The wagon version of the Holden Cruze is much like buying real estate - extra land costs more. The bigger footprint equates to around $25 a litre for the 80-litres of extra space the Sportwagon enjoys over the hatch.
The South Korean-built wagon is a stylish and well-appointed car but misses out on the 1.4-litre petrol engine available in the locally built cars that is the pick of the Cruze powerplants.
The wagon is a $2000 premium over comparable sedan and hatch models. Cargo space is a solid 500 litres and all variants are fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The CD-spec car can be had with a 1.8-litre petrol engine for $25,790. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel adds an eye-watering $4000 to that price, making it $700 dearer than the higher-spec (but petrol only) CDX model.
Price and spec-wise, they are on par with their comparable rivals, including the VW Golf wagon and the Hyundai i30. Bluetooth with voice recognition is standard across the range, as is cruise control and iPod integration.
The CDX ditches the 16-inch steel rims in favour of 17-inch alloys, along with leatherette trim, heated front seats, climate control and foglamps.
Cruze owners won’t get any surprises with the exterior or interior fit out. GM has put some thought into the wagon’s tailgate, with the low load height and wide opening making it a smart choice for those who do need to lug a load. The auto transmission is well calibrated but if you can afford it, opt for the diesel - the 1.8-litre petrol engine propels the wagon at sedate speeds but inner-city stop-start driving won’t do it any favours.
It’s a stretched Cruze, which makes the officially small-sized car almost a mid-sizer. Cargo area is only 19 litres shy of the Mazda6 wagon. Rear seat leg and headroom is good for 180cm adults - they’re not going to be stretching out but they won’t be cramped. Inside and out, it looks and feels like a Cruze.
The same chassis rigidity, six airbags and software suite as its brethren earns the wagon a five-star safety rating. It earned a respectable 35.04 out of 37 in the crash-tests, which puts it at the pointy end of the small car class.
I like driving the Cruze and the wagon is no different. It is predictable, unpretentious and well balanced on the road. The petrol engine ensures it is far from a performance wagon but gives it enough mid-range urge to be a decent drive once it is underway. The six-speed auto flatters it by doing its best to keep it torqueing along.
It tends to grab a high gear when it can but will quickly kick back down on inclines or with a heavier application of the right foot. The steering is likewise decently weighted if not the most precise feel in this class and the brakes are solid. Like all Holdens, the airconditioning is strong and kicks in quickly, which is much appreciated at this time of the year. The controls are easy to work and understand and the seating/steering position is good for long stints behind the wheel.
Well-priced and well-optioned, the Cruze wagon is a good thing. A smarter petrol engine would make it a smarter choice, but it is still well-priced and featured against the opposition.
Holden Cruze Sportwagon
Warranty: three years/100,000km
Resale: 59 per cent (est)
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Crash rating: five stars
Safety: Six airbags, ABS, TC, ESC, EBD
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder, 104Kw/176Nm
Transmission: six-speed auto, FWD
Dimensions: 4.67m (L), 1.8m (W), 1.48m (H)
Weight: not available