Chevrolet Cruze Road Test

First Drive
Chevy Cruze Plays Trump Card
Chevrolet's new compact sedan combines conservative styling with a liberal embrace of new technology
Overview
When it came to market in 2011, the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan was a hopeful sign that Chevrolet was putting its history of bush-league small cars in the rearview mirror.

Gone were the days of the inferior Cobalt that the Cruze replaced. Since then, GM's compact sedan has been a global best-seller for the Chevy brand--and legitimately joined the debate against the front-runners Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

With its 2016 redesign, the Ohio-assembled Cruze is more mature, with a sleek, modern profile that shows continuity with the larger Malibu and Impala. (Curiously, the previous-generation Cruze remains on sale also as a 2016, dubbed Cruze Limited. It's clearly a lame duck.)

Through clever engineering, the redesigned Cruze has pulled off the trick of getting both longer and leaner. Shedding a full 225 pounds compared to the previous generation, it gained 3 inches in length, most of it put to good use for a markedly roomier backseat. A hatchback version joins the line in the fall.

We just bought a typically equipped Cruze LT, which rang in at $23,145. To the base $21,120 price, we elected to get the Convenience package, adding keyless and remote start, power driver's seat, and heated front seats. That price makes it one of the more expensive entries in the class, ringing in at about $2,200 more than a comparably packaged 2017 Hyundai Elantra. We expect discounts at the dealer will be common.

Impressions
With its all-new 153-hp, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, combined with the lighter weight, the Cruze feels eager and effortless when taking off or merging. The six-speed automatic transmission makes a great running mate for this very civilized powertrain. The start/stop feature designed to save fuel during stops is one of the smoothest ones we've experienced. So far, we've observed about 33 mpg on the trip computer in mixed driving. For those who want to be more frugal, there will be a diesel version coming in 2017.

Not only does the quiet engine make the new Cruze feel more polished than before, but ride comfort is also commendable. Most small cars are hardly presidential in their road comportment, but the Cruze has an ability to mute and swallow bumps that's still rare in the compact class.

Handling is responsive with an initial willingness to tackle corners. However, the Cruze doesn't like to be rushed, and gives the driver plenty of cues that it's more about comfort than sport. It certainly lacks the agility to gore the likes of the Ford Focus, Mazda3, or Volkswagen Jetta.

Inside the rather drab cabin, we appreciated the added comforts brought with the Convenience package. We were less enthused about the scant lumbar support in the driver's seat and the foot-operated parking brake.

The Chevrolet MyLink audio system with a 7-inch touch touchscreen is standard. The Premier top-trim comes with an 8-inch screen with navigation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included, which allow you to plug in your iPhone and access a few apps on the screen.

A conceit to the sportier design is a smaller rear window and a high package shelf compromising rear visibility. Fortunately, a rear camera comes standard. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane departure warning comes on the $495 Driver Confidence package. A more comprehensive safety suite, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, is available on the top-trim Premier.

CR's Take
Check back with us as we continue our campaign to rack up break-in miles on our Cruze, put it through its paces in our formal testing, and see how it ranks among the compact sedan class. Our initial impression: It's no dark horse candidate.

No Data, New Model

Warranty

All cars come with basic warranty coverage, also known as a bumper-to-bumper warranty. This protects consumers against unexpected problems with non-wear items. Powertrain warranty protects against engine and transmission troubles. Rust through, or corrosion warranty, covers rust to non-damaged components. Roadside aid provides on-location assistance in case of a breakdown and may include limited towing services.

Extended warranties provide peace of mind. Owners of models known to have worse-than-average predicted reliability can mitigate risks with an extended warranty. Generally, we recommend buying a model with better-than-average reliability and skipping this expensive add on. If you do buy an extended warranty, it is key to read the small print to understand what is covered and where you can bring the car for repairs.

Basic (years/miles)
3/36

Powertrain (years/miles)
5/60

Rust through (years/miles)
6/100

Roadside aid (years/miles)
5/60