- Handsome wedge styling
- Spacious interior
- Warm interior design
- Better fuel efficiency
- Modern safety features
- Sedan only for 2016 (hatch next year)
- Styling too close to Volt
- Still no performance options
- No adaptive cruise or crash braking
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze inches closer to mid-size, while growing lighter, leaner, and more fuel-efficient.
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is a new version of the compact sedan that put Chevy back on the map with a top-tier entry that took on the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Jetta, and many others back in 2011. It competes with the latest versions of those cars, and comes in several trim levels, from the base L through to the high-volume LS and LT models and on up to the top-of-the-line Premier versions.
Chevy calls the crisp, handsome wedge shape of the new Cruze an “aggressive design optimized for aerodynamics” (with a coefficient of drag of 0.29). It takes advantage of wind-tunnel testing done for the Volt, and inherits some of that car's chiseled, handsome look—and revamped dual-grille front end. If anything, the two cars look almost too similar, though similar styling has been introduced in the larger Malibu. The Cruze is a global model, selling as an upmarket sedan in some markets, so it has an "upscale ambience" inside, with a dual-cockpit look and refined interior materials.
The new Cruze gets only a single engine choice for 2016, a new all-aluminum 1.4-liter engine that’s 44 pounds lighter than the cast-iron-block engine it replaces. It gains direct injection and engine stop-start, and it makes 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a new 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. Separately, Chevrolet says that a 1.6-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder engine will arrive early in the 2017 model year, but its specifications and fuel economy haven’t yet been detailed. This year's gasoline Cruze models are EPA-rated at 33 to 35 mpg combined.
GM boasts that the new Cruze provides mid-size interior room in a small car, as well as premium cabin appointments that are inspired by Chevy’s larger sedans, the Impala and Malibu. The car is lower, leaner, and sportier, with a significant 3 inches added to overall length and an inch more wheelbase than before. That translates to 2 more inches of rear leg room, and GM says the Cruze offers more rear knee room than the Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra.
Handling and roadholding are tight and predictable, and while the Cruze is no sport sedan, it strikes a good balance between confident on-road behavior and a quiet, comfortable ride. Top Premier trims get an improved Watt’s link rear suspension arrangement, while the rest of the lineup has a conventional torsion-beam setup. The structure underpinning the Cruze is new, both stiffer and up to 250 pounds lighter than that of the 2015 model, offering a better-tuned ride and more precise handling.
On the safety front, the current Chevrolet Cruze has been a standout, with some of the best crash-test ratings in its class. GM claims that the new body structure is stronger yet, and it’s boasting that the Cruze will offer more standard safety technologies than any other model in its class—including 10 standard airbags. Optional active-safety systems include blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking assist in one package, and the addition of lane-keeping assist, intelligent headlights, and forward-collision warnings in a second package.
Two features offered by some competitors aren't presently offered on the 2016 Cruze, though: automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Chevy says its buyers showed less interest in those features, and that it is pricing the active-safety packages it does offer aggressively, to boost adoption.
Connectivity and infotainment aren’t skimped or skipped over in the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze lineup. Cruze L, LS, LT, and Premier trims will be offered, and across the lineup, the 2016 Cruze will include a standard rearview camera and a 7.0-inch MyLink touchscreen system with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, to allow you to use smartphone-enabled apps—streaming audio, for example—via the vehicle’s screen.
An 8.0-inch touchscreen is available, as is a 4G LTE data connection and hotspot capability, which Chevrolet says has proven to be a popular option that other models don't offer. Other options include heated rear leather seats, wireless phone charging, and premium leather upholstery with contrast stitching. A “more expressive” RS package will amp up the presentation, but as with the smaller Sonic to Sonic RS, a Cruze won't bring any serious increase in performance.
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze sedan is built in Ohio for the North American market, and is now on sale.
2016 Chevrolet Cruze
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze uses the same rakish, wedge-shaped profile as the Volt and similar cockpit styling; if anything, they're too close in style.
The shape of the 2016 Chevy Cruze is more rakish and less upright than its predecessor, which was a classic three-box sedan with a defined trunk. The new car has a handsome, chiseled look, with a window line that drops at the front and a wedge-shaped fastback profile with relatively little change in angle from the rear window to the trunk lid. It's a modern and attractive shape, but we've seen it before—in the similarly sized and quite similar-looking Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, in fact.
