Brown land, green hope


DUSK is upon Border­town, a speck of a joint on the seem­ingly end­less A8 be­tween Mel­bourne and Ade­laide.

By the road­side, near a bil­l­abong, we’re tak­ing pho­tos of the first turbo diesel sedan made in a land that is, as we’ve seen over the past 500km, a wide brown one in­deed.

‘‘That must be an im­por­tant car for you to be takin’ pho­tos,’’ says a lit­tle old lady with a minia­ture dog.

Madam, you have no idea. The lo­cust-spat­tered, dirt-en­crusted Cruze Se­ries II is Holden’s clean, green hope.

As big car sales go ever south, the lo­cal Lion’s en­trant in the com­pet­i­tive and over-crowded small car class must be to the fore of the pack.

It needs to com­pete with Aus­tralia’s most pop­u­lar pri­vately bought car, the Mazda3, ap­proach the fleet vol­ume of Toy­ota’s Corolla and com­pare to the qual­ity and re­fine­ment of Volk­swa­gen’s Golf.

We’re driv­ing this early pro­duc­tion ex­am­ple of the Cruze Diesel (the ac­tual model name) in CDX trim from Holden’s HQ in Port Mel­bourne to its fac­tory in El­iz­a­beth north of Ade­laide. By the time we ar­rive, the first ex­am­ple of this car that you can buy will be rolling down the pro­duc­tion line.

Holden claims the diesel six-speed man­ual is the most eco­nom­i­cal Aus­tralian-made car, ca­pa­ble of 5.6 litres per 100km in ideal con­di­tions, about a litre bet­ter than the Se­ries I man­ual oiler and al­most half a litre less than Toy­ota’s Camry hy­brid.

Look­ing more than ever like a slightly shrunken Com­modore and han­dling very much like a front-wheel drive take on the old stal­wart, cruis­ing is the forte of this Cruze.

The 110km/h limit is held in sixth gear at less than 1800rpm. Air­con’ on, it re­turns 6.2 litres per 100km.

When we get to El­iz­a­beth, we’re al­lowed to drive a pris­tine, same-coloured ex­am­ple off the line.

So easy, so ami­able has our trip been, it’s more than slightly tempt­ing to drive out through the gates and all the way back.

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