2015 Chevrolet Cruze Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 16, 2015

The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze might now be one of the oldest designs in its class, but it remains one of the strongest entries -- especially for those focused on comfort, practicality, and fuel-efficiency.

The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze offers an exceptionally quiet ride at highway speeds, a spacious interior, good safety scores, and a trim level at the top of the range that borders on luxury-car quality. The Cruze is now in its fifth year as the compact sedan that returned Chevy to competitiveness in the crucial compact sedan segment after two decades of grim Cavaliers and Cobalts suitable mostly for rental-car fleets, if that. Its strong points remain just as they were when it launched for 2011. There's even a diesel engine option.

But this Cruze is a lame duck, and an all-new model will arrive for the 2016 model year. Still, Chevy hasn't rested on its laurels, and the 2015 Cruze gets infotainment and connectivity updates for its final year. It also acquired some added brightwork at the front to set off new headlights. Insider, there are new cupholders, and both the door-lock switch and the trunk release have been relocated to more convenient places (the driver's door and the center console, respectively).

Otherwise, the shape of the Cruze is the same well-proportioned four-door sedan that's become a familiar sight on streets and highways. The beltline is parallel to the ground--no swoopy wedge shapes here--and the tall windows, long hood, and short trunk give it a classic sedan profile. We continue to find it handsome, with more presence than its size might indicate.

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But it's the look and feel of the interior that really set the Cruze apart from other compacts. Even next to some of the newest entries in this class, it's the one that will likely impress passengers. The Cruze's cockpit uses rich materials and available two-tone color treatments to give a look that's equal in design and material quality to that of a much pricier mid-size sedan. Between interior comfort and its excellent ride quality, the Cruze remains the most relaxing highway cruiser in the class.

It has the sophisticated, well-damped ride of a larger sedan; the cabin is quiet, too, with road and wind noise well damped out. There's good front-seat space (it's one of the best picks its size for taller drivers) and rear-seat comfort, and while this isn't one of the sportier entries in this class (look to the Ford Focus or Mazda 3 for that), it's definitely one of the most livable for daily driving—and for regular back-seat use.

As before, you'll have a choice of three different powertrains for the Cruze: a base 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, a 1.4-liter turbocharged four, or a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel four. The 1.4-liter is the 'premium' of the two gasoline engines; while it makes the same 138 horsepower as the 1.8-liter, the 1.4T's accessible low- and mid-rev torque makes it a better match for the automatic transmission—as well as a smoother, more agreeable choice in terms of day-to-day livability.

You'll find the 1.4-liter in most LT and all LTZ models is by far the better choice for gasoline models. It's smoother, more refined, more fun to drive, and more fuel efficient too. It can be paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, but most buyers will opt for the six-speed automatic. The 1.8-liter four is the cheaper base engine, but it's definitely not our preference as it's noisy and coarse when pressed.

The Chevrolet Cruze Diesel is well worth considering, even though it's only offered in a single model and trim. For this, you need to ditch your diesel preconceptions. The four-cylinder 2.0-liter diesel puts out 151 hp but a strong 264 lb-ft of torque, and it's mated to a different and beefier six-speed automatic transmission than the gasoline car. Thanks to no fewer than three different types of exhaust after-treatment, you won't smell a thing out the exhaust, nor see any smoke or soot. It will also return fuel economy that's significantly better than its 33-mpg EPA—especially if you tend to drive more on the highway, or drive longer distances (with its 15.6-gallon fuel tank could give you as much as 700 miles of range).

Otherwise, you'll get impressive mileage from the Cruze Eco, which is also rated at 33 mpg combined with the manual transmission and has various weight reductions and aero tweaks to achieve that.

The Cruze has done very well in crash-test safety ratings from both the federal government and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The 2015 Cruze comes with 10 air bags as standard, and buyers can add additional safety features such as blind spot and rear cross traffic warning systems, rear park assist and a rearview camera. They're fast becoming available in this affordable class of car, but it's worth noting that just a few model years ago these were exclusive to luxury nameplates.

The Cruze, which reaches dealerships this fall, will remain offered in an entire range of trim levels, including LS, LT, RS, and LTZ models. And at all levels, technology has received a significant upgrade in the 2015 Cruze. The Cruze now can be equipped with an upgraded version of the MyLink infotainment system—Siri Eyes Free connectivity for iPhones. It will offer a new Text Message Alerts feature that can read incoming texts. The new OnStar 4G LTE high-speed embedded data connection will also be available, including Wi-Fi hotspot capability; and the system now has a seven-inch touch screen, additional USB ports, available navigation, and an (upcoming) AppShop.

7

2015 Chevrolet Cruze

Styling

A few new details fine-tune the styling of the Chevrolet Cruze for 2015, but it remains conservative on the outside, charming inside.

