Holden freshens the small car's styling and dumps unloved engines.

The only small car made in Australia, the Holden Cruze, has been given a freshen-up to increase its chances against its imported rivals.

Holden has also ditched the unloved diesel engine and the superfluous 1.4-litre turbo four‒cylinder.

There are several changes across the range but a new nose is common for all variants.

The top-spec SRi V gets the most new gear, with LED daytime running lights, fog lights, revised wing mirrors with built-in turn signals, rain‒sensing wipers, new 18‒inch wheels, suede seat trim inserts and tweaked satnav (with live traffic updates).

Another new feature for the automatic versions is the remote start function.

The SRi adds the LED running lights, fog lights and new mirrors, as does the CDX, which also gets rain-sensing wipers and remote start.

Holden hasn't done much with the fleet-special Equipe. It gets 17-inch alloy wheels as standard and the upgraded wing mirrors. And that's it.

Some far cheaper models such as Honda's Jazz and Toyota's Yaris have a reversing camera as standard but the potentially lifesaving feature is missing from the base Cruze (it's standard on others).

There are now just two engines. The Equipe and CDX have a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol (104kW/175Nm), which comes with a five-speed manual or six-speed auto.

Keep an eye out for drive-away deals on some models

The sporty SRi and SRi V continue with the 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder, with six-speed manual or six-speed auto. Neither engine is fitted with fuel-saving stop-start technology.

Fuel economy ranges from 7.0L/100km for the Equipe manual to 7.9L for the SRi and SRi V manual.

Keep an eye out for drive-away deals on some models. Officially, the Equipe costs $19,890, the CDX (auto only) is $24,840, the SRi is $23,140 and the SRi V is $27,140.

The prices are the same for the sedan and hatch, while the wagon costs $24,090 for the CD and $26,840 CDX, which are both auto-only. Adding an automatic to Equipe, SRi and SRi V adds $2200.

Holden didn't hold a launch for the Cruze update but CarsGuide grabbed a manual SRi V sedan for an extended test.

Its front styling is substantially different, with a modern, slightly busy, design. the LED running lights are nothing special but they are bright.

The interior is essentially carried over and it is starting to look a little dated, especially the instrument cluster. That's understandable given this generation Cruze was introduced globally in 2008 and came here in 2009.

It has a decent seven-inch touchscreen hosting the MyLink system, which is handy once you get your head around it.

Trimmed in black leather and grey suede, the seats look good, are comfortable and have a heater function.

There is a decent amount space in the rear and the seat backs fold down. It's not a flat space but still useful.

The sedan has 445L of boot space, the hatch has less (413L) but it's more usable and the wagon has 686L.

On the road

The design and equipment updates, while they won't rock anyone's world, still gave us a reason to get back in Australia's only locally made small car.

Holden didn't do a regular launch, so we grabbed the car with the most changes, the SRi V.

Even with all the tweaks, it is getting on a bit, but is still enjoyable.

The SRi V, though sporty, is not a performance model and will never compete with the likes of a Ford Focus ST.

It costs a lot less and expectations should be set accordingly.

One of the changes that could make a big difference in the Australian summer is the automatic start that allows you to fire up the car before you get in and give the aircon a head start.

Just being able to drop a car's windows remotely helps a lot on a hot days, so this feature should be even better.

Australian engineers have done some good chassis work to the local Cruze

However, our test Cruze was a manual and the feature is fitted only to autos.

The interior is familiar and is looking a little dated, especially the old-school instrument cluster graphics.

The touchscreen works well and allows you to stream songs through the Pandora app.

The updated leather-suede seats look good and the heater function will be heaven-sent in a few months in states where the mercury drops.

Australian engineers have done some good chassis work to the local Cruze. It handles well but it is not as sharp as the Mazda3, VW Golf or Focus.

Still, you can have a bit of fun through the twisty bits thanks to a suspension setup that is on the firm side but compliant enough to maintain comfort levels.

The steering is still quite vague. The test car's turbo 1.6 was a lot more fun than the slightly underdone 1.8.

You might have to wait on occasions for the turbo to cut in but it is generally strong and fun to use.