to tip over. It generally didn’t, but there was always the fear that things might go belly up.

It doesn’t like rough roads, either. That’s when the ride turns nasty. It’s then that you discover that the bean counters held sway over the engineers and won the day with the suspension,

Instead of the usual three or four-trailing links for rear axle location the Cruze has only two, with each held to the axle at two rubber-bushed points.

The brakes are a combination of discs at the front and drums at he rear, but they’re very small and need the support of the optional ABS/EBD when trying to stop in a hurry.

Inside, the Cruze was relatively roomy, but don’t try and fit three across the rear seat as Holden claims you can. Three into the space for two just doesn’t go.

The Cruze does have plenty of standard equipment, though, with standard air-conditioning, alloy wheels, power mirrors and windows, remote central locking, CD player and trip computer.


Let’s make no bones about it, the Cruze is a fad model and fads tend not to perform well once the market works them out.

There is no way round it; the Cruze’s resale values are not good. That’s not so good for the seller, but great for the buyer so barter like hell if you’re buying.

Pay $6500 to $10,000.


Needs a thorough going over before you hand over your hard earned cash. Mechanically the Cruze is fairly sound with its Suzuki engine and gearbox, but it must be well serviced.

Check for a service record to confirm the usual oil and filter changes.

Carefully look all over, particularly underneath for damage from being driven off road. Don’t bother with any car that’s been on the wrong side of the blacktop.


Dual frontal airbags and seat belt pretensioners make for decent crash protection, but the small, flimsy body demands care before committing to the Cruze.

The active safety issue is also questionable. The handling isn’t as good as it could be, making ABS and EBD a must.


Lightweight with a small engine, the Cruze is set up to save fuel. Expect to get 8 to 9 L/100 km.


• cute looks

• high driving position a bonus

• disappointing dynamics

• lack of offroad capability

• fuel miser

• don’t try to fit three in the rear


• Toyota RAV4 – 2000-2003 – $12,000-$23,000

• Holden Frontera – 1999-2004 – $8,500-$24,000

• Subaru Forester – 2002-2005 – $15,000-$25,000


It might look like it will go bush, but don’t dare try it or you risk getting really bushed.



Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 23 comments

  • I don't see how 8 to 9 L/100K for this motor is "fuel miser"? I have used less than this in a 1990 commodore s/waggon.

    R Henry of Alice Springs Posted on 27 November 2013 6:45pm
  • mmmmmmmmmmm

    Debbie Qadri of Australia Posted on 10 September 2013 8:24am
  • mmmmmmmmmmm

    Debbie Qadri of Australia Posted on 10 September 2013 8:23am
  • Thank you. I was about to purchase a second hand one, but after reading this I wont be

    Crystal of Melbourne Posted on 15 July 2013 8:31pm
  • I bought my cruze in 2002, I had the gearbox repaired underwarrenty by holden, the covered the whole repair including towing it in from my home. I'v don all my services one was well overdue, Idid about 35000 between the one service. I have done the CV joints twice, I do on occassions get bade break shudder on the rear in hot wheather mainly summer time. I have had the clutch done once on about 180 000 km all other maintenance has been the general run of the mill, battery, breaks, oil. I have just completed 232 000 km and my cruze still runns as smooth as the day I bought it. No plans to sell it. The interior is like new the only issue is a hole in the floor mat.

    Terrence Tarboton of Perth Posted on 28 April 2013 3:23pm
  • check underbody wires to fuel pump as they have just corroded to a 2 year old fuel pump and it needed towing.had gearbox and shafts replaced for knocking noise that continued,just replacing ball joints for that knocking noise.( wiring and balljoints $1500 gearbox$4000+) only dramas in 6 years.

    mum of perth Posted on 15 March 2013 1:50pm
  • cruze is great no trouble at all

    lamster of nsw Posted on 16 February 2013 2:33am
  • So far Ive replaced the gearbox which exploded! This also ruined the clutch when it blew so had to get a new clutch kit. It needs regular wheel alignments otherwise it vibrates and the tyres hit the body of the car and I had to get 4 new tyres because it was sold to me with tyres that were too big (not Holdens fault). Its top heavy and light so blows around when the weather's bad. Not good if you've got young kids in carseats or boosters, no leg room and can't fit 3 in the back even without bulky carseats. If I hadnt poured so much money into it so far id get rid of it, a disaster car. I service it regularly and there's always something new to fix :(

    Amanda Posted on 10 May 2012 3:40pm
  • Have had Cruze for 4 years. Had a couple of issues requiring spares and new Holden parts are outrageously priced due to short production run. Thankfully was able to pick up parts from wreckers. Can't believe people say fuel is frugal. It drinks more than my 3 litre V6! And on windy days on the highway, can be quite scary as it blows around. Handles terribly also!

    glen of canberra Posted on 28 March 2012 6:47pm
  • We have had a Cruze since 2004. Great Town car, light on fuel and has only ever had its book services, no surprises and a new battery & tyres. Have done 90,000 trouble free klm. As a rebadged Suzuki Ignis with AWD its a better proposition then the Suzuki as it did not offer AWD which makes an ordinary car much better. You could do much worse then this car. Most of the problems that people talk about arise because the car they bought does not have a proper service history.

