Should I Buy a Holden Cruze?

You're looking at one of the worst cars on Australian roads. A car with an appalling record on safety and reliability. A car that encapsulates everything wrong about the local car industry. If you ever wondered what a lemon looks like, this, simply, is it. Enjoy...

And still people ask me about buying this dog of a car:

"I’m thinking about buying a Holden Cruze – what do you reckon? I’m looking at an Sri-V petrol auto." - Nick

"I bought a Holden Cruze 1.4 turbo less than four months ago. It had 6900kms on it, and now has 13,500. Just today the car overheated for no reason and shut down. It said car idle overheating. Also every day I notice something is leaking from the bottom of the car. The fan in the engine sounds like a plane taking off. Every now and then it revs out of control for no reason. This is a brand new car. I think the Cruze definetly a lemon." - Farrah

Here's why the Holden Cruze is just so wrong:


Holden spent decades and billions of dollars building the red lion brand into something Australians trusted and loved. And it worked. We did love football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars… Even if that slogan was a direct rip-off of the US campaign that loved baseball, hot dogs, apple pies and Chevrolet – True story.

But, this century, General Motors has has burnt the Holden brand. Like, somebody left the tumble drier on in Dresden. Again. Today, Holden is well on the way to becoming the country’s third major South Korean car company: the one without the five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. And the Cruze is the – unappetising – shape of things to come from this once-great brand. Don’t believe me? Stick around.

It’s probably not a great comfort, but you’re certainly not alone, Farah. There’s a tsunami of evidence that the Holden Cruze is one of the worst-engineered cars in Australia. In the world, actually. Holden has an appalling record for quality in its own right, and it has had for years. That’s independently verified from leaked car industry research by ACNeilsen. Strike One.

2014 Holden Cruze 12.jpg

The Holden Cruze is a globally engineered car that hasn't changed fundamentally since it was first introduced. That means it kicked off as a hastily re-badged Daewoo, and is now pretty much a locally made, hastily re-badged Daewoo assembled in South Australia with 60 per cent imported components by a factory losing millions of dollars annually, owned by a subsidiary that’s owned by General Motors, which went bankrupt in the global financial crisis. So it’s had, essentially, a profound track record of financial mismanagement and as a result, no resources to expend in research and development for at least four years. Strike Two.

And just to drop the glace cherry on the icing of the scene-setting three-layered lemon-car cake, the factory workers who build the Cruze have all just been told their jobs are toast by 2017. So, there’s a kind of ‘death row’ emotional dynamic on the Holden shop floor right now. It’s probably not an environment that fosters engineering excellence, cutting-edge construction or a total commitment to quality. Strike Three: don’t buy the Cruze.


Now let’s talk about the Cruze-specific problems: Most problems with cars don’t have to be documented and publicly oxygenated in Australia – there’s no such requirement, no official register of lemons, sadly – but the safety ones do need to be noted officially. And those safety issues are a barometer of just how bad the Holden Cruze’s underlying engineering really is, more broadly. Just bear in mind that there are plenty of Holden Cruze design defects that don’t get listed officially because they’re not safety related. The full list of safety-related defects is at the Federal Government’s ‘’ website, which is administered by the ACCC.

The Cruze is, frankly, beset on all sides by the inequities of under-done engineering. It’s the embodiment of ‘how not to’ build a car.


Automotive recalls are listed at the Federal Government's website. These are snapshots of those recalls from the ACCC.

(Click to enlarge)

  • In 2010, 10,462 Cruzes were recalled because of a potential fire risk arising from a defective fuel hose. 
  • In 2011, 4236 Cruzes were recalled because the rear seatbelts potentially weren't assembled properly. And, just for fun, 6512 diesel Cruzes were also recalled because of another potential fuel system engineering defect that could cause a fire. 
  • Then in 2012 an unspecified number of locally built Cruze 1.4 turbo petrol cars were recalled because of yet another engineering defect that could potentially see them catch fire. That was probably a big recall, because the VIN code range covered 23,616 vehicles in the 2012 model year and another 1673 vehicles in 2013.
  • And then, just to keep the defect magic alive well into 2013 an unspecified number of Cruzes with 1.8-litre engines and manual transmissions were recalled because the right-hand tubular driveshaft could potentially fracture without warning. Yet another major engineering defect that could, this time, see you drive head-on into a B-double.