The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze is handsome, but it's not by means particularly bold. It hardly deviates from the compact-sedan norm; and unlike most other cars in this class, it saves its best, design-wise, for the interior.

That's not to say that Chevy hasn't tried to give the Cruze a little more curb appeal. They've changed just enough on the 2015 Cruze to be able to stand up to its claim of “smarter looking”—although the changes for 2015, again, are by no means any thing radical. There are a few new colors and there's yet a little more brightwork in front; and the headlights are new, but it's merely the units themselves (they're more nicely detailed).

Otherwise from the profile to the sheetmetal and trim, the Cruze carries over on the outside. It's a familiar profile (essentially the same since its 2011-model-year introduction), and a well-known and accepted shape on U.S. roads. Visually, the Chevy Cruze is only slightly smaller visually than the Malibu, a "mid-size" sedan that's suffered in the market for lack of rear-seat room. Its beltline is lower and less upswept than the Malibu's, too, giving it decent outward visibility.

An RS Appearance Package adds racier front and rear plastic fascias, a rear spoiler, "aero" rocker moldings, and front fog lamps. Inside, it provides backlighting in an icy blue, along with chrome accent rings around some controls, and opaque bezels for the instrument clusters. It changes the ambiance of the car without affecting the mechanicals, and it can be ordered as an option on the LT and LTZ trim levels.

Chevy saved its best efforts for inside the car--where buyers actually spend their time. Overall, the cabin still wows with high-quality materials and a solid upscale impression; it's an ambiance that GM got right from the start, five years ago, and it's changed little since. This year there are new cupholders, and trunk-release and door-lock releases have been moved to more convenient places (the center console and door panel, respectively).

Design-wise, the wraparound instrument panel, with a mild version of Chevy's classic "twin cockpit" layout, takes a different direction than the horizontal, shelf-like dashes in many other newer sedans, but it pulls off the difficult trick of being stylish and functional. It's nicely detailed and pleasant to look at, and its areas of hard plastic don't look downmarket as they do on some competitors. The central vents in the dash flank the vertical console, and everything's easy to reach.

Fit and finish have been excellent on every Cruze we've tested, and there are a lot of smart design touches: knobs with rubber ribs that make them easier to grip and padding in the right places--though we found the sliding elbow rest on the center console bin didn't extend far enough forward. The upholstery has a high-quality feel even in low-end cars, and the exposed stitching on the optional leather upholstery again conveys the impression of value and luxury.

6

2015 Chevrolet Cruze

Performance

Competent but unexciting is how most of the 2015 Chevy Cruze lineup drives. You give up some sharpness for a great, refined ride.

The Chevrolet Cruze has changed in a few subtle areas for 2015, but its performance should be exactly the same—meaning that providing an especially sporty driving experience isn't one of this car's strengths.

What you will find in the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that comes in most LT and all LTZ models is smooth, refined, and quite fuel-efficient motoring. By far it's the better choice for gasoline models. It can be paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, but most buyers will opt for the six-speed automatic. The 1.8-liter four is the cheaper base engine, but it's definitely not our preference as it's noisy and coarse when pressed.

The Chevrolet Cruze Diesel is well worth considering, even though it's only offered in a single model and trim. For this, you need to ditch your diesel preconceptions. The four-cylinder 2.0-liter diesel puts out 151 hp but a strong 264 lb-ft of torque, and it's mated to a different and beefier six-speed automatic transmission (there's no manual here) than the gasoline car. Thanks to no fewer than three different types of exhaust after-treatment, you won't smell a thing out the exhaust, nor see any smoke or soot. It will also return fuel economy that's significantly better than its 33-mpg EPA—especially if you tend to drive more on the highway, or drive longer distances (with its 15.6-gallon fuel tank could give you as much as 700 miles of range).

The driving feel of the Cruze Diesel is quite different; it lags and is hesitant off the line but then surges forward swiftly through its gears and accelerates hard once it gets going. This makes it borderline annoying in stop-and-go traffic, but delightful on the highway. The Cruze Diesel gets slightly larger front brakes to compensate for its extra weight; they work fine and stop the car confidently, even if they're a little jumpy at times. (It also gets a stronger 12-volt battery, a higher-output alternator, and so forth.) One other diesel peculiarity: We found that its ultra-low-rolling-resistance tires squealed on corners long before those of other Cruze models.

In picking powertrains, we recommend going with the one that's better for your own type of driving. If you drive long distances at highway speeds, the diesel is the one to get, though it comes in at the high end of the Cruze range with a sticker price around $25,000. If your Cruze will be used around town, choose the 1.4-liter turbo (or Cruze Eco).

The Chevy Cruze handles and holds the road well enough, but it's more of a predictable family sedan behind the wheel than sportier competitors like the Mazda 6. On corners, the independently suspended rear wheels stay in touch with the pavement even on choppy surfaces. The ride is its strong point, never harsh or busy, though it comes at the expense of some body roll that discourages hard driving. Overall, the Cruze inspires confidence even if it's not the nimblest of mid-size sedans.

