Only the keenest of trainspotters will be able to distinguish the new Holden Cruze from the model it replaces when it goes on sale next month, with new wheel designs the only visual change to the exterior.
Some may also notice that the CD badge on the back of the entry-level model has been changed to Equipe, a badge normally reserved for Limited Edition models.
But the 2014 Cruze is a very different car to its predecessor.
In an acknowledgement that the Australian-built Cruze is becoming its most important model, Holden has worked hard to broaden the appeal of its small sedan and hatch.
It has achieved this by offering a choice of four specification levels, four engines, including a new 1.6-litre turbocharged performance engine, two transmissions and even two suspension set-ups. Engineers have also recalibrated the six-speed automatic gearbox, mainly to improve the performance of the entry-level 1.8-litre petrol engine and fitted, grippier Bridgestone tyres across the range.
The Cruze will also become a market leader in infotainment with Holden's MyLink system, loaded with the Pandora and Stitcher internet radio services, and a seven-inch touch screen standard across the range.
The inclusion of the touch screen has led to some minor interior styling changes.
The price of the Cruze has also been reduced to enable Holden to remain competitive against its major rivals who have all benefitted from the strong Australian dollar.
The entry-level Equipe, which is expected to account for at least half of total Cruze sales, will have a sub-$20,000 starting price and be $500 cheaper than the entry-level Toyota Corolla and nearly $1000 cheaper than the cheapest Mazda3 - two of the top-selling cars on the market today.
It will be powered by the same 1.8-litre engine used in the current model, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. But the Equipe will also be available with the option of the new-generation six-speed automatic transmission and the choice of the stronger-performing, more economical 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine or 2.0-litre turbo diesel.
And though the suspension on the petrol and diesel engines differ slightly, to accommodate the different weight of the engines, it has been designed to produce a comfortable ride.
The CDX, which adds a touch of luxury to the range with standard features such as leather upholstery and steering wheel, reversing camera, keyless entry and push-button start, is only available with the automatic transmission mated to the 1.8 petrol or 2.0-litre diesel engine.
It also is the only other variant that comes with the more comfortable suspension set-up.
The other two variants, the SRi and SRi-V, are very different. They have a much firmer, sportier suspension and are only available with the new 132kW 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine.
For me, the best value-for- money proposition is the manual SRi, which is priced from $22,490 and comes with the same equipment list as the Equipe and adds sports seats, a bodykit, and 17-inch wheels.
The range-topping Cruze SRi-V sits on 18-inch wheels and comes with all the same features found in the CDX.
- ON THE ROAD*
The SRi and flagship SRi-V are now up with the best in the small-car market when it comes to performance, ride and handling - and that is a massive step up from where it was.
The punchy 132kW engine, the same Hungarian-sourced powerplant used in the Opel Astra, has turned the Cruze into a lively performer that will have driving enthusiasts creating excuses to take the car for a drive.
And after having the opportunity to drive both a manual and automatic variant (the SRi is the only option if you want a manual gearbox), it was hard to decide which I enjoyed more. The manual is a very smooth, easy-changing transmission while the auto has a nice Sport mode that kicks as you brake into a corner.
The biggest change to the handling is the introduction of the Watts link rear suspension, which helps to keep the car a lot more composed when cornering and reduces body roll.
It also sits the car about 20mm lower than the more traditional torsion beam set-up used on all other engine variants so Holden has put bigger wheels under the sporty models to retain height.
With these wheels the ride is on the firm side but it is not uncomfortable and road noise is pretty good, even on the really coarse-chip roads we encountered in Tasmania. Unfortunately, there is still a noticeable amount of wind noise from the mirrors and A-pillar once the car gets up around 100km.
Fuel use for both is pretty competitive, with the manual using 7.4L/100km and the auto just 0.5L/100km more.
The performance of the 1.8-litre engine has been improved by the revised gear ratios of the auto but it is still the least refined and least impressive of all the options.
It will be fine for those who will use the car mainly around the metropolitan area but even then it is worth paying the extra, if you can, to move up to the 1.4-litre turbo, which will be more efficient and more enjoyable to drive.
Equipe 1.8 petrol manual
Equipe 1.8 petrol auto
Equipe 1.4 petrol auto
Equipe 2.0 diesel auto
CDX 1.8 petrol auto
CDX 2.0 diesel auto
SRi 1.6 petrol manual
SRi 1.6 petrol auto
SRi-V 1.6 petrol manual
SRi-V 1.6 petrol auto
Effective April 2013