The providence of Holden Cruze, Holden’s last locally built small-segment family car, is both patchy and confusing. Firstly, it’s not to be confused with the pint-sized Suzuki Ignis-based 4×4 of the Noughties, despite having an identical name with identical spelling…
No, what kicked off as global GM vehicle arrived Down Under in 2009 as a Korean (Daewoo) sourced sedan, before being manufactured at Holden’s Adelaide plant, from 2011, in both four- and five-door-hatch guises. It was joined by a wagon version between 2012 and 2016, though this version arrived on the boat from Korea.
The (rebooted) Cruze arrived to supplant the unloved Opel-sourced AH Astra and woeful Viva. When local production ceased, in 2016, ‘our’ Cruze was replaced by a Euro-sourced ‘PJ’ Opel Astra hatch and Korean-made ‘BK’ sedan, both badged Astra, though the five-door would be sold as a Holden and as an Opel in the latter’s disastrously short-lived ‘blip’ in the local market. Not the best of days in the GM family, then…
With its Holden design DNA and quasi-Commodore styling, the initial, imported JG Cruzes offered a contemporary if conservative vibe with lot of space and decent equipment from little dough: the range kicked off at just $21k. Power came from a choice of a 104kW/176Nm 1.8-litre petrol four or essentially high-grade 2.0-litre turbodiesel good for 110kW/320Nm, either engine paired with a choice of five-speed manual or six-speed auto. All Cruzes are front drive.
The Korean JG Cruzes were all sedan, available in base CD or fruiter CDX trim levels, though all got cruise control, air con, six-airbag surety and solid enough safety credentials – for its time – to score a five-star ANCAP rating back in 2009.
The Cruze lifted its game when local manufacturing commenced in 2011, the generally improved JH ‘Series II’ range expanding with an Aussie-developed hatch version and a wider choice of improved powertrains and broader selection of variants.
Existing 1.8 petrols and 2.0 diesels were massaged – the oiler now 120kW/360Nm – but the range newcomer was a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol four good for 103kW/200Nm.
In the spirit of something for everyone, new variants surfaced in the fold, including price-busting (from sub-$20k) Equipe and fancy Z Series guises and couple of sport-spun versions in the SRi and SRi-V, both of which brought 132kW/230Nm 1.6-turbo motivation to the Cruze line-up in mid-2013 for MY14.
While reasonably friendly to drive, Cruzes of any variation fall a bit short of being genuinely fun to drive. Further, the earlier engine options are both gruff and somewhat underwhelming in urgency. Time hasn’t been terribly kind to Cruze’s particular cabin design spin, either. If you’re shopping for a solid attempt at upmarket motoring, best look elsewhere.
Though sedans and hatches were priced similarly at any given tier, it’s really the five-door liftback versions, with spacious boots offering easy load-through access, that make for the most practical and family friendly of the two body styles.
Unsurprisingly, the wagon offers superior 686-litre boot space expandable to nearly 1500L with the rear seats stowed, though these imports remained CD or CDX out of sync with the locally made sedan and hatch line-up, and the wagons weren’t offered with the more desirable turbo-petrol 1.4 or 1.6 engines. Still, not a bad option if you’re after pure utility on a budget…and preferably with the torquer and more frugal oiler.
Cruze depreciation is such that younger used examples in higher-grades make for a compelling entry point to contemporary motoring on a relative shoestring. The fresher Aussie-built stuff doesn’t carry a reputation for poor reliability the early imported versions do.
But how do they rate under the used car microscope? Read on to find out.