Other than sharing names, the Holden Cruze models introduced to Australia in June 2009 bear no relationship to the Holden Cruze 4WD sold here between 2002 and 2006.

The 2009 Cruze is a four-door sedan from South Korea, though it has a fair bit of Australian design in its style and also mechanically. Most Cruzes are built in Holden factories in Adelaide, though the initial imports came from a Korean factory.

For a supposedly small car, Holden Cruze is quite large and offers good leg and shoulder room for four adults. Three children plus mum and dad is a breeze in Cruze.

The Cruze sedan was joined by a five-door hatchback in November 2011. The revised rear end to create the body was virtually all done in Australia and is sold in many countries globally. A station wagon further increased the body options when it was introduced in January 2013.

As befits an (almost) local car Holden Cruze is powered by a variety of engines: a 1.8-litre petrol engine, a 2.0-litre, turbo-diesel and a semi sporty unit in the form of a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol. The latter comes with the bonus of a more sophisticated suspension setup and is much favoured by those looking for something out of the ordinary.

Buyers originally had a choice of a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, with the auto being the most popular. A six-speed manual is offered with the turbo-petrol and diesel models. During our testing we found the turbo-diesel engine to be noisier than average for this class, it also suffers from turbo lag. Changes to later cars made it slightly better, but try for yourself. Quality of fit and finish is good, inside and out.

Comfort is generally good and noise, vibration and harshness are well suppressed. Rough roads do challenge the suspension at times, but for its class Cruze is acceptable. There are Holden dealers just about everywhere in Australia, though you may not be able to get uncommon parts for the Cruze in remote locations. Generally parts can be shipped to the outback within a couple of working days.

Cruze is reasonably easy for the home handyperson to do routine work. As always, keep clear of safety items unless you really know what you're doing. Having a workshop manual at your elbow is always a smart move.

Insurance charges are a little lower than average for this class, reflecting the fact that a lot of components are made in this country. Premiums don't vary hugely from company to company, but it's still worth shopping around. Make sure you compare the fine print on what you're being offered.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

As mentioned, build quality is pretty good as Holden factories were really getting into their stride in challenging European and Korean quality. It still makes sense to have a full inspection by a professional, after making initial checks to the best of your ability.

Make sure the engine starts within a second or so of it turning over. Diesels are slower than petrols, but shouldn't take more than about three seconds to get up and running.

After running the engine on a light load for a few minutes floor the throttle and make sure it picks up with a minimum of fuss. Automatic transmissions should change gear promptly, and not hunt overmuch from gear to gear.

Look for uneven tyre wear, particularly on the front wheels. It could mean hard driving and/or that the wheels have been kerbed and knocked out of alignment. Check the interior for signs of harsh usage, particularly from bored little darlings in the back seat.

Look at the condition of the boot, also check the top of the rear bumper as it's sometimes used as a resting place for heavy items while the boot is being loaded.

CAR BUYING TIP

A good area to start inspecting a car is at the left-front wheel and tyre. That's generally the spot that gets thumped by those who didn't score ten out of ten during parking lessons. And who may not be good at driving either...