The speed with which the market dumped big cars for smaller ones caught Holden napping. 

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In an attempt to catch up the company rushed to Korea and signed up for a bunch of Daewoo models that were ill equipped for the Australian market.

Those first cars, the Barina, Viva and Cruze had build issues, they weren’t very refined, and they weren’t tuned to Australian conditions.

In the case of the Cruze many of those issues were addressed in the Australian-built car, which came in two body styles, a sedan and a hatch, with four models, and the choice of two petrol engines and a turbo-diesel.

Those downsizing from a Commodore might have found the Cruze a little cramped

The CD was the entry model, with the CDX the next in line with a longer features list, and then there were the sports models, the SRi and SRi-V.

Those downsizing from a Commodore might have found the Cruze a little cramped, but given it was a smaller car it was quite roomy.

There was decent room in the cabin for front and back seat passengers. The sedan also had a good-sized boot, but the same couldn’t be said for the hatch, which had a smaller boot that was made even smaller if you optioned the full-sized spare wheel.

The 1.8-litre petrol base engine wasn’t the most exciting. It was competent enough, but there wasn’t much in reserve when needed for overtaking or climbing hills.

In contrast the 1.4-litre turbo, with similar power to the larger non-turbo engine but 200Nm of torque was a relaxed driver whether in town or out on the open road. Not only did it perform well, but it also returned fuel economy numbers similar to the turbo-diesel engine.

The diesel was the best blend of performance and fuel efficiency of the lot, but it did bother some owners with its annoying turbo lag.

On the road the Cruze was poised on all road surfaces, its ride was comfortable, and its handling was agile and balanced.

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Opinion is divided on whether the Cruze is a great car or a dud, there’s little middle ground if you believe owners.

The majority of the owners we talked to were happy with their cars and reported few troubles, although a couple did report serious issues that clearly soured their experience with the car.

A regular complaint is a lack of performance from the 1.8-litre engine. If you want more zip go for the 1.4-litre turbo or diesel, both are better.

There are also reports of engines surging, so watch for that on your test drive. It could be caused by a faulty fuel-injector, something that owners occasionally report.

When checking under the bonnet look around the engine for oil leaks, they’re quite common.

Opinion is divided on whether the Cruze is a great car or a dud

Turbo-diesels that mostly do short trips can have trouble with the diesel particulate filter. The filter needs regular runs of longer distance at higher than crawling speeds to burn off the carbon buildup. If it doesn’t get the chance to clean itself you’ll have to take it to a dealer to do it, and that costs.

Complaints about automatic transmissions crop up reasonably regularly. When test driving your prospective purchase look for erratic shifting, or searching for gears that doesn’t seem normal. The fix is a new transmission, not an inexpensive exercise.

There are plenty of reports of things that would appear to be due to variable build quality, like electrical problems, air-conditioning leaks, squeaks and rattles.

Reports of high brake wear seem common, with owners reporting complete brake replacements being needed from as low as 30,000km.