Holden: Cruze control

By Jacqui Madelin

GM IS poised for Chapter 11 although its international subsidiaries are largely doing just fine. Holden is healthy despite the loss of the Pontiac brand, which led to production cuts at GMH factories. But even a flourishing GM arm may not be safe from the auction block when assets are for sale.

Still, it's not all bad news. Cruze arrives at a time when the brand needs small cars. It's proof that at last GM Daewoo has matured.

What's new
Pretty much the lot. Cruze is the first car to use GM's new small-car architecture, which will also underpin the next Astra. This is an all-new body, with materials, fit and finish designed to appeal to the most exacting markets.

That meant various GM regions flying regularly to Korea to provide mentoring and feedback throughout a process involving 27 months of development, US$4 billion in investment, and 221 prototypes driving over a million test kilometres in countries as diverse as Sweden, the US, UK, China and Australia.

The company line
"I don't think anyone who walks into a dealer wants to buy the smallest, strangest car they see," says GMH managing director Mark Reuss, explaining Cruze must supply compelling reasons to sell over other cars.

What we say
Fortunately it does, for Cruze is rather good. That nuggety design is attractive, the interior nicely constructed, pleasantly designed and benefiting from a few well-thought-out quirks, such as the fabric dash panels for the base CD model.

There's a 104kW/176Nm 1.8-litre petrol engine, or a 110kW/320Nm 2.0-litre common rail diesel with a variable geometry turbo, an intercooler and a particulate filter. Either engine arrives in manual or six-speed auto format.

All variants offer a generous specification, with ABS brakes, ESP and six airbags as standard and part of the car's five-star crash test rating.

The base CD is available in petrol or diesel, auto or manual priced at $27,490 to $32,990. Meanwhile, the top-spec CDX, available in petrol auto only, adds the likes of rear park assist, leather seats and auto headlights at $31,490.

On the road
Our launch drive wasn't sufficiently demanding to properly judge handling, although the ride proved compliant.

The 1.8 is a tad asthmatic with a slow response to the auto, but the relaxed performance is unlikely to upset entry-level buyers, who will appreciate the extra pep supplied via the six-speed transmission (take note, the more relaxed four-speed auto Kia Cerato).

The best of the breed is clearly the diesel, which revels in plentiful torque and is especially well-matched to the five-speed manual.

Why you'll buy one
It's got a Holden badge; it holds up well against the mainstream small-medium competition; design and specification look good at this price.

Why you won't
You can't wait until the July on-sale date or you might want something sportier.

- Herald on Sunday

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