    Josh of Port Macquarie Posted on 30 November 2011 11:58am
  • We live in outback Australia and have done nearly 50,000Kms in the Cruze, which is only our run-about. No problems encountered whatsoever so far. Mechanically highly reliable. Can handle some quite rough tracks thanks to its high ground clearance. The only real negative point I can mention, is the far too high fuel consumption for such a small car.

    Rolfli of Broken Hill, NSW, Australia Posted on 16 October 2011 2:14pm
  • I love my Holden Cruze; touch wood not much has gone wrong. I have had it for 6yrs. The only problem is with the brakes in summer only, when I brake it makes a loud thundering noise like it's slipping but still brakes in time. Have had different brand of brakes replaced but same problem. Even mechanics can't work it out. Does anybody else have this problem? If so, what is the cause of it and how do I fix it?

    sara eravsar of victoria Posted on 29 July 2011 11:59pm
  • I have a 2004 Cruze that has new car mileage, as we have only used it as a second car for around town. However we now have an exploded gearbox that is going to cost over $4000 to fix. Our mechanic has told us the Cruze is notorious for this problem, and is why it is basically impossible to get a reconditioned gear box. You have to pay HOLDEN $4000 PLUS just to get your car back on the road. A bloody rip-off!

    Donna of Albion Park Posted on 27 May 2011 7:33pm
  • I love my 2003 Cruze and it's good looking too. Have done 65 000 km, mostly with a heavy load on highways. It handles brilliantly in the wet (all wheel drive). Also it's a fuel miser. The only thing I've changed in 8 years is a battery and recently a set of tyres, just to be sure. I always ask my mechanic are you sure there is nothing that needs to be replaced soon. Apart from oil and filters he always says no: it's a nice car. I only pay for two services a year WInter and Summer $99 each, oil and filters included.

    Cory of Perth Posted on 14 April 2011 11:34pm
  • I love my Holden Cruze. Bought new 7 years ago now. Done 100,000km and only had new battery about 2 years ago. Great little beach car.

    Tania of Esperance WA Posted on 13 April 2011 10:46pm
  • i've had a 2004 auto for over 2 years now and the only thing i've had to replace is the battery. i haven't had any other problems with it . very economical on fuel.

    kristy of nsw Posted on 11 April 2011 11:15pm
  • well I purchased a Holden Cruze 2003 model for my first car. I have already had to replace; 2 rear shock absorbers, the battery, front drivers baring, front struts, then the passenger side baring, and it keeps needing a wheel alignment. The mechs say that there is something wrong in my steering tree!!! I paid $10,500 and spend $5000 anually just to keep it on the road, yeah I could understand if I was driving 30km of dirt everyday, but I only have 2km of dirt, either way the mech said that its very unusual for a car that hasn't even done 60,000km! I have definitely been sold a dud!!!! So glad im not the only person who will forever have a grudge against holden!

    sarah of port maquarie nsw Posted on 14 February 2011 2:57pm
  • I'm with Trish of Brisbane, I will NEVER EVER buy a Holden again. Like Trish I have looked after my Cruze, always servicing per log books. I have had a number of issues with the front left CV joint, broken left hand strut and have had to relace the drive shaft. Now the mechanics say there "might" be something wrong with the gear box and it's a 'KNOWN ISSUE' particularly after the warranty has run out. Shame on you Holden!!!

    Ellen of Central Coast Posted on 15 January 2011 4:40pm
  • Cruze's are ridiculous. I've got a 2004 model and it's been giving me grief for 3 years now. I've been very good to it, getting it serviced well and on time. I now have a cost of $4000 to replace the gear box! Amongst other constant issues, I hear I'm not the only Cruze-owner to be suffering the same fate. The salesmen are crooks to be willingly and knowingly selling a dud - especially to unsuspecting young female first car buyers (which is what seems to be their primary target market! Poor form Holden. Very unAustralian.

    Trish of Brisbane Posted on 23 August 2010 5:59pm
  • I live outback and have to travel 30 km on dirt to get to town. I have been bogged and all. I have also travelled numerus times to a town that has over 100 kms of dirt and my Cruze 2004 has treated me great. The only thing that went wrong was the battery was fried and I had to get it replaced.

    ebby of broken hill Posted on 15 August 2010 12:14am
  • Thanks very much for a great review. We are downsizing as I have only done 40,000 in my outback in 4 yrs. I now wont be getting a cruize to replace it. Mmmmm might look at the suzuki instead-cheers

    Belinda of Canberra Posted on 18 June 2010 10:38am
  • I love my cruze. it's great for a young person zipping around the city and parking is a breeze. but i do agree that it can often be a bumpy ride, not great for highway driving. but i would recommend it for a first car. one to get you from a to b. fuel is cheap!

    Amy of Sunny Coast Posted on 17 April 2010 1:32pm
  • I completely agree with this report, do your research first. I brought a Holden cruse 2004, yeah it' looked beautiful but 3 weeks after i brought it the gearbox exploded and now seven months later i need a new control arm. nothing But truoble.

    Lyndsey of perth Posted on 19 March 2010 6:59pm
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