- Ride quality
- Gas mileage (Eco especially)
- Comfortable, well-coordinated interior
- Top-tier safety
- Cargo space
- Conservative exterior
- Unremarkable performance
- Climate controls placed low
The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze is one of the smartest picks for anyone wanting practicality, comfort, and safety in a compact sedan—although it's missing the fun-to-drive edge of some other models.
Are you ready for this? The Chevrolet Cruze is, quite frankly, a better car than the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. Behind its subtle styling is a top-shelf alternative to every other car in the compact economy car segment. It's built with excellent safety, features, comfort and interior room--and it's now one of our top recommendations for small cars, alongside Ford's Focus and Hyundai's Elantra compacts.
The Cruze feels a class above, and that's a good thing if this sedan is going to pinch-hit as a family vehicle. Its quiet, isolated cabin is one of the best in the compact class and its taut but absorbent ride will please most day-to-day users. A high level of adjustability also makes the Cruze a solid option for taller drivers. The trunk? It's huge. But look to the backseat and you're instantly reminded of the Cruze's compact classification; it's just a little too tight to fit three across.
It's a soberly styled vehicle, which might be considered a relief given its more brash competition. When it was first introduced for the 2011 model year, the Cruze set a new design direction for GM compact cars. And while it isn't all that head-turning from the outside, the interior has one of the most stylish, cohesive layouts in this class of rather look-alike sedans. Inside, rich materials, stunning two-tone combinations, and an upscale feel all keep the Cruze above the rest.
The Cruze has in past model years been both an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick, as well as a federal five-star performer; the only exception is a 'marginal' small overlap result. To complement that, Chevy has introduced even more available safety equipment. A rearview camera system is now available as part of a Technology Package, and a new Enhanced Safety Package includes Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and rear park assist—all features that were the exclusive domain of luxury brands up until a few model years ago.
Chevrolet MyLink, which gives you voice-command access and touch-screen control of connected smartphones—is now offered in the 2013 Cruze. Chevy also offers Gracenote functionality, which grabs playlist and album-art information; Pandora and Stitcher apps let you stream music while using your smartphone's data connection. MyLink is included on Cruze 2LT, Eco, and LTZ models, and optional on 1LT.
2013 Chevrolet Cruze
Tasteful but not at all daring, the Chevy Cruze stretches more for style inside than it does outside.
When it was first introduced for the 2011 model year, the Cruze set a new design direction for GM compact cars. And while it isn't all that head-turning from the outside, the interior has one of the most stylish, cohesive layouts in this class of rather look-alike sedans. Inside, rich materials, stunning two-tone combinations, and an upscale feel all keep the Cruze above the rest.
The Cruze isn't all that striking from the outside compared to flamboyant new compact-sedan designs like those of the Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra, nor is it radically different on the outside compared to predecessors the Cobalt and Cavalier. But make no mistake: the Cruze is an atypical product from a company with a history of also-ran compacts.
From a distance, the Cruze probably looks a little too much like a blunted Malibu (Chevrolet's mid-size sedan), but it does wear a traditional sedan three-box layout and pleasant, inoffensive proportions. The arched roofline and smoothly sculpted side sheetmetal provide just enough visual flair—in a way that won't look dated a few years down the line. Practically speaking, we like the relatively low beltline and how it opens up the cabin for more outward visibility than is typical.
Inside it's a different story; the 2013 Cruze bears very little semblance to GM compact cars of the past, and its wrap-around, multi-tiered instrument panel appears stylish from a distance, with lots of fine detailing and carefully coordinated trims that look and feel great up close. It's a Chevrolet small car, but between the vertically oriented center stack, flanked by vents, and the wraparound dash with chiseled details we can see Cadillac design influence trickling down into this more affordable GM sedan.
Up close, fit and finish are excellent from what we've seen in the Cruze, with padded dash materials, grippy rubber-nubbed climate-control dials and audio knobs, and high-quality upholstery—all at the level you would expect in a Volkswagen, before Volkswagen took aim at affordability. At the high end, leather with exposed stitching top off a more upscale appearance.
