The 2016 Chevy Cruze is a lower, leaner, and larger vehicle than its predecessor. Though it looks smaller visually, it is 3 inches longer overall than the outgoing model, and its wheelbase is an inch longer too. That provides 2 inches more leg room in the rear, keeping the Cruze competitive with increasingly large "compact" small sedans like the Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra, some of which now qualify as mid-size under NHTSA measurements.
The front seats are comfortable, with especially good bolstering in the higher-end Premier RS versions. The rear seat will handle two standard-sized adults, and the Cruze offers more knee room than the aging Ford Focus or the new Hyundai Elantra. GM says the new Cruze provides mid-size interior room in a small car.
Since the Cruze is a global model, selling as an upmarket sedan in some markets, Chevy has tried to give it an "upscale ambience" inside, with a dual cockpit look and premium cabin appointments clearly inspired by the larger Impala and Malibu sedans. The two-tone treatment and leather trim of the high-end Premier versions are elegant and the contrasting stitching is a nice touch, but the quilted nylon trim insets on base models carry a whiff of rental-car cost-cutting. To be fair, that was one of only a very few design elements that felt cheap—though the 4.2-inch information display between the two round gauges in the instrument cluster is only monochrome, against the full-color displays of the larger and pricier sedans in the Chevy lineup.
The structure underpinning the Cruze is new, both stronger and lighter than what’s used in the previous Cruze model, providing a better-tuned ride and more precise handling. The new Cruze is very quiet even at speed under light power, though accelerating with gusto lets you know that the small engine is working hard. The ride is firm, and relatively smooth with most tire choices.