Holden Cruze wagon: On the right road

By David Wilkins

Holden Cruze wagon - due in NZ early next year.
Holden Cruze wagon - due in NZ early next year.

UK writer David Wilkins drives the Chevrolet Cruze wagon, to be seen in NZ with the Holden badge next year.

Three years after it hit British roads, the Cruze is now nearly the car it should have been at the start.

It hasn't suddenly got better - there's always been a perfectly good car in there somewhere trying to get out - it's just that Chevy has finally got around to offering its successful mid-sized world car with the body styles and engines it needs to take the fight to rivals such as the Skoda Octavia and Hyundai i30 in Europe.

Early Cruzes were petrol-engined sedans.

That reflected the tastes of customers in the United States and the big emerging markets that would account for the bulk of the car's sales, but left the Europeans, who like diesel-engined hatches, out in the cold.

For a minority of more traditionally minded customers, the first Cruze models were quite a good choice, but they didn't really cater for mainstream tastes.

Things have got a lot better since then.

First there was a two-litre diesel, which was pretty quick. Later, a hatchback arrived, alongside a smaller, better 1.7-litre diesel.

Now, finally, there is a station wagon. That means the Cruze can fight on a much broader front against its obvious competitors, the Octavia and i30.

Driving and riding in the Cruze station wagon is much as you'd expect, because the car appears to be largely unchanged apart from the alterations to the rear bodywork.

I drove the top-of-the-range LTZ 1.7-litre diesel with sat-nav, and this was quite a bit smarter inside than some of the cheaper versions. These have an unusual expanse of woven fabric on the dash which looks surprisingly good in darker colours, but a bit odd in lighter shades.

The diesel works well but is perhaps slightly on the loud side. Solid, slightly unexciting but reassuring dependability is what this car is all about.

But the arrival of the hatchback and the station wagon versions does more than just give the Cruze an added helping of practicality.

The tail-gated pair are also a lot prettier than the rather staid sedan, and I suspect it is this, as much as their load-carrying ability, that will help push the Cruze into the mainstream.

The sedan, by the way, is now expected to fade away, at least as far as the UK is concerned, although Chevrolet will probably still sell you one if you really want it.

And why is the Cruze still not quite the car it could or should be, at least as far as the UK market is concerned? Well, European buyers have access to a wider range of engine options than their British counterparts.

We shouldn't really lose too much sleep about missing out on the 2.0-litre diesel, which isn't in the initial UK line-up but may come later - the 1.7-litre does a more than decent job anyway.

But there's also a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol that we won't be getting in the UK, at least not initially. Although it has a smaller capacity than the existing 1.6 and 1.8, it has better power, torque, performance and economy than either.

On the road, it's probably not quite as nice as the Volkswagen group's 1.2 and 1.4-litre TSI engines but it still does a good job; it has plenty of heft, and can support long gearing, which makes for relaxed cruising.

I understand the 1.4 turbo may still come to the UK - apparently it depends on whether Chevrolet can find a way to sell it at the right price and still make a profit.

The Cruze hasn't really set the world alight but most parts of the world like it and buy it in big numbers.

Now the station wagon has arrived, more UK buyers can be expected to join in.

- Independent

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