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by Matt Brogan

Who will win the battle for diesel supremacy?

When it comes to buying a decent small to mid size diesel car, it’s slim pickings at this end of the price scale, but with the recently released Holden Cruze throwing the metaphoric cat – or is that lion – among the pigeons, we thought we’d pair this newcomer against the ever popular Ford Focus this week to see which comes out in front.

If you were to base this comparison on looks alone, those unfamiliar with the two cars tested may already have this one settled, for to the uninitiated, the facelifted LV Focus could quite easily be mistaken for the recently superseded model – and therein lies a problem.

You see as good as Focus is, Holden’s all-new Cruze has set the bar rather high when it comes to aesthetics by offering potential buyers a more modern, and ergo, more appealing car visually both inside and out.

Now that may seem a little shallow, but as looks do play heavily on a potential buyer’s psyche, to be seen driving something that is deemed to be “out-of-date” by one’s peers could mean Cruze already has half the battle won.

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Upon delving in to vehicle specification levels however we can clearly see that Focus offers more equipment without even opening the door.

For starters there’s front and rear fog lamps plus stylish 16-inch alloy wheels, and with Holden not offering its suave up-spec CDX in diesel format, it would seem Ford has this part of the argument pretty well sewn up.

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Inside too it’s a similar case, though perhaps not as obviously so, with both vehicles offering remote central locking, full trip computer, power windows and mirrors, tilt/slide adjustable steering column, CD tuner with auxiliary input and steering wheel mounted remote controls, and cruise control while Cruze picks up the added bonus of dusk sensing headlamps.

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On the ergonomics front, much of the lay out will come down to personal preference, but I’ve got to say I am a big fan of the driving position offered in the Cruze with its more “legs forward” approach allowing you to sit deeper in the car, rather than feeling you’re simply sitting on a chair.

Availed space too is won by the Cruze with front headroom (999mm Holden/998mm Ford), front legroom (1074mm Holden/1058mm Ford) and rear legroom (917mm Holden/908mm Ford) measurements all favouring the new kid on the block.

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Boot space too is won by the Cruze (400 litres Holden/385 litres Ford) while additionally both cars do allow the convenience of 60:40 split fold rear seats, even if at the moment Cruze doesn’t come in a hatchback variety.

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Ride quality too is an interesting one with Cruze being a little firmer than the Focus, but at the same time, quieter, meaning choosing the best cabin for you will mean finding where your priorities lie. For me, the quieter cabin came up trumps.

As for what’s under the bonnet, it’s even closer again, especially in terms of outright performance with both cars featuring a 2.0-litre, common-rail, turbocharged, four-cylinder diesel engine, both of which are identical in terms of torque delivering 320Nm at 2000rpm.

The Cruze does however just pip the Focus in terms of power managing an additional 10kW at the same engine speed (4000rpm).

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Now you could be forgiven for thinking that this would mean the Cruze is the quicker of the pair, but given the additional 50kg on board, the truth of the matter is that the two cars are actually near identical when it comes to the all important 0-100km/h. The final results – Focus: 9.4 seconds/Cruze: 10.0 flat.

As for fuel economy though, the battle is fought a little more fiercely with the Ford easily winning in real world driving conditions, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact we were testing an automatic Focus against the traditionally more economic manual Cruze.

Despite Holden’s claims of 5.7 litres per 100km during ADR testing, our 1000km week of mixed highway and city driving could not return a result any better than 6.8 litres per 100km, while the Ford, with its claim of 5.9 litres per 100km, returned a result much closer to the mark with a 6.1 litre per 100km final reading.

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In terms of handling, again it’s neck and neck, and to be honest there’s not too many buyers out there that are really going to drive a small-mid size diesel to the limit, but in case you’re wondering I’ve given this one to the Focus, by a nose.

Holden have done a wonderful job in setting the Cruze up for Australian conditions, and as a day-to-day car it is excellent. But when it comes to hanging on by your toe nails the Focus, with its multi-link rear end (as opposed to Holden’s torsion beam arrangement), just feels that little more confident and settled through challenging sections of winding road.