Base Cruze models come with rear drum brakes, while all others get four-wheel discs. The mid-level LT model gets a Touring chassis and high-end 2LT and LTZ trims move up to the Sport chassis--which has a slightly lower ride height, retuned shocks, and slightly stiffer spring rates. Unless you're doing mostly highway driving, we recommend the Sport if you have the choice.

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2015 Chevrolet Cruze

Comfort & Quality

The Cruze is tight and quiet inside, with lots of interior space and a huge trunk.

The 2015 Cruze has a spacious interior, excellent ride quality, and impressive interior materials -- all of which can combine to give the impression that this is a more upscale sedan than it is. 

The interior of the Chevrolet Cruze looks good, has surprising room to hold four adults, and is comfortable and well-made. If seating space and cargo capacity are at the top of your list, put the Cruze on your list; it offers oodles of room inside and 15.4 cubic feet of trunk volume.

Front seats are comfortable, with even the manual seat offering height and tilt adjustment, and optional power adjustable front seats offering a wide range of positions. The steering wheel not only tilts but also telescopes as well, meaning both small and large drivers will likely find a comfortable position. Shorter drivers will also like the lower beltline, making it possible to see out more easily.

There's rear seat leg room even behind long-legged drivers, though the limited width will be what tips you off that the Cruze is still a compact sedan. Four adults will fit, but five remains a stretch. Still, the Cruze is noticeably roomier inside than the Honda Civic or the Toyota Corolla. The seats themselves feel sturdier and more luxurious than those of the Hyundai Elantra. The rear seat also folds forward for longer cargo, and on most models, the trunk offers an underfloor compartment as well.

The high-efficiency gasoline model, known as the Cruze Eco, has a number of modifications that cut its weight and improve its gas mileage. It has a simpler rear suspension, special lightweight aluminum alloy wheels, even lighter speakers, as well as higher gearing and active grille shutters. To get that 40-mpg-plus highway rating, you'll have to live with a slightly noisier car.

Refinement is where most versions of the Cruze really stand out. With sophisticated sound insulation and baffling--from special engine mounts and nylon sound baffles in the bodywork to acoustic lining for the headliner and triple door seals--Chevy's compact sedan is quieter, calmer, and more pleasant at speed than pretty much any other mass-market compact.

As for the Cruze Diesel, you'll absolutely know it's a diesel from the outside, with the characteristic knocking sound audible from many feet away; but there's no soot or visible tailpipe exhaust, and few reminders inside the cabin, except for the slightly lower-pitched engine sounds.

8

2015 Chevrolet Cruze

Safety

With a few exceptions, the Chevrolet Cruze is near the top of its class in safety.

The Cruze has done very well in crash-test safety ratings from both the federal government and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Factor in excellent crash ratings and the electronic safety systems on offer, and the Cruze offers safety that was exclusive to luxury-brand cars just a few years ago. 

The ten standard airbags—frontal, head-curtain, thorax side bags front and back, and knee bags—are supplemented by stability control and even a collapsible pedal assembly system. All Cruze models contain OnStar with Automatic Crash Response, which automatically notifies OnStar and first responders--such as a 911 operator--that a crash has taken place, along with some information the chance of severe injury. An Enhanced Safety Package was new last year; it adds Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and rear park assist—all advanced accident-avoidance features limited to luxury-brand vehicles just a few years ago..

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash-testing, the Cruze earns the top rating of "good" in every category, except for the new and tougher small-overlap test, where it was rated "marginal"--only one level higher than "poor".

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration too awarded the Cruze five stars (its top rating overall), and five stars in every category except rollover safety, for which it earned four stars.

The Cruze also does well in safety tests around the world. The car's basic structure—only slightly different in other global markets—has earned top ratings in Euro NCAP, KNCAP (Korea), C-NCAP (China), and ANCAP (Australia) tests.

Although the Cruze has pretty good outward vision compared to most of its competitors; and with a rearview camera system now included in all versions, few drivers will find any serious visibility issues.

8

2015 Chevrolet Cruze

Features

Various feature improvements keep the 2015 Cruze competitive in infotainment, tech, and cabin comforts.

The Cruze remains offered in an entire range of trim levels, including LS, LT, RS, and LTZ models—all of which provide an impressive set of features for the money. As well, interior technology has received a significant upgrade throughout the 2015 Cruze range. 

The base-level Cruze LS definitely shows some signs of cost-cutting; but they're less in its interior as they are in the less sophisticated, less fuel-efficient 1.8-liter engine, its lack of rear disc brakes, and so forth. It does come with keyless entry; power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; and a six-speaker sound system with auxiliary input.

