The small/medium market for cars in Australia is a fairly crowded one and Holden has always had a player, be it native or sourced from overseas, to vary degrees of success. The Holden Cruze is part of a global family, as most car people would know. A great example is the steering wheel, looking as if it’s been lifted straight from the Opel range. Joining the range recently has been the wagon, after a successful introduction (and for Aussies, a somewhat historic moment) of the hatch, the first small hatch since the beloved Gemini.
A Wheel Thing piloted the 2012 CDX Sportwagon and SRiV Hatch; 1.8L engine vs 1.4 turbo, six speed auto in both, grippy 17 inch Kumho tyres (wagon) or Goodyear (hatch), both at 215/50. The exterior is the first indication of the dual personalities; the sharp edged Cruze nose, complete with upswept eyebrows around the headlights, that’s been with us from the start versus a smooth, shapely, curvaceous rear with a corporate looking taillight cluster ala the new VF Commodore, for the wagon or a slightly odd, almost egg shaped hunchback for the hatch. It’s an oddly cohesive mix, strangely enough, for both, with a kicked up rear window line adding a measure of visual appeal for the wagon whilst the hatch has a gentle roll down from the roof line. The review cars came in the handsome metallic red, called Velvet, which sets off the lines of the wagon or plain white on the hatch, which somewhat fades the edginess from the front to rear, although the slightly more sporting bodykit does add a litle more visual appeal..
On the road the split personalities continue; the 1.8L engine is lethargic, unwilling below 3000 rpm, with peak torque just 176Nm at 3800 rpm, with the turbo lineball powerwise (103Nm @ 4900rpm) and 200 Nm of torque (1850rpm). Both are mated to a six speed automatic with a somewhat confused programming chipset, at low revs it’s never anything better than “meh”, being indecisive and unwilling to hold a gear under modest acceleration. Once wound up and in the right gear, the wagon, using the manual shift, the engine awakens somewhat as it heads towards peak power of 104kW @ 6200rpm. The hatch is marginally better; it’s never rapid nor sparkling but the difference is noticeable. The gearboxes in the test cars seemed to not be able to pick a gear under moderate accelaration and on the downchange would rev flare badly, dropping from sixth to fifth or fourth quite harshly and manually would take its own sweet time between changes. I’d recommend Holden check out the new Corolla for sweet manual changes with an auto box.
The wagon’s suspension seems to suffer from the same ailment; soft and soggy and times, hard and sporty at others, it was really hard to tell just which way the car wanted to be. On a curvy yet less than top quality surface it would be firm with tenacious grip from the 215/50 tyres, no understeer and felt tight, yet in a straight line and in a suburban environment would feel waffly, unsure. It’s almost as if they’re dual rate springs with quite a lot of initial rebound before tightening up at speed whilst being pushed hard into sharp corners while the rear felt as if it had bottomed out at times. The hatch, being the SRiV spec, was firmer, more positive,with a very light steering feel and tipped into corners a touch more eagerly. The SRiV has a Watts linkage (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watt%27s_linkage) rear which certainly helps the handling and tightens up for hard cornering. I do feel that the Kumho tyres would be better suited to the hatch though.
Thankfully the interior seems to be of a single mind; a reasonable layout for the dash, man made leather seat covers, comfortable and supportive enough, a decent cargo space and an admirable 1254 or 1478 litres with the rear seats folded (hatch vs wagon). The wagon had an issue with the front left electric window, with neither the main nor the door switch kicking the window into life whilst the hatch had an aircon failure, with none of the switches having any effect on speed or temperature. Plastics are ok to the touch, without much padding though, disappointingly. The driver’s view is clean and simple in both, with speedo and tacho split by two smaller dials for temperature and fuel. The centre console is a little busy but easier to follow than an Astra with the CDX having a simple LCD display whilst the SRiV has a full colour and larger screen, featuring satnav, a hard disk drive and the ability to “pause” radio broadcasts, much as you would with a HDD for tv. Naturally Bluetooth features for both, plus the SRiV has a better, bassier sound system. An interior downside is the wagon’s steering wheel column, the ignition barrel is too close to the right hand stalk and there’s barely an attempt to beautify the underpart of the column when the steering wheel (adjustable for rake AND reach, surprisingly) is pulled out, with a simple and not terribly attractive cloth. Thankfully the SRiV is keyless start with a small, nondescript button hidden by the steering wheel on driver’s left (not exactly user firendly nor ergonomic) plus buttons on exterior doorhandles. A safety feature, common nowadays, is the need to plant the foot firmly on the brake pedal, otherwise the computer will not close the circuit to allow ignition. Both cars also featured heated seats, a bonus with the lifeless feel of the seat coverings which are very cold to sit on during winter. Rear vision for both is ok, with the hatch seeming to be a little compromised due to teh rake of the rear window.
The CDX Cruze Sportwagon is not a synergistic car; a lacklustre engine, an unsure gearbox butts up against a chassis that is both sporty and floaty while a sharp edged front leads to a curvy rear. The SRiV hatch ups the ante slightly but it too is hamstrung by the auto’s indecisiveness. With a freshened up range available for 2013/14, including a peppier 1.6L turbo and tidied up interior plus a sharper pricing strategy (see Holden for pricing for you) the 2012 Cruze CDX wagon and SRiV hatch are somewhat flawed dual personalities.