The Car Connection Chevrolet Cruze Overview
The Chevrolet Cruze is the GM brand's family of compact cars, including the Cruze sedan and a new hatchback model arriving for the 2017 model year.
Now in its second generation, the Cruze was brand-new in the 2011 model year, a replacement for the Chevy Cobalt. The latest edition was new for the 2016 model year.
Chevrolet has made the Cruze into a credible contender in one of the most challenging new-car niches. It's an alternative to vehicles like the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and Toyota Corolla, as well as the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza, and Volkswagen Golf.
MORE: Read our 2017 Chevrolet Cruze review
The new Chevrolet Cruze
The second-generation Cruze has a racier and more wedge-shaped look than the slab-sided older car, and looks very similar to the second-generation Volt plug-in hybrid hatchback introduced the same year. The new 2016 Cruze sedan will be offered as a five-door hatchback as well in 2017.
The first powertrain is a new and more powerful 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard on all but the top-level Premier version, though a 6-speed automatic transmission will likely prove far more popular.
All models deliver better fuel efficiency than any versions of the first-generation Cruze, with EPA ratings for the automatic version of most models coming in at 30 mpg city, 42 highway, 35 combined. Chevy has also promised a 1.6-liter turbodiesel engine for 2017, which should deliver even higher fuel efficiency ratings.
The Cruze has confident roadholding and a remarkably smooth ride, though it's no sports sedan. Despite appearing smaller than the more upright design it replaced, the new Cruze has more interior room and a remarkably large trunk. A standard touchscreen on every model and options like 4G LTE connectivity with a wi-fi hotspot mark it as truly up-to-date, though a few active-safety systems were missing for 2016, notably automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
For 2017, Chevy added a hatch to the Cruze lineup, a first in the U.S. The hatch keeps the same style as the sedan from the rear doors forward, including a curvy roofline. The hatch is 8 inches shorter overall than the sedan, and cargo area improves from 13.7 cubic feet from the sedan to 23.7 cubic feet in the hatch with the rear seats up. With the seats down, the cargo area balloons to a 47.2 cubic feet.
Chevrolet Cruze history
The first generation of Cruze—sold from 2011 through 2015, and then as the Cruze Limited for 2016 as well—was one of the better options in its segment. It had a tall task: providing a vehicle good enough to erase memories of the outdated Cobalt compact it replaced.
The Cruze was Chevrolet's first global compact, designed in South Korea, but comprehensively updated before it came to the States.
The first Cruze was more conservative in styling than many competitors, but its interior was one of its strongest points. The feel was upscale, the materials of the twin-cockpit dash design were rich, and in some ways they elicited memories of the best Volkswagen products of yore. The Cruze was better, frankly, than the contemporary version of the Jetta, which lost some of its luxury in the quest for lower sticker prices.
The Cruze was far from the sportiest contender in its class, though. The base LS, with a 136-hp, 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, was adequately quick but noisy and harsh when pushed; Eco, LT, and LTZ models stepped up to the 1.4-liter turbo engine, which made 138 hp and more torque at lower rpm, making it feel like the perkier, smoother choice with either transmission.
Both gas engines could be equipped with either a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission; the star of the lineup was arguably the Cruze Eco model, which achieved up to 42 mpg on the highway with the manual. The Eco employed several weight-saving measures, making it the lightest of the bunch and also the most enjoyable to toss around, even with its low-rolling-resistance tires.
For 2014, Chevrolet launched a diesel-engined Cruze model based on the one had sold in Europe for several years. The Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel model (confusingly badged Cruze 2.0 TD) came with a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine producing 148 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. It was paired only with the 6-speed automatic transmission, and rated at 33 mpg combined (27 mpg city, 46 mpg highway), according to the EPA. It's worth noting that diesel cars often deliver better real-world fuel economy than their EPA ratings. In part because of a base price approaching $25,000, the diesel Cruze didn't sold in huge numbers.
Take into consideration the wide range of adjustability and excellent seats, along with its huge trunk, and this first Cruze felt 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 a good safety record even before reaching our market, and that continued with U.S. sales. The Cruze received the Top Safety Pick honor from the IIHS and was rated five stars for overall safety by federal testers. .
The Cruze’s feature set was also more in step with those of mid-size sedans than with other compacts; even the base LS included keyless entry, air conditioning, power accessories, and a six-speaker sound system. LT models offered USB, Bluetooth, and remote start, while the LTZ included items such as automatic climate control, heated mirrors, and park assist. Heated seats and touch-screen navigation were on offer in the LTZ.
New for 2013 was a touchscreen 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 blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts, together in a new Enhanced Safety Package that also includes rear park assist. A rearview camera system was also added.
For 2015, 4G LTE connectivity was added as well, providing a quicker connection for OnStar as well as wi-fi hotspot capability. Also for 2015, the Cruze received a facelift that echoed the look of the Malibu sedan.