Cruze wagon: one man’s dream

This car could be called Peter’s Baby. ROB MAETZIG tells the story of the Holden Cruze Sport­wagon.

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

Holden’s Cruze Sport­wagon might not be built in Aus­tralia like its sedan and hatch­back sib­lings, but at least it was con­ceived in Melbourne. In fact it could be said that the fa­ther of the wagon is for­mer Holden New Zealand man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Peter Ke­ley. He’s now di­rec­tor of sales for Gen­eral Mo­tors-Holden, and a few years ago when it was con­firmed that the Cruze sedan and hatch would be as­sem­bled at the com­pany’s El­iz­a­beth plant in Ade­laide, he de­cided that a wagon should also be de­vel­oped. His rea­son­ing was that since medium-sized wag­ons re­main pop­u­lar in Europe as well as in Aus­trala­sia, an Aus­tralian-built Cruze wagon could prove a pop­u­lar ex­port and there­fore help pro­vide an im­proved re­turn on the in­vest­ment re­quired to set up the Cruze assem­bly op­er­a­tion at El­iz­a­beth. At that time Gen­eral Mo­tors had an Asia-Pa­cific Strat­egy Board based in Shang­hai, which met monthly and had a pol­icy of hold­ing one or two of th­ese meet­ings some­where in the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion. One of the meet­ings was sched­uled for Melbourne, and Peter Ke­ley was asked to pro­vide an up­date on the sta­tus of a justap­proved plan to build the Cruze sedan and hatch in Aus­tralia. He de­cided the meet­ing would be a per­fect op­por­tu­nity to push his idea for a wagon, so he asked GMH’s de­sign depart­ment to Pho­to­shop what such a ve­hi­cle might look like. He then pre­sented the im­ages to the strat­egy board along with his idea that it could be built in Aus­tralia for both do­mes­tic and ex­port sales. Not much was said at the meet­ing, but a week or two later Ke­ley was re­quested to send the im­ages to Shang­hai. Within a cou­ple of months a busi­ness case for the wagon was de­vel­oped and ap­proved – but it was also de­cided that the ve­hi­cle should be built in South Korea to take ad­van­tage of a pend­ing free-trade agree­ment be­tween Korea and the EU. So the good news was that Peter Ke­ley got his Cruze wagon, but the bad news is that it wasn’t go­ing to be built in his home coun­try. How­ever it is now on sale in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, so at least we get to see the re­sult. And what does Peter’s baby look like? My opin­ion is that the sportswagon is eas­ily the best­look­ing of the Cruze fleet. Its longer roofline flows back to a smooth rear end that is quite Euro­pean in its looks, and a pro­nounced char­ac­ter line runs down the ve­hi­cle’s flanks to lozenge-shaped tail-lights. The Holden Cruze sedan is a good­look­ing car, and the hatch is quite good too, even though in some re­spects it does look a lit­tle like an af­ter­thought. But I don’t think ei­ther of them hold a can­dle to the wagon’s ap­pear­ance. Ob­vi­ously I have no idea how close the fin­ished prod­uct is to the de­sign orig­i­nally Pho­to­shopped by the Holden de­sign­ers in Melbourne. But the fact the Asi­aPa­cific Strat­egy Board al­most im­me­di­ately took on board that orig­i­nal con­cept, speaks vol­umes about the de­sign skills of the GMH team at Fish­er­men’s Bend. Three ver­sions of the Cruze Sport­wagon are avail­able in New Zealand, all of them with six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sions. At the en­try CD spec­i­fi­ca­tion there is a 1.8-litre petrol model for $33,400 and a 2.0-litre turbo diesel for $38,400, and there is a sin­gle CDX model pow­ered by the 1.8 petrol engine, re­tail­ing for $36,000. I’ve been driv­ing the CDX, which is very well spec­i­fied for its price. Over and above what’s aboard the CD mod­els, this wagon gets leather trim, heated front seats, cli­mate con­trol air­con with au­to­matic de­frost, 17-inch al­loys, and front foglamps. Nat­u­rally the big dif­fer­ence be­tween this car and the sedan and hatch­back are that it has the ex­tra load space at the rear. The hatch of­fers 413 litres of space with all seats in use, the sedan has 445 litres, and the wagon has a quite ca­pa­cious 686 litres and – yay! – it can take my golf clubs side-on. When the rear seats are folded down, this in­creases to 1478 litres. A very good de­sign el­e­ment in the rear load area is slots on ei­ther side of the in­te­rior that raise the height of the ton­neau cover so larger loads can con­tinue to be hid­den from view. Up front, the Cruze Sport­wagon is iden­ti­cal to the sedan and hatch ver­sions. I’ve al­ways en­joyed the in­te­rior en­vi­ron­ment, which is a good mix of plas­tics and pseu­doal­loy de­tail­ing. So as a wagon, this new Cruze is an ap­peal­ing car and the Holden peo­ple in Aus­tralia – es­pe­cially Peter Ke­ley – can con­grat­u­late them­selves for cre­at­ing a very good ad­di­tion to the Cruze fleet. What isn’t so ap­peal­ing is the ve­hi­cle’s pow­er­train, how­ever. Maybe I should re­fine that a lit­tle - what isn’t good is the 1.8-litre petrol engine un­der the bon­net of the CDX. The engine knocks out 104 kilo­watts of power and 175 new­ton me­tres of torque, which re­ally isn’t suf­fi­cient. This is par­tic­u­larly so when it is con­sid­ered that all the Aus­tralian­built Cruze sedans and hatch­backs have been facelifted, and this ex­er­cise has seen a tur­bocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine added to the se­lec­tion. Mean­while the wagon is stuck with the 1.8, and even though the ve­hi­cle’s six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion works hard to ex­tract the best out of it, over­all per­for­mance has to be con­sid­ered mod­est at best. That’s a real pity, be­cause in ev­ery other re­spect this wagon re­ally is the best of the Cruze fleet.

Good look­ing: Holden Cruze Sport­wagon.

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