Holden Cruze

Cruze Missile

I’m not even sure GM thought this little thing was their best car. But I was still relatively polite about it for Alpha magazine. Wasn’t I?

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My relationship with the Holden Cruze went like this: irritation, hate, forgiveness, more irritation but less serious than before, love, but the kind of love a man has for good TV, and finally acceptance. Not a bad journey for a small car.

Yes, small car. Not the kind of thing a red-blooded Alpha reader normally wants to confront, but confront it he sometimes must. The car market in 2009 could be safely called “quite bad”, but small still sold. People are buying more little’uns, and Holden’s Cruze is the company’s offering in a growing market.

It’s also The Little Car That Wanted To Be Big. Most tiddlers accept what they are, but the Cruze “envelope” is somewhat larger than the competition, and more ambitious. Squint at it between your fingers and it could almost be a full-sized sedan. The only trouble comes when you want to drive it.

Even with the two-litre turbo diesel, the Cruze is a heavy thing to carry around. Especially when the gear ratios are set strangely high. I learned to keep the revs up and mentally turn first into second and second into third. Eventually.

Admittedly, my first drive was in heavy traffic, but still. Stall, swear, wrench with stupid little gearstick, swear, stall again, lurch, ram throttle through floor, stall, cry, hate… I got home drenched in sweat, my driving pride shattered.

But I did learn. This is a basic vehicle, and you live with its quirks. So what if I stamped on the accelerator at 38km/h in third gear and nothing happened? Nothing. N-o-t-h-i-n-g. Slip down a gear. Live with what you’ve got. I still had airconditioning, didn’t I? And cruise control, controls on the steering wheel … I even found a plug for my MP3 player.

After a few days, I’d moved towards forgiveness. The gear stick and I reached understanding. I only stalled twice an hour instead of every junction. I could cruise along a freeway quite comfortably and feel like I was in a car twice the price. I could more or less tune out that big diesel burble.

Then I got irritated again. Why couldn’t I park it? Ah, it’s because I couldn’t see out the back. In fact, visibility was a general complaint – all the windows and pillars were there, just slightly in the wrong place. Or maybe I just enjoyed thudding into the curb all the time. Nah, it is the visibility thing. Strange for a vehicle that is otherwise one of the safest things on the road: five-star crash rating, six airbags, stability control, the lot.

But I really should stop complaining. The driving position was comfortable, the steering fairly firm, handling pretty responsive. Happen to find yourself in the supermarket car park, and the boot will gobble everything you offer it. And best of all, it looks like a proper car, not like a hearing-aid or a toy. With the Holden Cruze, you’ll go through the emotions, but finally, there is acceptance.

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See this as a higher-res PDF:

CruzePDF