Cruze wagon: one man’s dream
This car could be called Peter’s Baby. ROB MAETZIG tells the story of the Holden Cruze Sportwagon.
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.