Dave takes the 2014 Holden Cruze SRi Z-Series to Castlemaine to quench a craving...
The arrival of the new-look 2015 Holden Cruze signals two things. One, the previous car's old face is now as long gone as Nicole Kidman's, and two, the engine line-up has been reduced from four to two (the turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol and 2.0-litre turbo-diesel both being dropped). The other thing is that Holden is currently running out 2014-spec Cruzes from as low as $20,990 driveaway – the perfect excuse to spend a weekend with one.
Cravings can drive some fairly odd and spontaneous behaviour. Be they food related or otherwise, fighting them is often all but futile. So what happens when you’re at breakfast one Sunday morning in Melbourne and get cravings for the sweet yet minty blast of Castlemaine Rock? Easy, you drive 120-odd kilometres north-west to Castlemaine.
Full of eggs, and with the lady full of coffee, we set off from the delightful South Melbourne institution that is St Ali and head in the direction of Diggers Rest, Gisborne, Woodend, Kyneton, and Malmsbury.
Our packhorse for the day is a 2014 Prussian Steel Holden Cruze SRi Z-Series automatic hatchback. Apart from being available from $27,990 driveaway – $1100 below its former list price of $29,090 – the SRi Z-Series also comes convincingly well equipped.
Standard gear includes leather-appointed seats (heated up front), a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, push-button start, and an in-dash seven-inch colour touchscreen with Holden’s MyLink infotainment system, satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming.
Alloy pedals, ‘Z-Series’ floor mats and badging and 18-inch alloy wheels add some additional pizzazz.
Launched on March 1, 2015, the Cruze, like every other Holden ever made, is also now covered by a lifetime of capped-price servicing.
Powered by the same 132kW/230Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder found in the 2015-spec SRi and SRi-V Cruze, our test car spins its front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Using that very combination we truck on past Elphinstone and Chewton and into Castlemaine averaging around 10.5 litres of premium unleaded per 100km – a ways up on the 1.6-litre Cruze’s 7.9L/100km claim.
Before hitting up the old lolly shop we all remember as kids, the lady and I drink in some of Castlemaine’s history including the Old Castlemaine Gaol and the Theatre Royal – famed as mainland Australia’s oldest continuously operating theatre.
After spending some time prowling the main streets for the old-style lolly shop of our combined past, we discovered our options were limited to the local IGA. Sure, significantly less fanciful than our preconceived notions but successful nonetheless.
Sugary, minty, rocky treat collected – three tins of it for those playing at home – we leave the quiet town and its mostly closed shops and aim the Cruze back towards home.
With a little over 260km under our belt we arrive back in Melbourne in time to justify another meal.
Superseded or not, the 2014 Holden Cruze hatch remains a highly respectable Australian-made package.
Over our weekend, the SRi Z-Series rode firmly but confidently on its 45-profile Bridgestone Potenza tyres and never displayed much in the way of body roll.
Overall cabin comfort was reasonable, though, somewhat lacklustre seats (narrow, unsupportive and with short seat bases), expanses of hard plastic and ever-present road noise – particularly on coarse-chip surfaces – do knock a bit of sheen off.
And while the seat adjustment controls are a bit hard to reach and fiddly (read: great for grazing knuckles), good rear head and legroom are joined by a decent 413-litre boot.
Brownie (or should we say Castlemaine Rock) points go to the Bluetooth, nav and other tech, however, both the lady I found reaching the touchscreen from either front seat quite a stretch – seemingly a bit ergonomically short of ideal.
The reversing camera is a great help, particularly when parking and particularly as the Cruze also comes standard with unhelpfully thick B- and C-pillars. An extra plus is that it stays on for a few seconds after you’ve clicked out of reverse and into drive – winning.
The engine and gearbox buddy up well, with good pickup available from 2000-2500rpm. A steady coast will see revs of around 1500-2000rpm and 100km/h can be maintained at bang on 2100rpm.
Never feeling super punchy or characterful, the engine handles the daily grind without fuss. That said, revving the turbo-four out to 5000rpm and beyond does result in things sounding a bit thrashy and coarse.
The smooth-changing torque converter auto can occasionally be caught hunting for the right cog at the right time too, but this is also dependant on throttle application.
With 2015 revisions restricted more to exterior styling and minor specification upgrades, the 2014 Holden Cruze SRi Z-Series is a smart choice for the fiscally astute. Sure, there’s no footrest and the driving experience errs on unengaging but it does most things well and is definitely one small car option not to be overlooked.
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