Used car review: Holden Cruze

Holden's Cruze had a decent innings before its forced retirement in 2016. Making its debut in June 2009 (there was also a Cruze mini 4WD, 2002-07), the small sedan promised style, performance, safety and value in a "world-class small car".

It got off to a cracking start, surging into the sales chart top 10 with 25,000 examples shifted in its first 12 months.

Now the nameplate has disappeared along with local manufacturing. How does the Cruze stack up on the used market?

Not covered in glory, sadly. According to many Cruze owners you're really taking a punt on these sedans, then the hatches and wagons that followed.

Get a good one and it's fine to live with. You need to get lucky - plenty of owners have horror stories.

Holden Cruze: Sedans were first to arrive.
Holden Cruze: Sedans were first to arrive.

Any Cruze built before March 2011 came from South Korea and anecdotally the build quality of these didn't match the South Australian-built Series II Cruzes.

Even then, the Aussie-assembled Cruzes used many imported parts. Their engines and gearboxes came from Europe or Korea, - and it's the oily bits that have caused most issues.

Automatic transmission failures on Cruzes are woefully commonplace, costing thousands to replace, or more than older cars are worth.

Oil leaks, oil cooler cracks and blown head gaskets are often reported. A lengthy recall list on Cruzes suggest components used weren't up to scratch.

Early Cruzes can be had for about $4000 these days, and who knows, you may find a good one that was well screwed together and been well maintained. With so many bad owner experiences though, these Korean imports are hard to recommend.

Cruze hatch 2011: Sharp styling.
Cruze hatch 2011: Sharp styling.

At the 2009 launch you could have your Cruze as a petrol or diesel, manual or auto, and in CD or CDX grade. The diesels suffered serious turbo lag, while the petrol engine struggled for power.

On the positive side they were sharply styled, handled well, proved fuel efficient and had decent passenger space for the small car class. The safety rating was five stars.

CDX versions came with 17-inch alloys, cruise control, heated leather seats, rear parking sensors and audio controls on the leather-trimmed steering wheel.

The locally built Series II Cruze went on sale in late March 2011 with fresh styling and a new 1.4-litre turbo option.

Two new grades - sportier SRi and SRi-V - landed with impressive sports suspension, rear spoiler and, in the latter, satnav, smart key, 10GB hard drive audio and seven-inch colour screen.

The 2012 Cruzes arrived in November 2011 with a hatchback version joining the sedan. Range-wide all now featured Bluetooth connectivity. The body style line-up was complete by December 2012 with a Cruze Sportwagon CD and CDX, with 500L of boot space or 1500L with seats folded.

The sportiest Cruze launched in March 2013 with a lusty 132kW 1.6-litre turbo for SRi and SRi-V models.

Cruze CDX Sportwagon.
Cruze CDX Sportwagon.

At the entry level, the Equipe (replacing CD) now came with an improved suspension tune, alloys, fog lights, park assist, seven-inch screen and MyLink phone connectivity, while the rest also gained push button start and reverse camera.

In May 2014 the Cruze Z-Series replaced CDX and SRi-V models, adding fancy dark alloys and other style flashes.

Finally, a January 2015 facelift brought a new front with daytime running lights. The final model rolled off the line in October 2016.

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

With 13 separate recalls for 2009-16 Cruzes, make sure you check (productsafety.gov.au) that any Cruze you consider has up-to-date fixes.

With the most common and expensive problem being the automatic gearbox, check there are no dashboard warning lights and when testing one ensure all gears can be engaged easily and that the engine isn't "flaring" when you put your foot down. If there's a lot of noise and no speed increase, walk away.

Look for fluid leaks under the transmission and engine, which could also spell disaster, as can oil in the radiator coolant.

Cruze from 2009: Good passenger space for the class.
Cruze from 2009: Good passenger space for the class.

Cruze owners report many oil coolers have cracked, so check the radiator for brown spots in the coolant or a mayonnaise-type residue. An expensive blown head gasket is likely here.

Among the raft of different problems are electrical issues with the ECU and windows, aircon failure, brake rotors prematurely wearing or even failing, coil pack failure (the engine will run rough and a warning light will come on) and turbo failure.

Unless you're a mechanical ace, get a trustworthy expert to check any Cruze before buying, such is the litany of potential dramas.

 

IAIN SAYS

1.5 stars

Holden sold lots of them but Cruzes have been plagued with problems. As a used buy, they're hard to recommend ahead of rivals such as the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30, which have far better reputations for reliability. If your heart is set on a Cruze, pick as late a model as you can afford, which hopefully will have some of its warranty remaining.

 

OWNERS SAY

L.B. Pearce: I wasn't impressed by my first Cruze, bought in 2009. I have had no problems with the second one, a 2013 model, which has done 57000km. I travelled all around Victoria, country and coast, with three adults and luggage and it never missed a beat. I run it on E10 and every fourth fill I use unleaded. It uses no oil. I am in my late 70s and I think this one will do me. The Cruzes are roomy with a good size boot.

2009 Cruze CDX: Rivals have far better reputations for reliability.
2009 Cruze CDX: Rivals have far better reputations for reliability.

Barry Garment: I bought a CD automatic diesel new in May 2010 and it has since travelled 107,000km. The vehicle has been reliable, comfortable and economical - it has more front seat space than the VSII Statesman it replaced. At 110km/h, the motor ticks over at about 1200rpm and returns about 6.0L/100km - economy around town rises to about 8.0L. It has ample power for safe overtaking and hilly country. The tyres lasted beyond 80,000km. The airconditioning compressor failed but was replaced at no cost by GM-H, despite the vehicle being a couple of months out of warranty. I have no plans to replace it.

G. Purdue: I bought a CDX in 2009. Fortunately we survived. It was the biggest piece of rubbish among the 17 cars we have owned. The interior was excellent but the cruise control nearly killed us on several occasions. It was thirstier than our motorhome, too - over the 12,800km before trade-in, we averaged 13.3L/100km.

 

EXPERTS SAY

Holden sold about 175,000 examples of the Cruze, both imported and locally built, before the Elizabeth plant closed. Among used listings, 90 per cent are petrol and more than three-quarters are automatics, with the base CD variant the most common.

The CD ($20,990 new) is valued at $6600 for a 2009 model in good condition with about 120,000km. A CDX diesel from that year ($29,990 new) is $9300.

In 2016, the base Equipe with 1.8-litre engine and five-speed manual gearbox cost $19,890 new, and is now $14,950. The SRi Z-Series for the same year ($29,340 new) is valued at $21,900.

On retained value, the 2009 Cruze narrowly trails the Toyota Corolla and Mitsubishi Lancer hatch, but outperforms the Ford Focus. Mazda3, Hyundai i30 and Volkswagen Golf all hold their value significantly better than the Cruze. The 2016 Cruze has depreciated quicker than all its small-car rivals.

 

HOLDEN CRUZE 2009-16

PRICE NEW $19,890-$29,990

2011 Holden Cruze hatchback.
2011 Holden Cruze hatchback.

SAFETY 5 stars

ENGINES 1.8-litre 4-cyl, 104kW/176Nm; 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 120kW/360Nm; 1.4-litre 4-cyl turbo, 103kW/200Nm; 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 132kW/230Nm

TRANSMISSION 5 and 6-speed man, 6-speed auto; FWD

THIRST 5.6L-7.9L/100km7

News Corp Australia


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