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First Drive: Holden Cruze CD/CDX

By Phill Bertolus - 25/May/2009

Holden Cruze CD/CDX
Holden Cruze

Holden Cruze CD/CDX
European styling make the Holden Cruze
shine amongst it's competitors.

Holden Cruze CD/CDX
 The Holden Cruze small car is powered by
4-cylinder turbo diesel or petrol engines.

Holden Cruze CD/CDX
The Cruze has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

Holden Cruze CD/CDX
The interior is stylish and sporty.

Holden Cruze CD/CDX
Holden Cruze Global Development

Holden's new Cruze is an important car to the company during these troubled times. 50% of Holden's revenues were generated from exports. With the global financial crisis those export markets are drying up. "86% of the 50% were exports to the US" explained Managing Director Mark Reuss.

With the demise of GM's Pontiac brand, falling victim to the global financial crisis in the US, the local company believes its future lies increasingly with the small car segment.

Full pricing for the new Holden small car is:

Cruze CD 1.8-litre petrol manual $20,990
Cruze CD 1.8-litre petrol auto     $22,990
Cruze CDX 1.8-litre petrol man   $23,990
 Cruze CDX 1.8-litre petrol auto   $25,990
 Cruze CD 2.0-litre diesel manual $23,990
 Cruze CD 2.0-litre diesel auto     $25,990

Replacing export revenues from the V8 shod Pontiac G8 (Holden's rebadged Commodore SS) with the global Cruze car is Holden's aim. To that end the company intends to produce a hatchback variant of the Cruze in South Australia alongside the Commodore. This opens the door to restructuring Holden's product lineup and possibly even export opportunities.

Such an ambitious aim requires a fair degree of Australian engineering input to the globally designed vehicle. Holden's Australian engineering and design experts spent a significant amount of time at the international design centre for this car in Korea. And this is evident from driving the four versions on offer here in Australia.

Driving all four models of the Cruze during Holdens recent press day, first impressions are of a competent solid car bristling with state of the art technologies. While it's difficult to fully assess the cars after driving them for a mere 50km each, some obvious things do stand out.

Before starting off with the Cruze CD Diesel manual, I put Holden's claim of seating 5 adults to the test by sitting in the rear seat. I'm a 186 cm (6'1" on the old scale) adult and it's arguable that I can fit into the rear seats comfortably as my head touched the roof. From the outside of the car it's fairly evident that this is caused by the stylishly curved roofline. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 25% of males over the age of 18 are taller than 180cm (and 0.1% of females). Essentially, about 1 out 10 males will touch their heads too.

Settling into the driver's seat of the dual cockpit design was easy with all the various components adjusting to the appropriate place. The interior is definetly Holden.

Starting the engine revealed the unmistakable characteristic diesel rattle gently making its way through the heavy sound insulating layers liberally applied to this car. It's certainly not loud but ever present at idle.

Autralians don't buy diesel passenger cars in great numbers, but it is certain is that the proportion is growing, driven largely by the SUV class of vehicle where diesel technology has largely displaced the Otto cycle petrol drive train. Holden says the Australians buy diesels at the rate of about 10 to 15 percent. In contrast, European countries see the mix at 50-50. Furthermore, from a marketing perspective the diesel engine in Australia is a "boy thing". 

Well I'm in Australia, and I'm a boy, so why would I want one of these diesel propulsion units.

Firstly, from the moment you release the clutch on the manual Cruze, you feel the effortless acceleration delivered by the engine from such low revs. It's the sort of feel only considerably bigger petrol engines can produce with their higher torque. V8 drivers will be familiar with the sort of "grunt" this type of engine releases down low. The low noise levels contribute to the impression that the engine is hardly working. Being a manual this car promises to deliver astonishing economy. Holden claims 5.7 litres to the hundred.

Diesel "Common Rail Direct Injection" is a term bandied about by the marketing people. Well what is it and why do I want it? There are two principle advantages of the modern system. Reduced vibration/noise and no warm up. It also produces less pollution helping engines using it to pass stringent emmission standards. It's new technology because the computers used to control the injectors have only become fast and cheap enough in the last 10 years to allow multiple injections for each firing.

Obviously the cost of computer hardware is now so cheap, that previously expensive control units once found only in more expensive models are now becoming the province of "small" lower cost cars.

The Cruze is bristling with computers. Gone are the days of "the" ECU. This has evolved into a network of computers running on a LAN. Cruze is the first Holden product to use GM's proprietary network called the "Serial Data Electrical Architecture". Younger readers will know that their computers at school and university are all connected to the network (or LAN). Cruze uses the same concept with it's various computing units. Computers for ESC (Electronic Stability Control), ABS (Anti-Lock Braking), Engine management, gearbox control and body management all "talk" to each other via the LAN.

Some of the Holden Cruze's safety features, standard across the range, include:

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Traction Control (TC)
Anti-lock Brakes (ABS)
Brake Assist (BA)
Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
Six airbags including driver, front passenger, front side and curtain airbags
 Seatbelt retractor and lap pretensioners with seatbelt load limiters

The initial impression of Cruze diesel manual is pretty good. However, only a full road test can be really meaningful.

On paper the 1.8 petrol is capable of producing similar amounts of power to the diesel. Where the diesel manual is a superbly simple machine to drive due to its abundance of acceleration and torque at any engine revs, the petrol demands plenty of gear changes to ensure the engine is in the "power band". Other vehicles in the class offer larger capacity engines helping to ease the need to make so many gear changes.

The petrol auto is a quite different kettle of fish. This revision of the Cruze, with the aid of its auto transmission computer, transforms the engine. The 6 speed auto cog swapper shifts gears at a rate that would make Neo fighting hundreds of Agent Smiths in "The Matrix" proud. While it's difficult to tell after such a short drive, you can see that the transmission is juggling the requirements of an economical driving style with those of performance. Some might say the car has a "mind" of its own.

Finally the diesel auto. Available in the lower trimmed CD version, this car has an abundance of torque and an easy to drive 6 speed auto. Also the highest priced in the range Holden claims it returns excellent fuel consumption figures (6.8 litre/100km).

Related Links:
Holden 4-cylinder Small Car (2010)
Holden Ethanol E85 Commodore (2010)
Holden Sportwagon SS V (Road Test)
Holden AFM V8 + EcoLine (2009)
Holden Captiva Diesel (Road Test)
Holden Astra Diesel (Road Test)
Holden Commodore Diesel (2009)
Holden Calais V Sportwagon (Road Test)
- Holden Sportwagon (Road Test)
Holden Commodore Hybrid (2010)
Holden Coupe 60 Concept (2008)
Holden VE Ute: SS vs SV6 (Road Test)
Holden VE Ute (First Drive)
Holden Coupe 60 Concept (2008)

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