2016 Holden Cruze SRi Z-Series Hatch review

$18,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    7.9L
  • Engine Power
    132kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    186g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars

The last Australian-made Holden Cruze has some pretty solid value under the skin, but is there enough reward for buyers to look past the polarising styling?

UPDATE:

Since this review was published in April, production of the 2016 Holden Cruze has now ended, so all remaining cars are in runout. This means the already keen pricing has improved somewhat, even though the car remains the same. There was no point re-reviewing the Cruze as the assessment in the review is still very much valid, but there’s now a stronger value argument for buyers of the little Holden.

The entry level Cruze Equipe can be had with its 104kW/175Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder and either manual or automatic transmission for $18,990 drive away. which is more than a $6,000 saving over the $25,734 retail (on road) price.

The top-specification SRi Z-Series hatch that features in our review is now just $24,490 drive away, again more than a $6k saving from retail ($30,944 on road), and $3,000 less than it was in April.

Plus, we’re sure you can negotiate a bit further from here, and perhaps look at getting an extended warranty, service package or accessories bundled into the deal as well.

As we say in the review, the Cruze might not be the best in the segment, but it’s not a bad little car and now with even better value, is certainly worth a look, particularly in SRi Z-Series trim.

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Don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s a mantra imparted by generations of mild-mannered grandparents and other learned and worldly individuals, to encourage the younger set to look past what is immediately presented and discover true value beneath.

It has been applied to people, environments, media, books (obviously) and in the case of the 2016 Holden Cruze SRi Z-Series, cars.

The latest, and last, Australian-built Cruze hatch is a bit of a visual mish-mash. A smart, sporty and modern liftback at the rear – a body style that was designed here in Melbourne – and a non-cohesive and somewhat clumsy nose with a sporty front valance and chin spoiler paired with dated halogen headlamps and that curious twin-nose grille.

It’s more Wagon-Queen Family Truckster than beauty queen, a car that can look sharp and modern from some angles and downright awkward from others.

But to close the book on the Cruze by judging the outside alone wouldn’t be fair to a car that outsells the funkier Ford Focus two-to-one. It’s well equipped for starters.

In the sporty Z-Series trim of our test car (finished in Slipstream Blue – a $550 option), the hatch scores a high-mounted spoiler, snazzy 18-inch alloy wheels (in a satin grey finish), alloy pedals and kickplates, LED running lights, keyless entry and naturally, Z-Series floor mats.

Inside are heated seats which are trimmed in a leather and suede-like combo, push-button start, a seven-inch touchscreen running Holden’s MyLink software – which includes navigation and support for streaming music applications – and a rear-view camera.

Plus there is all the usual Cruze kit including six airbags (with five-star ANCAP rating), two ISOFIX car seat mounting points and a 413-litre boot.

Combine all this with a $27,990 drive away price (UPDATE: drive away pricing is now available from $24,990 for this SRi Z-Series), and the Cruze starts to look less ‘weekly’ and more ‘three-day overnight’ (that’s a video-hire gag for all the young readers out there). It’s not quite in the blockbuster section though…

Take the boot for example. At 413L, it is smaller than the sedan (445L) and the tailgate is reasonably heavy to lift, with no power option available. There are 60:40 split rear seats to increase the space, but the hard parcel cover gets in the way of loading larger objects and can’t be easily stored if removed, unless you make IT the new boot floor which means clearing everything out before you load…

The back seats, although quite comfortable and roomy enough for six-foot adults, are devoid of any real support, and the centre armrest feels particularly cheap. There are good door pockets and a 12-volt charge point, but no vents.

Up front, you’ll want to take time to get the seat into the right position as the backrest rake adjustment handle needs you to pull a Riggs and dislocate your shoulder to get access to it on the move. Once set up though, they are comfortable and well bolstered, and the materials mix is quite nice.

Yes there are some cheaper feeling plastics around the cabin, but storage is good in the console, glovebox, door pockets and dash-top cubby.

The biggest issue with the interior is the button layout on the center stack, that combined with the touch-screen interface, makes knowing what to press, and when, a confusing issue.

There has been a bit of a button explosion in the Cruze, with upwards of 40 press-me choices on the stack alone. That doesn’t include the lower dash, steering wheel, arm-rest or touch screen itself.

It’s just not intuitive and as well thought out as it could be. Each time I got back in the Cruze I had to re-remember where some key functions were. Some tasks require you to initiate a process with the buttons then take over on the screen, which is frustrating.

The screen too, sits recessed in the dash and some touch points are at the extreme edges of the display, making it hard to get to when in motion. User interface design is something we in the digital publishing world deal with day-to-day, and I’m sure it wont be long until this is considered a key component of all car usability design processes by all. But for now – as well featured as it is – MyLink could use an update.

Get past all this though, and the Cruze can play its trump card. It drives really well.

The 1.6-litre 132kW/230Nm turbocharged four-cylinder gets the 1467kg hatch moving nicely, and when driven with a bit of vigour, is almost (dare I say) fun.

Our test car had the six-speed automatic, which is fast and smooth enough for everyday driving, and in sport-auto shift mode allows the Cruze to rev out, offering a subtle ‘pssh’ from the venting gasses on gear change.

Holden claims a combined fuel consumption cycle of 7.9L/100km, and while we could easily sit under 9L/100km when driving casually in the city, a few zippy runs around town (with the air-con on) and a fun country blast saw our overall use at 12.5L/100km.

It feels well balanced and light to drive, and the ride is excellent. Holden’s Australian tuning has paid off with the Cruze, as it dissipates bumps and imperfections like a much bigger car. You always feel a sense of surety and connection with the road, while not compromising on comfort, and it does this while maintaining a quiet and solid-feeling cabin environment.

This trait is where the Cruze differs from some of its better-looking Korean and Japanese market compatriots. Like its big-brother Commodore, the Cruze was designed and intended to handle Australian roads, and it does so brilliantly.

Combine all this with a lifetime capped-price service plan and over 200 dealers around the country, and the Cruze still makes a case for many Australian buyers.

Sadly though, what you see is what you get. Nothing more will change on the current Cruze as this, the only Australian-built small car, is being sunset early, with the robots and workers downing tools on the GM world-car later this year for the final time. Beyond that, the Cruze will be replaced by a new imported sedan version, while the Euro Astra will fill the hatch void.

We doubt there will be many tears when the time comes however, as the Cruze won plenty of wallets, but not that many hearts.

The 2016 Holden Cruze SRi Z-Series is fundamentally a good car. The core is there, its just missing a bit of the final polish and pizazz that buyers are now wanting (and in a way, expecting) from a small car.

If you are wanting value though, then the current ‘drive away’ offer is just the start and you can expect a bit more negotiation at the dealer with things such as free servicing and potentially some accessories, and for close to $25,000 you could be driving away in the best, last small-car Australia has ever made.

Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.