Circle the small wagons

By David Linklater

Hyundai and Holden both offer stylish and well-equipped treat for fleet

If you can live with the higher price, the Hyundai i30 offers more sophistication and more powertrain choice.Photo / David Linklater
If you can live with the higher price, the Hyundai i30 offers more sophistication and more powertrain choice.Photo / David Linklater

So you've opened a small business and you're doing well? Congratulations. If you're sensible you'll be thinking about sales projections and financial planning for the next 12 months. Here at Driven, we'd more likely be focused on which brand-new small wagon this thriving business will be buying.

Small estates seem to come and go in New Zealand. Fifteen years ago they were big business, but then they seemed to fade away as crossover wagons rose to prominence. They're making another comeback now, as evidenced by the two on these pages: the Holden Cruze sportwagon and the Hyundai i30.

Both are stylish and rather well-equipped. It's tempting to say they'll appeal to private buyers, but the reality is that in these days of SUV-mania, small wagons are much more likely to be purchased as company cars. A treat for the fleet.

So let's get down to business: which of these two delivers the right stuff?

Both the Cruze and i30 come from places you might not necessarily expect. The Cruze is now well-established as an Australian-built model, but the wagon is sourced from Korea - one reason why it isn't locked into the recent Cruze sedan/hatchback facelift programme. The i30 range hails from Korea of course, but our wagon version comes from the Czech Republic.

Powertrain-wise the Cruze is on the back foot, for it only comes with the 104kW/176Nm 1.8-litre petrol four - the weakest engine in a range that also includes turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel powerplants for sedan/hatch. The i30 petrol is smaller-capacity and more modestly powered - a 1.6-litre with 88kW/156Nm - but it also offers the option of a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel with 94kW/260Nm. It's six-speed gearboxes all the way with these two: manual or automatic with the Hyundai, auto-only for the Holden.

But in some respects you get what you pay for: Cruze opens at just $33,400 for the entry CD sportwagon, rising to $36,000 for the top CDX. The i30 is a heady $37,990 for the entry petrol-automatic, topping out at $41,990 for the CRDi (turbo diesel).

Despite the prices, there's no i30 equivalent for the leather-upholstered Cruze CDX, although the Hyundai is by no means sparse: you still get seven airbags, Bluetooth and cruise control.

From the driver's seat, it's advantage i30. In petrol form, the Hyundai's powertrain has much more verve than the Holden's despite the power deficit. Some of the driver appeal comes from the i30's automatic gearbox, which is quick to respond and slick in its cog-changes.

The i30 gets the nod for handling, too: Hyundai's Flex Steer system (which allows you to choose different weighting) is a bit of a gimmick but the chassis package as a whole is more mature than the rival Cruze's.

But sports cars these are not - which is the most useful tool? Both have 60/40 split rear seats. The Cruze's backrests fold down to give a loadspace that's impressively long but not completely flat - there's a little rise as you go from cargo bay to backrest. The i30, on the other hand, has rear-seat squabs that fold forwards, meaning you get a properly flat floor.

In terms of ultimate space the Hyundai also has the edge: 528/1642 litres (seats up/down) versus 500/1478 litres for the Holden. There are nice touches in both: a novel tray across the leading edge of the cargo cover in the Holden, or the hidden compartment under the floor in the Hyundai. With different powertrain choices - perhaps the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol introduced for the Cruze sedan/hatch or even the diesel offered in Australia - this could have gone the sportwagon's way. Given the Holden's pricing and high style, we'd still understand if you thought the Cruze was the way to boost the image of your business.

But if you can live with the higher price, the Hyundai i30 offers more sophistication and more powertrain choice. It's our pick.

The bottom line:The Holden Cruze is by far the most handsome and best value, but the Hyundai i30 takes the prize for engineering excellence and superior practicality.

- NZ Herald

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