2015 Chevrolet Cruze Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

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 Cruze interior's look and feel that sets it apart from other compacts. Even next to the newest entries in this class, it's the one most likely to impress passengers. The Cruze's cabin utilizes high-quality materials and two-tone color schemes aping that of more expensive mid-size sedans. 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 turbodiesel four. The 1.4-liter is the 'premium' of the two gas 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. The diesel ups both horsepower and torque while delivering even better fuel economy over the gas-powered engines.

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 Chevy hasn't tried to give the Cruze a little more curb appeal. It's 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; the headlights are new, but only change details without reworking their overall shape. Otherwise, from the profile to the sheetmetal and trim, the Cruze carries over on the outside.

Visually, the Chevrolet Cruze is only moderately smaller than its bigger brother, the Malibu mid-size sedan that's been cursed by its lack of rear passenger room. Visibility from the Cruze is also better than that in the Malibu thanks to a significantly lower beltline.

An optional RS Appearance Package kicks up the Cruze's visual sportiness on LT and LTZ trims with unique front and rear fascia treatments, fog lamps, "aero" rocker mouldings, and a rear spoiler. Changes continue on the inside with icy blue backlighting, unique instrument cluster bezels, and chrome accent treatments on choice controls.

The Chevrolet Cruze saves its best for where buyers spend most of their time: inside the car. Overall, the cabin is still impressive with high-quality materials throughout; 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 its trunk release and door-lock releases levers have been moved to more convenient locations (the center console and door panel, respectively).

Inside, the Cruze features a watered-down variation of Chevrolet's "twin cockpit" design that takes a different direction than the horizontal, shelf-like dashes in many other newer sedans. Still, it's able to blend style with function; hard plastics aren't typical of the cheap materials found in this segment and everything's within reach of the driver.

As has been the case since Chevrolet introduced the Cruze, fit and finish are excellent. Rubber grips on knobs and well-placed padding throughout the interior bring some intelligence to the Cruze's cabin. Uphostery, even in base models, has a high-quality feel, while leather-trimmed models feature impressive exposed seat stitching that adds a level of luxuriousness. Our only real gripe with the interior has to do with its center console armrest that doesn't extend forward far enough.

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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.

We recommend the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that powers most LT and up Cruzes. It delivers smoothness, refinement, and fuel efficiency married to either a six-speed manual or automatic. The lesser 1.8-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine is rough and noisy when called upon to deliver.

The Chevrolet Cruze diesel is well worth considering, even though it's only offered in a single model and trim. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel cranks out 151 hp and a strong 264 lb-ft of torque. Unfortunately, there's no manual transmission, but its six-speed automatic is beefier than that used in gas models. Diesel emissions are kept to a minimum with three different exhaust after-treatment solutions, all but eliminating smoke and soot. And like many diesels, it will eclipse its 33 mpg combined EPA fuel economy rating—especially if you tend to do more highway or long-distance driving.

The diesel is a bit slow from a dead stop. But once it builds turbo pressure, its superb mid-range torque makes for great highway cruising. Unfortunately, that lack of low-rev power is annoying around town in stop-and-go traffic. Bringing everything to a stop on the diesel are larger front disc brakes, which are jumpy but necessary considering the additional weight added by the diesel engine and associated emissions equipment. The diesel's low-rolling-resistance tires also start to give way on corners much earlier than those equipped on its gasoline counterparts.

We recommend choosing an engine that better suits your driving type and style for maximum benefit. If you mostly tool around town or the city, the 1.4T is the best choice—especially in Cruze Eco form for those looking to best maximize fuel economy. But if you're a road warrior, traveling long distances on America's many Interstates, the diesel offers the best blend of fuel efficiency and mid-range grunt, but it will also set you back around $25,000. That's a lot for a compact.

While the Chevrolet Cruze is a competent handler, it's more attune to family sedan duty. Its independent rear suspension makes easy work of broken pavement by staying planted, but the Cruze's strong suit is its comfortable ride that's never busy or harsh. That compliant ride does come at the expense of additional body roll versus other compacts, which discourages enthusiastic driving. But overall, even though the Cruze won't be hitting the autocross track anytime soon, it does inspire confidence in one's daily commute.

Rear drums on base model Cruze LS models keep costs low for entry-level buyers, while all other trims receive four-wheel disc brakes as standard. LT models are fitted with a touring suspension, while higher end 2LT and top-level LTZ trim Cruzes are afforded a sport-tuned suspenion with stiffer springs, retuned shocks, and a ride height that's a half-inch lower than the touring suspension. If most of your time is spent on the highway, opt for the touring suspension if options packages and trim choice allows. Otherwise, the sport suspension offers better dynamics and doesn't give up much comfort.

