The big difference between the two Cruzes you’ve nominated is that the earlier car was built in South Korea while, from 2011 on, production moved to Holden’s Australian production facility in Adelaide where it was built alongside the Commodore. There’s a school of thought that suggests the locally-made versions would be of better build quality than the Daewoo-made version, but in reality, there’s not much in it.
That said, we’d go for the later, Australian-made car, as these had a much better range of engines from which to choose. Specifically, the locally-made Cruze could be had with a 1.4 or 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine either of which was smooth and pretty zingy. Or, you could opt for the two-litre turbo-diesel or the non-turbo 1.8-litre petrol as seen in the early, imported Cruze.
The diesel is very frugal and offers a relaxed driving experience, but the two turbo-petrol engines are the pick of the crop for smoothness and performance. The one to avoid? The non-turbo 1.8. It was breathless, noisy and generally unpleasant.