We were already moderate fans of the Holden Cruze way back - a bit rough around the edges, too many engines and models perhaps, but the car was generally pretty good. Since then it's moved to local production and had a complete revamp and is now an impressive small car up with most of them in the small car class.

That description is not quite accurate because Cruze is large for a "small" car and now, with the potent engine out of dropped Opel Astra in the SRiV model, Cruze is downright aspirational. Laugh if you like but we were seriously taken aback at how good this car is to drive.

Price

It's the "sporty" model in the range and costs from $26,490 for the six speed manual, (plus $2200 for the six-speed auto) but offers a true Euro car feel in the ride, steering and overall dynamics.

Engine/Transmission

This is aided by the new 1.6-litre turbo direct injection four cylinder petrol that replaced the former 1.4 turbo. It's a crackin' good donk with 132kW/230Nm output and in the case of the test car, fitted with six-speed auto transmission, this time around with active select and sport mode. Performance is not an issue here.

Features

Holden has crammed in much of the tech stuff from VF Commodore including a version of MyLink with SIRI eyes free function and voice control for numerous functions. It reads out texts, sends texts and replies, selects music, apps and dials numbers - very clever and extremely handy. In addition, the SRiV gets integrated satnav with 3D view, speed and camera alerts and a host of other info from the 7-inch touch screen. Bluetooth phone and audio is a given.

Being at the top of the Cruze tree, SRiV scores plenty of kit including cruise control, park sensors, reverse camera, multi wheel controls, personalised settings, auto lights and wipers, climate control and remote keyless entry.

Safety

Crash safety is rated at five stars with all that brings in terms of hardware (and software).

Driving

The drive feel is engaging and the styling is attractive inside and out. Holden engineers obviously went right through the Cruze SRiV and came up with an impressive set of calibrations for pretty much everything in the car related to performance ride and handling. It has plenty of space to suit the family, with a large boot and adequate interior room.

The level of new technology inside leaves many competitors for dead. We saw the claimed 7.9-litres/100km fuel economy on the drive but the car runs better on premium unleaded. It's in against a platoon of great cars and even better ones coming soon. But the Cruze is a locally made product and can hold its head up.