The two cars could almost be sedan (Cruze) and hatchback (Volt) versions of the same vehicle, and their interiors are similar too. This may not be a problem, since the Cruze is a mainstream small sedan starting under $20,000, while the Volt remains a specialized electric car starting above $33,000. The Cruze will also sell many times the number of units that the Volt will. But here's hoping that some of the Volt's tech-forward image rubs off on the much less expensive Cruze, and not the other way round.
The car's basic design received hundreds of hours of refinement in the wind tunnel to optimize the shape for the lowest possible aerodynamic drag. The drag coefficient is 0.29, but it's still identifiable as a new Chevrolet, with the same dual-grille front end as the Volt, the Malibu, and the Impala sedans. There's a bit more brightwork on the top-end models, and LED lighting has been introduced for the headlamps and taillamps.
The car is low, lean, and distinctly sportier than its predecessor, and that carries over to the interior. Again very similar to that of the Volt, it has straightforward instruments in a pod in front of the driver and a 7.0- or 8.0-inch touchscreen display in the center of the dash on every model. Controls are logical and intuitive, and brightwork is used to outline them.
The nicest interiors are the two-tone options on the Premier trim level, but all versions of the interior are a clean and cohesive design. Overall, it's modern without being overly stylized or too digital for mainstream buyers.
2016 Chevrolet Cruze
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze presently offers just one engine; it handles well but is more of a competent all-rounder than a sport sedan.
In its initial release, the 2016 Chevy Cruze offers only one engine—a 153-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder—and choice of 6-speed automatic transmission or, on lower-end models, a 6-speed manual.
Chevrolet quotes a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of 7.7 seconds, and the 2016 Cruze is agile in around-town use. Like so many cars designed for tougher, rising corporate average fuel-economy rules, it reaches power limits that are just a little lower than you may expect during hard acceleration. You'll find you will floor the car on that short, uphill highway on-ramp; the car will get you safely into traffic, but it doesn't have a lot of reserve left when it does.
Chevrolet promises it will add a 1.6-liter turbodiesel option early in the 2017 model year that will be the lineup's fuel-economy champ. A stop-start system is standard on all versions; it works smoothly and restarts quickly.
With up to 250 pounds less weight than its predecessor, the new Cruze has been designed to be more responsive and nimble, with a higher "fun to drive" quotient overall. Chevy's largely achieved that; the car handles well, cornering flat and staying firmly planted on the road while responding quickly and predictably to steering and power inputs.
Top Premier trims get an improved Watt’s link rear suspension arrangement, for crisper roadholding, while the rest of the lineup uses a conventional torsion-beam setup. All versions have rack-mounted electric power steering, and extended-life Duralife rotors for the four-wheel disc setup. It's no sport sedan, but it handles more confidently better than some of its Japanese and Korean competitors.
As always, ride quality is sensitive to wheel choice. The 2016 Cruze offers four different sizes of wheels and tires, from 15-inch steel rims on the base L and LS up through 16-inch alloys on the LT, 17-inch alloys on the Premier, and 18-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires on the Premier RS version. The bigger wheels look more stylish on the wedge shape, and seem to hold the road a bit better, but they ride worse. The most compliant ride, in fact, came in the base car we tested, and it had less road noise to boot.
Overall, the new Cruze strikes the right balance between a firm but comfortable ride and confident roadholding, though you'll get the best ride from the smallest wheels whose tires have tall sidewalls.
2016 Chevrolet Cruze
Comfort & Quality
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze rides quietly and offers decent but not extraordinary interior room.
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.
2016 Chevrolet Cruze
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze hasn't yet been fully rated by the NHTSA or IIHS; it offers most of the latest active-safety aids, but not all.
Crash-test ratings aren't fully in for the 2016 Chevy Cruze yet. The IIHS gives the new Cruze its highest rating of "Good" on the side impact and moderate-overlap front impact tests, but hasn't rated it on other measures yet. The NHTSA hasn't rated it at all.
A rearview camera and 10 airbags are standard, and the new Cruze offers two optional packages of electronic active-safety systems that are mostly complete, with two omissions. The Safety 1 package bundles the "rear-facing" systems, which are blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking assist. Safety 2 adds lane-keeping assist, intelligent headlights, and a forward-collision warning system with a following distance indicator to the first package.
The two missing items on the 2016 Cruze are adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, which are offered on a few of the latest small-sedan competitors. Chevy says its data showed those two items to be less important to buyers than the systems being offered, which it says are "priced for accessibility," and will thus be selected by more buyers.