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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 Chevrolet Cruze should be on your shortlist if you desire a compact with generous passenger space and additional room for cargo. Its cabin has swarms of room to transport four adults in comfort inside its comfortable, well made interior and a voluminous trunk—at 15.4 cubic feet—to swallow all their luggage for day trips.

Up front, the Cruze offers comfortable seating with great ergonomics, even on base models fitted with manual height- and tilt-adjustable driver seats. Optional power adjustable front seats increase comfort for larger drivers who need to stretch their legs. And smaller drivers will find the Cruze fits their needs, too, with its lower beltline for better visibility and a tilt and telescopic steering wheel for additional comfort.

At the second row is where the Cruze begins to show its true compact classification. Limited width means you can only seat two adults comfortably in the rear seat, though you can still seat three in a pinch. Otherwise, there's more rear-seat legroom than you'd expect, even when placed behind taller drivers and front passengers, while seat materials feel of a higher quality than you'd find in the back of the Hyundai Elantra. And while the Cruze is home to a large trunk, those rear seats can be folded flat for larger items, and there's even a compartment under the trunk's floor for additional odds and ends.

Refinement is the Cruze's trump card thanks to numerous sound insulation and baffling measures atypical of the class—such as nylon sound baffles beneath its body work, triple door seals, and even an acoustic headliner. Its these efforts that make Chevrolet's compact a more calmer, quieter conveyance than any of its competitors. However, this refinement comes with a caveat: the Cruze Eco's weight-saving measures make for a slightly less quiet experience. But it's these measures—lightweight alloy wheels, lighter speakers, simpler rear suspension, active grille shutters, and higher gearing to name a few—that make the Cruze Eco's 40-mpg-plus highway fuel economy rating possible.

Moving away from the gas-powered Cruze, the turbodiesel also delivers a quiet, serene cabin, though the stereotypical tick-tick heard from diesel engines is evident when outside the vehicle. Thankfully, the Cruze diesel's aftertreatment systems keep visibile tailpipe emissions to a minimum; you won't see a Cruze diesel with a soot-covered rear bumper.

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2015 Chevrolet Cruze

Safety

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

The Cruze's ten standard airbags—front, knee, thorax-side front and rear, and head-curtain bags—are supplemented by electronic stability control and collapsible pedals for enhanced knee and ankle safety. In the event of a serious crash, all Cruze models will activate OnStar's Automatic Crash Response, a system that automatically contacts first responders should you not be able to get to a phone. Last year saw the addition of the Enhanced Safety Package, which adds rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and side blind zone alert—options fast becoming available in this affordable class of car, but which were exclusive to luxury nameplates just a few model years ago.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing, the Chevrolet Cruze earned top marks of five stars in all categories but rollover safety, where it was still awarded a very acceptable four-star rating. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded Chevrolet's compact top scores of "good" in every category except one: the new, tougher, small-overlap test. In the new test, the Cruze earned a "marginal" rating, just one step up from "poor" in the IIHS scoring system.

Worldwide, the Chevrolet Cruze has performed exceedingly well in crash testing—from Euro NCAP and ANCAP in Australia, to KNCAP in Korea to C-NCAP in China—with only slight variations to its basic structure for each market.

Visibility, also a big factor in overall vehicle safety, is excellent in the Cruze thanks to a low beltline and a rearview camera included on all models.

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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-model Cruze LS shows signs of cost-cutting; its 1.8-liter engine is rougher and thirstier than other engines offered and it lacks rear disc brakes. However, keyless entry, power locks, power windows, power mirrors, air conditioning, and its six-speaker audio system with auxiliary input still make the base Cruze good value for entry-level buyers.

But it's the LT trim that's proved most popular. USB input, Bluetooth, chrome wheels, power rearview mirrors, and remote start add a level of convenience demanded by modern compact buyers. Those wanting to option up further can opt for the 2LT's 16-inch alloys, leather seating with heated front seats, power driver's seat, cruise control, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.

Both LTZ and Diesel models are similarly equipped except for the engine itself. Those features include 18-inch flangeless alloy wheels, heated mirrors, automatic climate control, fancier gauges, and park assist. The diesel model will tip the financial scales at about $25,000.

OnStar is provided on a six-month trial basis on all new Cruzes and offers the Directions and Connections service, which let's you call an OnStar operator who then beams navigation directions to your car. We've found the service tremendously useful, but you'll need to subscribe to OnStar and pay a monthly fee after the six-month trial. Alternatively, the Cruze LTZ can be optioned with traditional touch-screen navigation.

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.

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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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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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