Thinking of buying a Cruze? think again, before you cough up the cash...
From a distance the cute Cruze has all the looks of a compact four-wheel- drive, but get closer and you quickly discover it lacks the credibility of an off-roader and anyone buying it for that purpose is going to be disappointed.
In reality the Cruze 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 the styling chief Mike Simcoe was commissioned to design a small, compact commuter car for the Asian market.
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 74kW at 6000 revs and 138Nm 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 means its ride is choppy and uncomfortable, and while it is stable enough when flung into a curve, there were times when you reckoned it was going to tip over.
It doesn't like rough roads, either. That's when the ride turns nasty.
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 the 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 is relatively roomy, but don't try to fit three across the rear seat as Holden claims you can. The Cruze does have plenty of standard equipment though, with airconditioning, alloy wheels, power mirrors and windows, remote central locking, CD player and trip computer. But it 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.
Price: There is no way around it, the Cruze's resale values are not good. That's great for the buyer so argue well if you're buying.
Pay: $6500 to $10,000.
Engine: 1.5L/4-cylinder 74kW/138Nm
Eeconomy: Expect 8-9L/100km
Verdict: It might look like it will go bush, but don't dare try it or you risk getting really bushed.