The Cruze was supposed to save Holden. The one-time Korean compact went on to the production line at Elizabeth in South Australia alongside the Commodore to take up the slack as demand for the full-sized Aussie family car inevitably slipped away.
It was a smart plan at the time but it hasn't worked. The Cruze is not good enough despite some smart Australian engineering input, it didn't get enough early traction in showrooms and it's been trumped by impressive rivals such as the Mazda3, VW Golf and Hyundai i30.
This year alone, Cruze deliveries are down by 5493. Yet - in a massively ironic turnaround - the Commodore is up by 3873.
All of this is rolling around my head as I jump into the latest Cruze station wagon.
In another irony, this is the Cruze model that's built in ... you guessed it ... Korea.
The Sportwagon is a contender in a little-known area of the showroom business, as most bottom-end wagon buyers go straight for an SUV and ignore regular station wagons. Checking the rivals reveals the Hyundai i30 that's a CarsGuide favourite and very few others, although Kia claims the boxy Soul, Peugeot lists the SUV-style 3008 and, if you really must, Proton has the Exora.
So the Holden is really a head-to-head opponent for the i30, or it seems that way if I'm able to remove thoughts of the dozens of small SUVs in the low $20,000 range.
I want to like the Cruze because it's a Holden and Fishermans Bend needs to seriously position itself as more than just the Commodore Car Company for the time beyond 2016. It's not going to be easy but, beyond the cars, there are all sorts of plans including the $5 million commitment this week to Australian sporting clubs and the community.
The Cruze scores on the value front with a starting price of $24,090 with a petrol engine, undercutting the i30, and it also gets the capped-price servicing that's become an essential 'permission to buy' item with smart shoppers. But it's in the three-year warranty group, not the five years or better bunch that now set the standard.
The car itself is roomy and comfortable and gets along well enough despite the engine's 104kW. It's helped by a six-speed auto and suspension that combines a cushy ride with good grip.
In fact, it's the suspension that reminds me this is a Holden. It is both compliant and grippy, something that most brands struggle to achieve on Australian roads.
It also gets away well from the traffic lights, reminding me that some time in the past the Holden engineers were tasked to write an engine-management program intended to mimic the 'launch feel' of the Commodore in every car sold alongside Holden's long-term hero.
So there are two good things. I also like the cabin space and the roomy back end.
Then things start to fall away. The interior looks and feels cheap. There are hard plastics and it's nothing like as smooth or efficient as the latest layout in the VF Commodore.
The noise level in the cabin is beyond what I recall of the i30 wagon, and nowhere near the standard now set by the latest Golf and Mazda3, admittedly not wagons.
The steering feels wooden and unresponsive and the brakes are nothing special. There is no spare wheel, although one is optional.
In short, the whole car is all right. But only all right. It's the sort of thing that sells because it has a Holden badge.
Just as the Captiva does not make the grade when you do a serious analysis against rival SUVs, the Cruze is not good enough at a time when small cars are more like mini luxury models than price-first hopefuls.