Road test: Holden Cruze SRi-V is tech-savvy
MY three-year-old can navigate her way through an iPad with the dexterity of a heart surgeon.
Her little fingers barely able to peel a banana can open and shut apps with blinding speed, she can zoom in and out of photographs easily and hopping from one program to another is, well, child's play.
Her prowess is not only indicative of a generation that seems to have been born to toggle but is also reflective of how large a part technology now plays in our world.
Holden has embraced our seemingly insatiable need for state-of-the-art, equipping the new-model Cruze with the MyLink infotainment system, a marvellous piece of technology that it hopes will separate its car from the chasing pack.
The system features two pre-installed apps Stitcher and Pandora that can be paired with an Apple or Android smartphone to deliver a range of music and radio stations using your mobile's data connection.
Pandora is essentially a music streaming program and gives you access to millions of songs while Stitcher works like an AM radio allowing the driver to choose from more than 15,000 shows from broadcasters like the BBC, Fox and CNN.
Navigation is via a 17.7cm LCD screen or steering wheel controls and it is likely that future apps will also deliver weather and traffic information.
Aside from the MyLink system which takes pride of place on the touch-screen, the interior of the Cruze remains largely unchanged.
Everything is pretty functional with the buttons and dials you are likely to use most often within easy reach but hard-touch surfaces still abound and the trim and fittings are far from exciting.
Seats remain fairly comfortable but still a bit flat for our liking although it is hard to find fault with the legroom on offer.
The Cruze is one of the most spacious small cars around with both front and back-seat passengers treated with equal generosity.
There is adequate storage for water bottles and books and all the paraphernalia kids love to travel with and the boot is a sizeable 445 litres increasing to 1254 litres with the second row folded. While the boot is deep enough to easily deal with a couple of large suitcases, the opening itself is quite narrow so loading bulky items is quite tricky.
On the road
Our SRi-V test car houses the Cruze's new 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine and delivers a lusty performance with a distinctly sporty edge.
The six-speed auto transmission has been greatly improved with the adjusted shift points making those sharp intakes of breath and endless droning that characterised the progress of the previous model up inclines a thing of the past.
The suspension on the new Cruze line has been specifically tuned for Australian conditions and the addition of a Watts link to the rear set-up of the SRi-V definitely gives it greater precision when cornering.
There is now a feeling of sure-footedness and better ride comfort which is in part due to the change from Kumho to Bridgestone tyres. Grip is better, so are the brakes and performance is more purposeful and enjoyable. The electric power steering is a bit lacklustre especially for a sports model but generally the overall feeling is one of satisfaction.
What do you get?
Holden has traditionally been quite generous with the Cruze matching Korean and Japanese rivals for inclusions. Standard fare across the range is excellent with the SRi-V also getting sat nav, 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and push button start, climate control, leather seats with the front pair heated, sports body kit, reverse camera and sensors as well as the MyLink system with Siri eyes-free integration.
Safety remains largely the same with five-star ANCAP rating coming courtesy of six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist and a host of other active and passive features.
With more than 30 models in this segment under $30,000, competition is fierce and there is little room for error if you wish to stay in the top five. The Cruze's biggest threat comes from the Toyota Corolla (from $19,990), Mazda3 (from $19,990 drive-away at the moment), Ford Focus (from $20,290) and Hyundai i30 (from $20,990).
The Cruze's appeal transcends buyer groups as it can satisfy the needs of single, couples, older drivers and growing families. It is roomy, well-built and comes with a range of up-to-the-mark technological inclusions. There are some things that annoy like a few blind spots, the boot opening, a tyre repair kit rather than an actual tyre as standard but it looks and feels modern and the drop in prices to match competitors will increase its popularity.
The official figure for the 1.6-litre turbo petrol is 7.9 litres/100km with the manual faring slightly better at 7.4L/100km. Our test car proved much thirstier using about 9L/100km and even if you put that down to shorter trips it remains quite dear for a small car.
Holden offers a three year/100,000km warranty and three years/60,000km capped price servicing for the first four scheduled services at $185 for the petrol and $335 for the diesel.
For the most part the exterior of the Cruze has remained unchanged with the same trademark Holden grill and sculptured lines that made its predecessor quite a sharp looker. There are three new colours - Regal Peacock, Fan Tale and Prussian Steel - with the SRi and SRi-V sports showing off striking exhaust tips.
What matters most
What we liked: Sporty engine, improved transmission and ride quality and MyLink system.
What we'd like to see: Fewer variants, funky interior.
Warranty and servicing: Holden offers a three-year/100,000 kilometre warranty and three-year/60,000km fixed-price servicing.
Model: Holden Cruze SRi-V.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive small sedan.
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol generating maximum power of 132kW at 5500rpm and peak torque of 230Nm at 2200rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed auto or six-speed manual
Consumption: 7.9 litres/100km (combined average); 7.4L/100km (manual).
Bottom line: From $28,6990 (manual at $26,490).