Cruze holden its own in wagonworld
Holden’s small wagon jumps up the queue thanks to Aussie input. NEIL DOWLING reports
WAGON and sports are words that are as compatible as salad and tasty.
But that hasn’t stopped many car makers, who insist that there’s sports-car performance in every station wagon they make. Holden follows suit.
The Cruze wagon is called a Sportwagon but its engine performance is as invigorating as diced cucumber.
But though the drivetrain is tame, the rest of the wagon is a real surprise and enough to elevate this car to one that every small wagon shopper needs to drive before laying down the cash.
VALUE: It’s not a bargain and it sits alongside some equally impressive wagon rivals — i30 at $24,990 and Golf at $29,490, for example— but I’d argue that it has some winning features. It’s a fun drive — bet that surprised you for a wagon — and has tempting ownership costs.
The service program for three years is a very reasonable $740.
Standard kit is also good with leather, heated front seats, alloy wheels, rear park sensor and a six-speaker iPod/USB audio.
A diesel version is only $750 extra and may be a better deal, though the three-year service cost is much higher at $1340.
DESIGN: The Korean-built wagon repeats the style of the Australian-made sedan and hatch but gets almost European with its neat tail.
Adding a longer back end hasn’t made the rear look bulky so the wagon retains the attractive lines of its siblings, much in the same way as the Golf wagon relates to the hatch version.
Cabin trim is nicely subdued and the use of leather will make owners with young children happy when it comes to cleanup time.
Clear instruments, a logical switchgear sequence and sufficient storage make this a workable family car, aided by the long boot.
TECHNOLOGY: Proof that Holden engineers are world class lies in how well this car handles.
Yes, the 104kW/176Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine is average but the rest of the chassis, the suspension and the steering are perfectly coordinated. So good, in fact, that they outweigh the unenthusiastic engine.
The Cruze also gets electric assist steering, all-wheel disc brakes and a six-speed automatic that smothers some of the engine sins.
There are also 17-inch alloys with a full-size spare and a voice-recognition Bluetooth function for the phone.
SAFETY: The wagon enjoys all the safety features of the sedan and hatch including a five-star crash rating, electronic stability and traction control, brake assist, heated mirrors and a rear park sensor and full-size spare.
DRIVING: The chassis is so good that it gets very close to negating the engine’s average performance.
It’s a welcoming car — one that fits well from the first time behind the steering wheel — that immediately impresses with its confident road holding.
Its nicely-weighted steering feel is a commendable effort for an electric-assist unit.
Great chassis balance masks inherent understeer — up to a point— making it a fun drive.
Ride comfort is generally tops and only shows some abruptness and clunks over rutted ground at low speeds.
The engine is a serviceable unit but feels technically deficient. No doubt it suits its citysuburban market.
It has very good low-speed response for quick acceleration but by the time the tacho’s showing 3500rpm the power is tapering and the engine noise is increasing. By 5000rpm you’d prefer to be somewhere else.
The six-speed auto does a decent job of shuffling the torque to the front wheels.
VERDICT: Great effort. The diesel may be a better buy. The sprightly 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine is sadly not available in the wagon.
The writer is on Twitter @cgdowling
Holden Cruze CDX Sportwagon is a must for every small wagon shopper to try out