While the Cruze doesn't aim at the performance set, the available RS Appearance Package at least lets you look the part. Available on LT and LTZ models, the package adds special front and rear fascias, extended rocker moldings, a rear spoiler, and fog lamps. And inside, chrome accent rings, opaque instrument-cluster bezels, and ice-blue backlighting give the RS a different ambiance.
2013 Chevrolet Cruze
Ride quality is top priority in the 2013 Cruze; road feel is secure but not as inspired as some other compact sedans.
The Chevy Cruze could be perplexing when it comes time to choose between powertrains, but to us the choice is clear. Chevrolet offers two four-cylinder mills in the Cruze, but don't be lead astray; the smaller engine is the upgrade. The step-up 1.4-liter turbocharged four that you get with most LT and all LTZ models is smooth, refined, and it pairs better with the available six-speed automatic (a six-speed manual is offered, too). The base 1.8-liter four noisy and coarse when pressed. EPA ratings are pretty impressive for the whole lineup, but they're best for the Eco model, which touts a 42 mpg highway rating.
You won't find steering-wheel paddle-shifters in the Cruze, but the six-speed automatic sourced from supplier Aisin shifts smoothly, has a short first gear for improved acceleration, and features a tall sixth overdrive gear for achieving supreme highway fuel economy. Acceleration is actually a bit slower with manual-transmission Cruzes due to the fuel-efficiency-friendly gear ratios used for hitting that sky-high 42 mpg EPA highway rating.
The Cruze is responsive enough for commuters and growing families, but we wouldn't call it edgy. A Watt's-linkage (non-independent) rear suspension keeps its rear tires planted on even choppy surfaces, but that's countered by a fair amount of body roll, discouraging enthusiastic driving. But with rack-mounted electric power steering and nice weighting overall, it's confidence inspiring.
Chevrolet equips the Cruze with two unique suspensions depending on trim. A touring suspension underpins LT models for a more comfortable, compliant ride. Meanwhile, a sport suspension--with 15-percent stiffer springs, retuned dampers, and a half-inch suspension drop--provides more nimble handling on 2LT and top-spec LTZ models.To keep costs in check, base Cruze LS models are fitted with rear drum brakes, while all other models save the Eco come with four-wheel disc brakes. Between the two, we recommend the Sport setup unless you're on level Our recommendation: Go with the Sport setup unless you keep mostly to straight roads and level ground.
2013 Chevrolet Cruze
Comfort & Quality
The Cruze feels almost mid-sized, with excellent interior space and trunk room.
The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze has one of the most comfortable interiors among compact sedans, If seating and cargo space are priorities, this should be one of your top picks, as the Cruze has them in abundance.
At about 181 inches long, the Cruze would have been classed as mid-size not too long ago; and in terms of interior space, it feels the part even by today's standards. Seating front and rear is well-designed, with a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes to a wide range of positions, so this small sedan can fit even the largest or lankiest occupants. Base Cruze buyers are welcomed by a manually height- and tilt-adjustable driver's seat, while power seats on upper trims models accommodate an even wider range of drivers. The Cruze easily surpasses the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla for usable interior space, while the seats themselves are better than those in the Hyundai Elantra. Tall drivers will find that only the Volkswagen Jetta comes close for front-seat legroom.
Look to the backseat, and it's what reveals the Cruze as a compact. While it rivals some mid-sizers for legroom, it's not all that wide—and not wide enough for three adults. Also, the rather short rear doors make it a little harder to get in than it should be. But for those in front or in back, the relatively low beltline makes it more comfortable—and eliminates the need for the Dramamine.
The Cruze's trunk, considering the segment, is a huge at 15.4 cubic feet, featuring an underfloor compartment (on most models) and seats that fold forward to expand trunk space.
The 2013 Cruze again feels more like a mid-size sedan when it comes to refinement. The Cruze feels more mature and upscale compared to many of its rivals this size, with triple door seals, acoustical headliner materials, nylon baffles in the body panels, and special engine mounts. And thanks to it all, there's not much road noise inside.
Opt for the Cruze Eco model and its 42-mpg highway rating, and you'll get a number of small changes to cut weight and maximize fuel economy. You'll give up the other models' Watt's linkage (Z-link) rear suspenaion—yielding more body motion during quick maneuvers—and you do get a little more road noise.
2013 Chevrolet Cruze
Few compact cars rival the safety scores and equipment found in the Chevy Cruze.
