New & Used Chevrolet Cruze: In Depth
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The Chevrolet Cruze is a compact four-door sedan that came to the U.S. in 2011, but it was originally designed in South Korea.
For more details on the Cruze lineup, see our full review of the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze.
With the Cruze, Chevy replaced its outdated Cobalt compact cars, and erased the memory of the ancient Cavalier. The Cruze is truly a segment leader, able to compete with the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, and Kia Forte, while making a better case for quietness and comfort than the latest Honda Civic. For buyers who value superb safety ratings, it's one of the best entries in the class.
The Cruze is more conservative in styling than many of those cars, but its interior has always been one of its strongest points. The feel is upscale, the materials of the twin-cockpit dash design are rich, and in some ways they elicit memories of the best Volkswagen products of yore--it's better, frankly, than the current version of the Jetta, which lost some of its luxury in the quest for lower sticker prices.
All that said, the Cruze is far from the sportiest contender in the group. The base LS, with a 136-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, tends to be perfectly adequate but noisy and harsh when pushed; Eco, LT, and LTZ models all step up to the 1.4-liter turbo engine, which makes 138 hp and more torque at lower rpm—making it feel like the perkier choice with either transmission. It’s also smoother and feels more like a premium engine.
Both engines can be equipped with either a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission, and the star of the lineup is arguably the Cruze Eco model, which comes with a manual gearbox and achieves 42 mpg on the highway. On any of these models, steering is confident but not all that engaging; ride quality is superb, though.
For 2014, Chevrolet is launching a diesel-engined Cruze model based on the one it's been selling in Europe for several years. The Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel model (confusingly badged Cruze 2.0 TD) comes with a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine producting 148 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. It's paired only with the six-speed automatic transmission, and Chevy said only that it would "assess" whether there was demand for a manual gearbox as well. No fuel-efficiency ratings have been released as yet, though it's expected to be pegged at 42 mpg on hte highway cycle. It's worth noting that diesel cars often deliver better real-world fuel economy than their EPA ratings. No word on prices yet either.
Take into consideration the wide range of adjustability and excellent seats, along with the huge trunk, and the Cruze feels almost like a mid-size sedan. Just a few years ago, its 181-inch overall length would have been called mid-size.
The Cruze had already won top safety accolades in other markets, and it has here in the U.S. as well. It’s achieved top five-star results from the government in every subcategory, as well as IIHS Top Safety Pick status—making it one of the safest picks its size and weight, in the world. With standard rear side-thorax airbags and front knee bags, in addition to all the usual safety features expected in this class, the Cruze stands on solid ground for occupant protection.
The Chevy Cruze has had a fairly trouble-free history thus far. However, the NHTSA posted a recall notice in late 2012 for the 2012 model-year Chevy Cruze (and the related Buick Verano) for a potential flaw with its airbags.
The Cruze’s feature set is also more in step with those of mid-size sedans than with other compacts; even the base LS includes keyless entry, air conditioning, power accessories, and a six-speaker sound system. LT models get USB, Bluetooth, and remote start, while the LTZ includes items such as automatic climate control, heated mirrors, and park assist. Heated seats and touch-screen navigation are on offer in the LTZ.
We give the latest 2013 Chevy Cruze an overall rating of 8 out of 10, citing its practical strengths like interior space, comfort, safety, and features. New for 2013 is the touch-screen and voice-based MyLink system, which provides Bluetooth audio streaming, hands-free communication, and apps for Pandora and Stitcher streaming audio, plus Gracenote playlist and album art capability. And for the 2013 model year, Chevrolet bolstered that impression even further by offering Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems, together in a new Enhanced Safety Package that also includes rear park assist. A rearview camera system was also added.