Outward vision in the new Cruze is good but not superb, with the driver's forward view clear due to the drooping nose, but rear three-quarter vision only average (if not as bad as that of the competing Honda Civic).
2016 Chevrolet Cruze
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze trim levels are carefully staggered from affordable base to fully optioned Premier.
Trim levels on the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze range from the base L model, with a starting price well under $20,000, up to the Premier and Premier RS models at the top end. In between are the high-volume LS and LT versions, which will provide the bulk of U.S. Cruze sales, according to Chevy. The 6-speed manual transmission can be ordered on the base L, LS, and LT models, while the Premier is offered only with the 6-speed automatic.
All 2016 Cruze models include a standard rearview camera and a 7.0-inch MyLink touchscreen system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility as standard to let occupants use smartphone-enabled apps—streaming audio, for example—via the vehicle’s screen. OnStar is also standard on all versions.
The base L model isn't likely one you'll see often, but it offers a lower price and a bare-bones specification with a 6-speed manual gearbox only, 15-inch steel wheels, and plastic wheel covers. It does includes air conditioning, a 60/40 split rear seat back, and a driver's seat with manual height adjustment.
The LS is effectively the high-volume base model, gaining niceties like an armrest on the console and carpeted floor mats. It also adds the option of a 6-speed automatic.
Moving up to the LT gains you quite a lot of extra equipment. Among the additions are a six-speaker audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio, amenities like dual reading lamps, cruise control, audio and phone controls on the steering wheel, front fog lamps, heated door mirrors, 16-inch aluminum wheels, a rear center armrest with cupholders, and a compact spare tire rather than a sealant and inflator kit.
The Premier brings in high-end features like premium leather upholstery with contrast stitching, heated steering wheel and rear seats, ambient interior lighting, and illuminated vanity mirrors. Premier models get an improved Watt’s link rear suspension, for crisper roadholding, along with 17-inch aluminum wheels.
The RS package, optional on the LT and Primer models only, adds restyled front bodywork and grilles, changes to the rear bumper, aero add-ons for the rocker panels, a rear spoiler, and 18-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires.
A Sun and Sound package adds a larger 8.0-inch center touchscreen display, a color driver-information display between the instruments, and a 9-speaker Bose audio system, along with a sunroof. On the Premier model, a navigation system can be added to this package.
For electronic active-safety systems, the Driver Confidence package bundles blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert systems with rear parking assist sensors. For the Premier model only, a Driver Confidence 2 package adds forward-collision warnings, lane-keeping assist, and intelligent headlight control. Neither automatic emergency braking nor adaptive cruise control is offered on any Cruze version for 2016.
Finally, an Enhanced Convenience package—again only for the Premier—bundles automatic climate control, heated rear seats, wireless charging in a slot on the console for smartphones designed to accept it, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and a 110-volt outlet. Chevy notes as well that the optional 4G LTE data connection and associated internet hotspot capability distinguish the Cruze from other cars in its segment.
2016 Chevrolet Cruze
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is rated at 33 to 35 mpg combined, competitive with the latest entrants in its class.
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze gets EPA fuel-economy ratings that are competitive with the best new entrants in its class.
The highest ratings—30 mpg city, 42 highway, 35 combined—come in the models below the Premier trim level, fitted with the single 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. You'll lose 1 mpg combined if you opt for the high-end Premier version, which is rated at 30/40/34 mpg. And you'll lose 2 mpg combined if you swap for the base 6-speed manual transmission, rated at 29/41/33 mpg combined. A relatively smooth start-stop system is standard on all models.
Those numbers compare to a best of 35 mpg combined for the new Honda Civic, the same number achieved by a single Ford Focus version—with a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual gearbox—and the Toyota Corolla LE Eco. And they're considerably better than the 32 mpg combined for the latest Hyundai Elantra and the updated Nissan Sentra.
Chevrolet promises that it will add a 1.6-liter turbodiesel option to the Cruze for 2017, which will likely be the efficiency champion in the lineup. But you'll have to wait a year for that one.
Don't get the new 2016 Cruze mixed up with the carryover Cruze Limited, the last-generation model, with combined ratings from 27 to 30 mpg and a special high-efficiency Cruze Limited Eco model rated at 31 mpg combined with an automatic or 33 mpg with a 6-speed manual. The new car outdoes all of those versions.