Due to design and process-related factors, there are local variations in the microstructure and mechanical behaviour of cast components. This work establishes a Digital Image Correlation (DIC) based method for characterisation and investigation of the effects of such local variations on the behaviour of a high pressure, die cast (HPDC) aluminium alloy. Plastic behaviour is studied using gradient solidified samples and characterisation models for the parameters of the Hollomon equation are developed, based on microstructural refinement. Samples with controlled microstructural variations are produced and the observed DIC strain field is compared with Finite Element Method (FEM) simulation results. The results show that the DIC based method can be applied to characterise local mechanical behaviour with high accuracy. The microstructural variations are observed to cause a redistribution of strain during tensile loading. This redistribution of strain can be predicted in the FEM simulation by incorporating local mechanical behaviour using the developed characterization model. A homogeneous FEM simulation is unable to predict the observed behaviour. The results motivate the application of a previously proposed simulation strategy, which is able to predict and incorporate local variations in mechanical behaviour into FEM simulations already in the design process for cast components.