First Drives

2016 Chevrolet Cruze First Look

Full Turbo Cruzing

Full Turbo Cruzing

The Chevrolet Cruze debuted for the 2011 model year and has undergone several minor updates since then. But even after a visual refresh for the 2015 model year, the Chevrolet Cruze looked a bit long in the tooth compared to other cars in its segment. For 2016, the Cruze trades in its economy car looks for something more aspirational: a sleeker, coupe-like body. Along with a host of new technologies and a more powerful base engine, the Cruze matures considerably in its second generation.

The new Cruze sports a cleaner grille design, narrow headlights, a short rear deck, and unexpected character lines running across its lithe body. A subtle rear spoiler contributes to the car’s aero efficiency and complements a fast-sloping back end. Proportionally, the new Cruze is 2.7 inches longer than its predecessor and features a slightly longer wheelbase despite being nearly an inch shorter in height.

For the first time, turbocharging is standard on the Cruze. Under the hood, the Cruze packs a new 1.4-liter, turbocharged inline-four with 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. That’s up 15 hp and 29 lb-ft of torque from the previous 1.4-liter, turbo engine, which was an optional engine choice. The powerplant, which features start/stop technology, is paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Chevrolet estimates a 0-60 mph run of 8 seconds in the model, which if true would put it about on par with the 2012 Cruze Eco we tested at 8.1 seconds. Fuel economy from the new turbo engine is expected to reach 40 mpg on the highway when paired with the automatic transmission, although that number has yet to be confirmed by the EPA.

The new Cruze uses a leaner architecture that helps it shed 250 pounds from the previous model. Thanks to the use of high-strength steels, the Cruze has a 27 percent stiffer body structure that is intended to produce better handling characteristics from last year. Most models feature a torsion-beam rear axle with an enhanced Z-design on the top trim level, promising a balanced drive.

The saying goes that millennials don’t actually care about driving (we’re not convinced yet), so what else does the Cruze have to offer today’s young professional? Wireless phone charging and a next-generation Chevrolet MyLink infotainment are just some of the new goodies. Drivers can now operate many of the same functions available on their smartphones through the car’s touchscreen thanks to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Using either one of these integration schemes, drivers can access music, navigation apps, and other functions. Available OnStar with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot complement the new technology.

Although the Cruze has always benefited from a handsome interior, expect some additional upgrades for the new model year. Inside the cabin there are more storage opportunities as well as new piano black and matte black finishes. The instrument panel blends fluidly with the front door panels, and a repositioned shifter and cupholders promise greater driver comfort.

The Cruze will be offered in four trim levels: L, LS, LT, and Premier. A rearview camera is now standard across the board, and heated rear leather seats and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel are new options for the 2016 model year. A host of safety features is also available, including blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, and forward collision alert. This year’s RS package provides a few more visual upgrades over the standard version — look for a unique grille, front and rear fascias, foglamps, a front splitter, rocker panels, a rear spoiler, and 18-inch wheels when paired with the Premier model.

Watch for the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze in dealerships by early 2016. A new diesel Cruze will arrive in 2017.

2016 Chevrolet Cruze
BASE PRICE $17,500-$26,500 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINES 1.4L/153-hp*/177-lb-ft* turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 1.6L/135-hp (est)/236-lb-ft (est) turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSIONS 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 3,000-3,200 lb (est)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 183.7 x 70.6 x 57.4 in
0-60 MPH 8.0-8.5 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON Not yet rated
ON SALE IN U.S. First quarter 2016
*SAE Certified