HOLDEN’S Cruze range has done very well since it arrived, initially ex-Korea, not so long ago.
It came as a sedan with 1.8litre petrol or 2.0litre diesel power, and was after a little while joined by a 1.4 petrol turbo, a little cracker if ever there was one.
And just a few weeks ago, the same formula arrived in a homebuilt hatch form.
So hot are Cruze sales that it’s no secret they will overtake Commodore within a fortnight or so.
The diesel is probably the pick of the engine trio if you’re looking at torque and economy.
But today we’re looking at the 1.4, which, at 103kW, produces just one kiloWatt less than the bigger but less lively 1.8.
The little Euro motor, built in Austria, is a gem, churning out 200Nm from as low as 1850rpm, happy to rev and apart from providing sparkling performance, uses very little fuel.
The six-speed manual 1.4 iTi is capable of 6.4litres/100km, the auto 6.9/100km, but we often saw figures in the low 4s of “instant” fuel use on the easily-switchable onboard computer.
With a more than lively engine and an extra cog in the gearbox, the 1.4 also gets sporty treatment like 17-inch alloy wheels, a cleaner grille, body kit with a mini rear spoiler and, more importantly, a better rear suspension.
It comes with a Watts link, which adds extra stability through corners, sharpens the steering and puts a smile on the driver’s dial.
The new model comes in a choice of two, 1.4 iTi SRi and SRi- V, priced from $22,240.
Automatic six-speed transmissions are $2000 extra.
Our SRi had the auto shift, which brought its price up to just short of $25,000.
The top-ranging SRi-V, which adds heated leather-trim front seats, integrated sat nav, smart-start, a premium audio system and rear parking sensors, is about $450 more.
But we thought the test car was more than adequately kitted out.
There are lots of cup and bottle holders, an aux power socket, auto-on headlights, aircon, cruise control, a good audio system, six-way adjustable front seats and the usual electric driver aids: ABS, stability and traction control and a sextet of airbags.
An oddity is that the Cruze is classified as a “small” car. It has ample room and is about the same size inside as a Commodore of 25 or so years ago.
It scores a five-star Ancap crash rating and passes Euro 5 emissions regulations.
We were pretty impressed with the pace of our auto model, which, despite a rather weighty 1400kg, ran to 100km/h in 11.2 seconds.
The gearbox also has a manual sequential change mode, but it did a great job by itself in D and we were happy to just leave it there.
The car looks good, drives better and wants for nothing other than Bluetooth and a driver’s footrest.
If I had one I’d call it Penelope.
True Love said she’d rather call it Tom.