HOLDEN CRUZE 2002 – 2006

Holden Cruze

The Holden Cruze SUV was launched in Australia midway through 2002 and was imported until 2006. It didn’t enjoy the success anticipated for it, partly because most buyers in the 4WD class were looking for medium to large vehicles during that period. Though the name’s the same, these older models have no relationship with the Australian made Cruze sedans and hatches sold since 2009.

Why use the same name for two completely different vehicles? We’ve no idea … put it down to the mysteries of marketing.

Though the Holden Cruzes being examined in this feature were built by Suzuki in Japan, a lot of the design is Australian, done by the same team that gave us the third generation Monaro. Chunky looking body panels increase Cruze’s visual appeal when you compare it with the Suzuki Ignis on which it’s based.

Suspension work was done by a team that included several Australians. Handling is surprisingly good for a vehicle in this class and the little Cruze can be tossed around on dirt or bitumen roads safely and comfortably. However, it’s a 4WD not a car, with all that means in the way of a higher centre of gravity and a greater likelihood of rolling over in extreme conditions.

Holden Cruze

Under the skin the Cruze is virtually all Suzuki and has been built to a high standard.

Seating is fine for four adults and three children can be carried in the back seat if the one in the centre is of an easygoing nature. However, most owners regard the Cruze as a two-seater.

Boot space is compromised to make room for passengers. One big suitcase just about fills it, so many owners have the 50/50 backrest permanently folded down.

This little Holden fun car is powered by a 1.5-litre engine. There’s not a huge amount of torque and it tends to be developed higher in the rev range than you would expect from a small 4WD. It’s barely enough if you are doing serious on-road hillclimbing with a load on board.

The five-speed manual is better than the four-speed automatic, though the latter isn’t as bad as you might expect as Cruze is relatively light.

Cruze isn’t too bad in the bush, or even on rock shelves. Good clearance angles front and rear and a compact body can take you a long way in rough off-road conditions. But don’t drive it too hard as the relatively light construction means it can be broken more readily than purpose-built 4WD vehicles.

On the beach the lightweight Holden Cruze is in its element, its low weight sees it skimming over sand the big 4WDs would sink into.

There’s good underbonnet and under car space so a good amateur mechanic can do a lot of their own routine servicing. Safety related items should be left to the professionals and we highly recommend you have a repair manual at your elbow before lifting those spanners for the first time.

There are Holden dealers all over Australia. However, not all the ones in the outback carry spare parts for the Cruze. You’re not likely to be waiting for more than a couple of working days before parts arrive at the dealership.

Parts prices and servicing costs are reasonable, though not as low as for locally-made Holdens.

Insurance generally sits towards the bottom end of the scale, but there’s often a fair bit of difference at times between one insurer and another. So shop around, but make sure you are comparing like with like.

The final shipment of Cruze SUVs arrived in Australia in June 2006, some may not have been sold new for several months afterwards. Be wary of any advertised as 2007 models, as you’re likely to find these classed as 2006 car when you come to sell them down the track.

Closely examine the whole body inside, outside and underneath.

Be especially suspicious of any damage caused by off-road use – look for dents at the lower corners of the bumpers, the door sills and underneath the engine, transmission and suspension.

Salt water can cause serious rust. If you suspect a Holden Cruze has been taken to play at the beach check for signs of salt underneath the body and behind the wheels (smart people tend to wash the visible areas of the wheels, but not the out of sight ones.

Lift the floor mats and have a good look at the floor for signs of dampness and/or rust.

Go for a professional inspection if there’s the slightest doubt about the condition because repairs to small off-roaders are likely to cost more than those for hatches in the same price bracket.

Make sure that the engine starts easily, runs relatively smoothly, and that the gearbox works easily and quietly.

If the Cruze pulls to one side under heavy braking there may be problems in the braking system.

For some strange reason small SUVs tend to be taken off road, particularly to the beach, than big ones. Beware of one that’s been knocked about by idiot drivers.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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