Now read first-hand accounts of the kinds of defects not officially recorded, but which routinely cause Cruze owners significant grief:

Of course, some morons still choose - against all logic and reason - to defend the Cruze >>


The Cruze has had numerous similar massive recalls right around the world (where, in most markets, it's a Chevrolet). Some of those more significant recalls were - excuse the term - 'sparked' after 30 fires occurred in the USA. It's a complete disaster.

Chevrolet Cruze on fire in the USA

Chevrolet Cruze on fire in the USA

Chevrolet Cruze on fire outside Hyperabad, India

Chevrolet Cruze on fire outside Hyperabad, India


Remember, these defects listed above are just the official product safety recalls that are required by law to be listed on the ACCC’s recalls website. Many more Cruze defects that aren't safety related, but are incredibly annoying, are dealt with in the absence of public awareness. Quietly, under the rug. About the only other car that's had more safety recalls in that entire time is the Holden VE Commodore.

As an engineer, to me this is like the world’s biggest red flag that this car is badly engineered, and it has not been fixed. It probably can’t be fixed at a fundamental level. It's built by a company that has – let’s face it – no great aspirations to excel at quality, right around the world. The evidence here speaks for itself. 

It's absolutely not acceptable to build cars with seatbelts that might fail in a crash, with design defects that allow them to burn them to the ground, with powertrain components that could fail and then steer you into a tree. That’s a disgrace. 

Cars should not catch fire spontaneously. It’s absolutely unacceptable that, in the 21st Century, the Holden Cruze has basically been built to burn. 


Just for contrast, there has never been a product safety recall for the Hyundai i30, and since 2007 there has been only one recall for the Toyota Corolla (and that was a power window switch that might start feeling sticky one day) – so on one hand, you’ve got seatbelts that don’t work and inbuilt Molotov cocktail potential for the Cruze, and on the other hand, you’ve got a sticky power window switch that might sprain your index finger one day (but probably not) on the Corolla. So I think we can forgive Toyota for that seemingly minor hiccup, seeing as it won't cause you to crash, burn or die. 

Hyundai i30 - no recalls in the history of the badge

Hyundai i30 - no recalls in the history of the badge

Holden Cruze - barking

Holden Cruze - barking

Toyota Corolla - one minor recall in six years

Toyota Corolla - one minor recall in six years

Mazda3 - two minor recalls in the 21st Century

Mazda3 - two minor recalls in the 21st Century

So far this century, Mazda has had two minor hiccups with the Mazda3 – a small problem with engine mount bolts that need re-tightening, and a cable on the windscreen wiper motor that needed to be checked. But no burning to the ground.

These cars – the i30, Mazda3 and Corolla - are line-ball competitors to the Holden Cruze. But they’re actually engineered properly, so that’s a point of significant difference right there.

The evidence is overwhelming. The Cruze is barking. As a consumer, why would you even consider buying a car that is drowning in evidence – there’s an orgy of it – evidence of underlying defects? Some that might kill you, and others that will just drive you nuts.

A Hyundai i30, a Toyota Corolla, or a Mazda3 are all substantially better built – and they’re either identical to, or better than, the Cruze on every other objective comparative criterion.

The Cruze has fleas. And even its fleas have fleas. And the fleas on the Cruze’s fleas are burdened with microscopic parasites of their own. In fact, it’s a hyperboloid of revolution packed to the rafters with ever more diminutive parasites all the way to the stratosphere, Cruze-wise. The Holden Cruze an engineering disgrace. So, do yourself a favour. Don’t buy one. If you do, the balance of probabilities is you’ll almost certainly be sorry. Instead, buy a Mazda3, a Toyota Corolla or a Hyundai i30. Choices don’t get much easier to make.

PS: Don't buy the Cruze...