Cruze holden its own in wag­onworld

Holden’s small wagon jumps up the queue thanks to Aussie in­put. NEIL DOWLING re­ports

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE -

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

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