We’ve been looking to get into the Chevrolet Cruze for a full week review for a while now. We’ve actually driven a few different models of the Cruze at some events, but have never had the time to really check out the details. Well, we finally got our hands on one, so what’d we think?
The last two times I was behind the wheel of a Cruze, one was a base and one was an eco model. Both had cloth seats and a lackluster performance. Our tester was a 2012 Cruze 2LT. This afforded us leather seats, navigation, 17” alloy wheels, remote start, and a 1.4 liter turbocharged engine matched up to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This decked out Cruze has a window-sticker of just under $24k (23,980) and is spec’d out the exact way I’d want one if I was dropping the money. But would I drop my own money for this car? Let’s get more into the driving, looks, and feel and find out.
You can have the Cruze in a few different engine choices. You can have a 1.8 liter 4-cylinder engine with a 6-speed manual transmission. This combination will be good for 138 horsepower and 125 ft-lbs of torque. If you opt for the 1.8, you’ll be looking at fuel economy numbers around 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. As I said earlier, we had the 1.4 liter turbocharged engine, the same as the Sonic we reviewed last week, that pushes out the same horsepower (138 hp) but ups the torque to 148 ft-lbs. This car is said to get 24 city and 36 highway miles and we easily averaged in the lower 30’s during our week with the car. If you are looking at the Eco model, you get the 1.4 liter engine with a 6-speed manual transmission that should be good for 28 mpg city and a whopping 42 mpg highway.
The extra torque from the small turbocharged engine helped push the small Chevy Sonic out of the corners well, but how did it fair in this heavier family sedan?
Well the power just wasn’t there to make this car feel real sporty or responsive. If you’re going for a fun and sporty ride, you might want to keep the Sonic on your test-drive list. Although it wasn’t as sporty, it was still enough power for trolling around town and merging onto highways. Also, because this is a European car, the handling and steering feel were “bang on”.
If you pay attention to the European car market, this look might already be growing old as the Cruze was being sold overseas there a full year before it hit American showroom floors. If you’re seeing one for the first time, it’s intently recognizable as a Chevrolet with it’s big two tier front grille. The headlights and lines down the side give it a swooping and sporty look and the 17” alloys we had continued that theme well.
Unlike the Sonic, the Cruze doesn’t really have any radical styling. It’s more of a basic style that looks good but won’t really put anyone off either. The looks outside and the ride were not really the party piece of this ride though. In our tester, the real surprise is the interior. The leather seats and quality material used is very European like. The interior isn’t just good for its segment, it was even better than some Cadillacs I’ve driven and it’s what stood out to everyone that got into this car.
Comparing this car to it’s predecessor, the Cobalt, just isn’t fair. Just like the Sonic we drove last week, it’s not just better than the car that came before, it’s a giant step forward for Chevrolet. You can actually buy a smaller family sedan without sacrificing quality and comfort. Compare that to the competition and there is really only one car that can compete. This Cruze sets it’s sites on the likes of the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla, the Ford Focus, and the Hyundai Elantra.
I can tell you right now that the interior quality of the Cruze outshines that of the Civic and Corolla easily. It is also a much more enjoyable drive than either while costing less than an equivalent Civic. The Corolla is a little cheaper than the Cruze, but can’t stack up to the options you get. Also, the Corolla only has one engine option, a 1.8, and comes with a 4-speed automatic.
The Elantra is a nice car that has improved in quality over the years. I like the exterior design and what Hyundai is doing with their products. The interior quality is very good as well, but it doesn’t quite hold up to what we got in the Cruze.
The biggest competition for the Cruze is now the Ford Focus. We really like the Focus we reviewed last year, and it was also an all around good car. The interior is nice and put together well, the looks are great, it’s priced well, and it gets good fuel economy. Choosing between these two really comes down to what you personally think looks better. The Focus is probably the better to drive enthusiastically, but the Cruze isn’t bad.
Overall, we’ve been real impressed with the Cruze after our week long test. We’re impressed with the car, but also the attention that GM is giving it’s lineup. The only thing we really see lacking is a real sporty model. In Europe, they race the Cruze in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). I think GM would do good to make an RS model with a powerful 2.0 liter engine that’s not focused on fuel economy. Then enter that car into some racing series within the U.S.; maybe Grand-Am racing against the likes of the Mazda 3, Honda Civic, and Volkswagen Golf.
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