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by Daniel DeGasperi

Local engineers have been busy re-engineering the Holden Cruze, which will be heavily upgraded in March 2013 – launching neatly between the VF Commodore’s reveal in February and on-sale date in April.

A Holden spokesperson confirmed to CarAdvice that the Cruze will get a reworked 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, a “higher performance” variant with a powered-up turbo engine, and a suspension tune (again) revised by local engineers.

The Cruze will also pick up the revised exterior and interior previewed by the Chevrolet Cruze (pictured) at the Paris motor show in September.

The Cruze’s 1.8-litre Ecotec four-cylinder dates back to the 1998 TS Astra, but was revised with variable valve timing for the 2007 AH Astra update.

Acknowledging that the ageing 103kW Ecotec struggles to compete with rival engines, the spokesperson said engineers have “reworked the valve timing system and cylinder head” for the 1.8-litre to help breathe new life into the entry engine.

At the other end of the Cruze range, a higher-performance variant will debut, featuring a more powerful turbo engine. Apparently, Holden engineers found they could do “a lot of things with that [engine design]” to increase power and torque beyond the current car’s 103kW and 200Nm.

The spec level will likely top the current SRi-V flagship, a warm rather than hot hatch, priced from around $32K.

A true hot hatch version of the five-door Holden Cruze still seems unlikely, after Holden boss Mike Devereux dismissed such a plan in 2011.

Meanwhile the new cabin (shown below) will on flagship models feature a seven-inch touchscreen entertainment system, dubbed MyLink. The system will be rolled out on GM products worldwide – firstly on the Barina CDX launched today, probably in the VF Commodore early next year, and definitely with the all-new Malibu mid next year. The MyLink system works like a smartphone, using third-party ‘apps’ to control music and navigation options.

Early next year, the ‘Pandora’ application will be launched, which connects to an internet-equipped smartphone via a Bluetooth connection to stream online music to the car’s speakers. Pandora allows users to select a song from its expansive online playlist, then provides the option of automaticaly creating a playlist based on the user’s music taste.

The sytem is free, but a 40 second advertisement is played after every four songs. Holden estimates that based on two hours usage per day, a “worst case scenario” is that Pandora will use 1.5-2Gb of smartphone internet data per month.

Other apps currently available include Stitcher, a simpified version of Pandora that offers internet radio stations and podcasts, BringGo, a satellite navigation app, and Siri, which uses the car’s Bluetooth microphone to ‘answer’ a driver’s questions – GM will work with Apple to integrate the iPhone-derived Siri into its MyLink system.

The changes will form the last major upgrade for this first-generation Cruze, which launched in 2009. GM’s global small car will enter its second generation in 2015, which is confirmed to be produced in Australia.

It will finally pension off the 1.8-litre Ecotec – the new model will provide the opportunity to engineer new drivetrains – and will need to take Holden through until 2022, the date after which the continuation of its local manufacturing operations must again be renegotiated with the Australian government.