Chevrolet Cruze has come a long way from GM’s early econoboxes
Chevrolet is getting better at small cars. It may be a segment that is losing favor to small crossovers, but GM’s designers and engineers recognize that a lot of customers are still in the market for a compact car, and they don’t want to make compromises.
The new Chevrolet Cruze makes a good first impression—not something that could always be said of a Chevy compact car. The warm two-tone interior of our 2016 Cruze Premier four-door sedan test car is downright inviting and belies the fact that this is still considered an entry-level car. The Cruze is nicely loaded with one of the best infotainment systems in the business, heated seats and steering wheel, remote start, and a seamless stop-start system. Consumers might be pleasantly surprised with how much they can get for less than $25,000 USD.
We’re not prepared to say it’s the best offering in the bunch in every category, but the new Cruze makes a compelling sales argument.
At first blush the interior is quite stunning. You have to look closely to find a few fit and finish mishaps and some stitching that got slightly off course. But very little about the rich black and butterscotch interior is reminiscent of the days when compact cars were econoboxes and when GM was among those forced to skimp because small cars cost more to make than they could be sold for.
Today’s Cruze is refined and nicely appointed. The warm colors, two-tone stitching, and glossy piano black around the touchscreen are more premium than one might expect. Some thought our tester had a bit too much chrome, but buyers might feel pampered by all the bright bits. Technical director Frank Markus said the contrasting materials “heighten the impression of class-above luxe and also whispers all-American.”
Drivers will note the sporty steering wheel. It takes a bit to get used to the rubber overlay on the buttons, but they respond well to touch, and the car responds well to steering inputs.
Power comes from a turbocharged I-4 that generates 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. Our tester went 0-60 in 8.2 seconds, finished the quarter mile in 16.3 seconds, and took 113 feet to brake in the 60-0 test.
It was fun to drive—enough that we pushed it far enough to get a little squirrelly on one curve of a canyon road. The suspension was very responsive and sopped up everything. Only side note: vibration on a stretch of undulating highway.
Fuel economy is middle of the pack at 28/38.3/31.9 mpg (8.4/6.1/7.4 L/100km) city/highway/combined in Real MPG testing. The Cruze does come with start-stop technology, which saves fuel while idling. It is extremely smooth; there’s no reason to turn this one off. We are less enthusiastic about the six-speed automatic that clunks into gear, sounding a bit dated.
The Cruze handled well on the full driving loop. Markus notes the 17-inch tires were not as quiet as the 16-inchers he experienced during press drives. The larger tires mar an otherwise quiet driving experience.
GM can claim one of the best infotainment systems on the market. It has a large, modern-looking screen, it’s intuitive, and it taps into Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Device pairing was quick and easy. We had a couple glitches connecting while driving, such as the time it wanted to play only iPhone selections and not FM radio. Sending and reading text worked well.
There is a clever phone holder with wireless charging, and the car can transform into a Wi-Fi hot spot. Chevy also put thought into the placement of features that have roared to prominence: USB and power outlets. These are the touches that can win over younger buyers.
Seats are quite comfortable, but seat belts are not height-adjustable. The Cruze joins a number of other GM vehicles with seat belts that cut into the shoulder and neck.
Rear passengers in the Cruze are treated well with heated seats and individual map lights. Headroom and legroom are adequate for most, but tall passengers could be forced to slump. Armrests are of equal heights—an oft-overlooked detail—and there are pulldown cupholders on the soft center armrest. The back seat gets a 12-volt outlet, too, unusual in this segment.
Overall, this is the best compact car Chevy has put out to date. In a segment where an automaker can slip into mediocrity, GM made an effort, and it shows.
|2016 Chevrolet Cruze Premier|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$24,860|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||1.4L/153-hp/177-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||2,952 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||183.7 x 70.6 x 57.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.3 sec @ 85.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||113 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.1 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||30/40/34 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||112/84 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.57 lb/mile|