Cruze LT models are the most popular, and that's understandable as they add items like a USB port, Bluetooth, remote start, chrome wheels and power rearview mirrors. The LT trim level can be upgraded to the 2LT to add 16-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, a power driver's seat, heated front seats, cruise control, a USB port, Bluetooth, remote start, and steering-wheel audio controls.

The top-of-the-line gasoline Cruze is dubbed LTZ. The Cruze Diesel--priced at about $25,000, and with very few options available--is also more or less an LTZ with a different engine. Either of those models gets automatic climate control, heated mirrors, park assist, and a snazzier gauge cluster, 18-inch flangeless alloy wheels, as well as optional heated seats.

You can still get a traditional touch-screen navigation system as an option on the Cruze LTZ. All versions of the Cruze come with a six-month subscription to OnStar's Directions and Connections services--but you'll have to subscribe after that. It lets you dial an operator, who can beam travel directions to the car--which will then guide you if you miss a turn. Overall, we've found it to be a tremendously useful feature.

And for 2015, the Cruze now can be equipped with an upgraded version of the MyLink infotainment system—Siri Eyes Free connectivity for iPhones. It will offer a new Text Message Alerts feature that can read incoming texts. The new OnStar 4G LTE high-speed embedded data connection will also be available, including Wi-Fi hotspot capability; and the system now has a seven-inch touch screen, additional USB ports, available navigation, and an (upcoming) AppShop.

8

2015 Chevrolet Cruze

Fuel Economy

The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze lineup continues to offer many ways to stay lean and frugal -- including an Eco model and a diesel variant.

Without a true performance-focused variant of the 2015 Chevrolet Cruze, most of the lineup is quite efficient. Between a small-displacement turbocharged engine, an Eco model, and a diesel version, you have plenty of high-mileage options from which to choose. 

Not only does the 1.4-liter turbocharged four get better EPA fuel-economy ratings across the board than the base 1.8-liter four, but it's more fun to drive and less noisy. Models with the 1.4-liter engine get 30 mpg combined with either a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual gearbox, and the less-efficient 1.8-liter engine is rated at 27 to 29 mpg combined for the automatic and manual respectively.

The Cruze Eco model is a fuel-efficiency special without the complication and weight of hybrid components. Instead, this model trims about 25 pounds altogether, with marginally thinner steel panels, smaller welds, and reduced flanges at its welded joints. Its lower ride height (about the same as the Sport models), a rear spoiler, a larger front air dam, active grille panels to block airflow when it's not needed for engine cooling, and an underbody air diverter are among its features that improve mpg by cutting aerodynamic drag.

The Eco delivers up to 33 mpg combined in the Cruze Eco with a six-speed manual gearbox (28 mpg city, 42 mpg highway). That drops to 31 mpg combined with the six-speed automatic (26 mpg city, 39 mpg highway).

To help boost mileage in stop-and-go driving, all Cruze models with the automatic transmission also get a neutral idle feature that automatically disengages the torque converter when sitting at stoplights in Drive.

The 2015 Cruse Diesel is your other efficiency-minded option. As with most diesels, it overdelivers on its EPA ratings when used at highway speeds (especially in warm weather). At its EPA highway rating of 46 mpg, it can provide more than 700 miles of range.

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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September 25, 2015
2015 Chevrolet Cruze 4-Door Sedan Automatic LS

Love it, great vehicle.

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I can't find a thing wrong with my new car. It's beautiful, gorgeous to drive, comfortable and snazzy. Love having Sirius connected, love having that red button that I could press and ask for help if I needed... + More »
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August 21, 2015
2015 Chevrolet Cruze 4-Door Sedan Manual LS

great on gas!

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Just purchased a 2015 Chevy Cruz and I am very pleased with its performance. I love how it looks, handles and esp. How much $ it saves on gas!
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August 8, 2015
For 2015 Chevrolet Cruze

Cruze for cruising

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So far so good looks pricey Will make a great tow vehicle behind motorhome
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July 31, 2015
2015 Chevrolet Cruze 4-Door Sedan Automatic 2LT

Superb Cruze!

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I recently upgraded from my 2011 Cruze 1LT to a 2015 Cruze 2LT.I had the 2011 from new and loved it for 4 years, so when it came to getting a new car there was no decision for me - it was going to be another... + More »
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May 3, 2015
2015 Chevrolet Cruze 4-Door Sedan Automatic ECO

Great customer service and great car.

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Loved it. Did mostly freeway driving and it was very responsive yet I did not feel like I was burning a tank of gas. Local streets and parking, GREAT EXPIERNCE.
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April 21, 2015
2015 Chevrolet Cruze 4-Door Sedan Automatic 1LT

Perfect To Get Around In and More

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I've only had my Chevy Cruze for a short time but have been very impressed with its performance and features considering the price. The 1LT 2015 came complete with rear camera, USB, blue tooth, myLink and... + More »
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