The not-so-little Holden Cruze sedan has been given a detox and a course of shots that would make a sports scientist blush, but the result is the drivetrain Cruze should have had much earlier.

The flagship Sri-V now nips in under the $30,000 mark - even with the extra $2200 for the six-speed auto variant - but it doesn't feel like a cheapened machine.

Value

The top-spec SRi-V auto asks for $28,690 and slots it in beneath or next to much of its competition from Europe, Japan and Korea.

The features list has been given the once-over and has sharpened up the value equation, particularly in light of the price drop south of $30K - leather trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with phone, cruise and audio controls) and gear selector, 18in alloy wheels (with 45-profile Bridgestone rubber), heated front seats, climate control, keyless entry and ignition, the MyLink infotainment system (see more below), Bluetooth phone and audio link are among the highlights.

Technology

The Cruze update benefits most from the addition of the 1.6-litre turbo four, now standard propulsion for the SRi-V sport model. Despite not having direct injection, the little forced-induction engine delivers - with some character - 132kW at 5500rpm, not long after the 230Nm of torque has made its presence felt between 2200 and 5400rpm.

The other half of the drivetrain equation is a well-matched six-speed auto that offers a handy and clever sport mode, as well as a manual shift mode - it does well with the power and torque, making good use of the beefy mid-range on offer.

A preview of the infotainment system coming to Commodore, the Cruze's MyLink set-up allows smartphone apps to be integrated into and controlled via the vehicle's 7in colour touchscreen and helm controls.

Internet radio apps (provided you have the network data capability and plenty of data allowance capacity), voice recognition, satnav and the iPhone Siri system are all among the features on offer, although you'll have to wait until mid-year for the last two as development is incomplete - the timing is linked to VF.

Design

The model update hasn't made wholesale exterior changes to the Cruze, which is not such a bad thing - the SRi V has the sports body kit and body-coloured bits that gives it a not-unpleasant exterior and a purposeful road stance.

Interior comfort and space are both above average for the segment, although the absence of rear vents is not ideal and neither are the thick A-pillars. Boot space is also good, with 445 litres of cargo space rising to 1254 litres when the rear backrest are folded - a neat trick that it's larger Commodore sibling is still unable to complete.

The Cruze is one of the few cars to get the power window lock right too - if the lock on the driver's door is engaged to prevent power window races in the back seat, then surely leaving the main power window control open to the driver makes sense? Not many vehicles allow this logical functionality.

Safety

Top marks from ANCAP has five stars on the little local, with six airbags, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and a reversing camera among the standard safety fare.

The rear camera - and this is a problem for many makers, not just Holden, gets obscured by road grime and water - only a handful of brands pop the camera out only when required, keeping the lens clear.

Driving

If you have even a moderate amount of interest in driving cars - and not just getting from door to door - then the Cruze is a worthy addition to the shopping list. Sitting on a locally-tuned sports suspension, the SRi-V does the mundane metro running without too much crashing and thumping along our sub-standard roads.

It's a sports model, granted, but the road manners are civil - it sits securely on the road, responding to changes in direction promptly and without complaint - it feels balanced and solid.

The 1.6 is a willing powerplant, enthusiastic in the same way as the 1.4 but backed by a little more substance, which probably translates to better fuel economy as it doesn't need as much throttle to achieve the same rate of departure.

Shoving the auto across the gate into Sport mode and the brains trust quickly shows itself to be clever enough to make redundant any manual change mode. Occupants get comfortable seating and useful levels of head and legroom, as well as a cargo area that's only 50-odd litres off the Commodore, so bootspace isn't an issue.

The turbo petrol engine, like its smaller petrol-drinking sibling, can suffer from a little substance abuse - blame the decent dynamics and the enthusiastic chassis demeanour - but given the higher servicing costs ($335!) and line-ball (only $500 cheaper than the SRi V) price of the 120kW/360Nm turbodiesel CDX sedan, the thirst is probably manageable.