Should you come unstuck however it would seem you’re equally well protected in either vehicle with both offering dual front, side and curtain airbags, ABS braking with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist as well as the reassurance of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Traction Control.

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So based on what we’ve covered so far you could reasonably conclude that the pair are fairly evenly matched, and give or take a few personal preferences on driving style, I’m inclined to agree.

But there is a rather large elephant in the room that has, until now, been ignored – and that’s the all important question of price.

At some $4300** cheaper the pendulum has swung in favour of the Cruze making it not only our winner, but the clear choice for any buyer chasing honest, value for money diesel motoring.

*Pricing shown is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturers.

**Based on manual transmission pricing of $23,990 for the Holden Cruze and $28,290 for the Ford Focus.

Models Tested:

  • 2009 Ford LV Focus TDCi; 2.0-litre; six-speed automatic; hatch – $30,290*
  • 2009 Holden JG Cruze CD; 2.0-litre; five-speed manual; sedan – $23,990*

Ratings (Ford Focus TDCi):

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Ratings (Holden Cruze CD Diesel):

CarAdvice Overall Rating: rating11.gifrating11.gifrating11.gifrating11.gif
How does it Drive: rating11.gifrating11.gifrating11.gifrating_half.GIF
How does it Look: rating11.gifrating11.gifrating11.gifrating11.gif
How does it Go: rating11.gifrating11.gifrating11.gifrating11.gif

Road Test the Rivals:

Specifications (Ford Focus TDCi):

  • Engine: 1997cc DOHC four-cylinder 16-valve
  • Power: 100kW @ 4000rpm
  • Torque: 320Nm @ 2000rpm
  • Induction: Turbocharged & common-rail
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Driven Wheels: Front
  • Brakes: Discs with ABS, EBA & EBD
  • Top Speed: Not tested
  • 0-100km/h: 9.4 seconds
  • CO2 Emissions: 157 grams per kilometre
  • Fuel Consumption: 5.9 litres per 100km (ADR combined)
  • Fuel Consumption: 6.1 litres per 100km (As Tested)
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 53 litres
  • Fuel Type: Diesel
  • ANCAP Rating: Five star
  • Airbags: Front, side & curtain
  • Safety: ESC with Traction Control
  • Spare Wheel: Space saver
  • Suspension: Strut (F)/Multi-link (R)
  • Cargo Capacity: 385 litres
  • Tow Capacity: 1000kg (Braked)
  • Turning Circle: 10.7 metres
  • Warranty: Three year/100,000 kilometre
  • Weight: 1458kg (tare)
  • Wheels: Alloy 16 x 6.0-inch

Specifications (Holden Cruze CD Diesel):

  • Engine: 1991cc DOHC four-cylinder 16-valve
  • Power: 110kW @ 4000rpm
  • Torque: 320Nm @ 2000rpm
  • Induction: Turbocharged & common-rail
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual
  • Driven Wheels: Front
  • Brakes: Discs with ABS, EBA & EBD
  • Top Speed: Not tested
  • 0-100km/h: 10.0 seconds (claimed)
  • CO2 Emissions: 149 grams per kilometre
  • Fuel Consumption: 5.7 litres per 100km (ADR combined)
  • Fuel Consumption: 6.8 litres per 100km (As tested)
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
  • Fuel Type: Diesel
  • ANCAP Rating: Five-star
  • Airbags: Front, side & curtain
  • Safety: ESC with Traction Control
  • Spare Wheel: Full size
  • Suspension: Strut(F)/Torsion Beam(R)
  • Cargo Capacity: 400 litres
  • Tow Capacity: 1200kg (Braked)
  • Turning Circle: 10.9 metres
  • Warranty: Three year/100,000 kilometre
  • Weight: 1506kg (tare)
  • Wheels: Steel 16 x 6.5-inch





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