Given the top-tier crash-test ratings that the Chevrolet Cruze achieves from both U.S. safety agencies, along with the new active-safety options offered in the 2013 Cruze, it offers one of the most comprehensive safety packages of any compact sedan.
The 2013 Cruze isn't just one of the safest compact sedans for sale in the U.S. market, but one of the safest in the world. The Cruze's structure—only slightly different in other markets—has earned top ratings in Euro NCAP, KNCAP (Korea), C-NCAP (China), and ANCAP (Australia) tests.
The Cruze has earned top crash test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with 'good' results in most categories, and it's been named an IIHS Top Safety Pick. And in the federal NCAP tests, the Cruze earned five-star results in all categories. There's one rather significant blemish, though; the Cruze earns just a 'marginal' rating in the tough new small overlap frontal impact test from the IIHS.
Throughout the Cruze lineup, ten standard airbags—front, knee, thorax front and rear, and head-curtain bags—are standard, as are stability control and Automatic Crash Response through GM OnStar, which automatically notifies first responders in the event of a severe crash. Furthering the Cruze's safety prowess are collapsible pedals to reduce leg and ankle injuries.
New for 2013 is an Enhanced Safety Package, which includes Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and rear park assist—all advanced accident-avoidance features that were just a couple of model years ago the exclusive domain of luxury-brand vehicles.
Although the Cruze boasts reasonably good outward vision compared to other cars in its segment, a rear vision camera is available as part of several option packages.
2013 Chevrolet Cruze
Updated infotainment brings the Cruze even closer to the top of the compact class for 2013.
The Chevrolet Cruze already had a feature set that was in line with that of a more expensive mid-size sedan, not a compact. But it the Cruze feature set just got even better for 2013, especially with respect to connectivity and infotainment.
GM is introducing the Chevrolet MyLink system to the 2013 Cruze. MyLink, which is a system based around a color touch screen, as well as voice commands, will be of interest to busy parents, as well as younger shoppers who want to take their smartphone connectivity everywhere they go, seamlessly. The system permits voice control for hands-free calling, music, and radio functions, as well as Gracenote functionality to grab playlist and album-art information. There are also Pandora and Stitcher apps that let you stream music while using your smartphone's data connection. MyLink is included on Cruze 2LT, Eco, and LTZ models, and optional on 1LT.
A touch-screen navigation system remains optional on the LTZ. But all Cruze models include a six-month subscription to OnStar's Directions and Connections services. Through the latter service, which requires a subscription after an intro period, an operator answers and beams navigation directions to the car. Once the directions are in, the vehicle will correct if you miss another turn. Overall, it's a feature that we've found tremendously useful.
Standard equipment even on the base Cruze LS includes keyless entry, air conditioning, power accessories, and a six-speaker sound system with auxiliary input. Mid-range LT models add items like a USB port, Bluetooth, and remote start, while the LTZ gets automatic climate control, heated mirrors, park assist, and a snazzier gauge cluster, 18-inch flangeless alloy wheels, as well as optional heated seats.
Muddying the waters is GM's LT trim that's split in two: 1LT and 2LT. The 1LT adds chrome wheels and power rearview mirrors, while the 2LT brings 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.
2013 Chevrolet Cruze
Highway mileage is excellent, though the Chevy Cruze doesn't fare quite as well on the EPA's city cycle.
The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze is very fuel-efficient—if you do mostly highway driving, and if you choose the smaller (and smoother) 1.4T engine.
With the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that comes in most LT and all LTZ models, the Cruze achieves 26/38 mpg with either of the transmission choices. 1.8-liter versions range from 22 to 25 mpg in the city and 35 or 36 on the highway.
And if you steer away from hybrids, the Cruze Eco is one way to delight while keeping it simple. Changes include thinner steel panels, smaller welds, and reduced flanges at welded joints, altogether reducing weight by about 25 pounds. A lower ride height (about the same as the Sport models), a rear spoiler, a larger front air dam, and an underbody air diverter are among the many features that improve fuel economy and aid aerodynamics. And the strategies work, for a significant improvement of 28/42 mpg with the manual transmission or 26/39 with an automatic transmission or 28/42 with the manual. As such, its cruising range of more than 500 miles.
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.