2018 Chevrolet Cruze Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz
May 25, 2018

The 2018 Chevy Cruze offers lots of compelling reasons to select it, but we’d like to see more safety tech on its standard equipment roster.

The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze compact hatchback or sedan is small in size but big on flavor combinations. It's a four- or five-door, with an automatic or manual transmission, and gas- or diesel-powered engines.

No competitor offers quite as many choices as the easy-going Cruze, which helps boost its score to a 6.8 out of 10 in our testing. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Chevy Cruze is available in L, LS, LT, and Premier trim levels, although not all trims are available in both body styles. This year, the Cruze hatchback version adds a diesel engine as an extra-cost option and there’s a new Satin Steel Gray Metallic paint color.

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Most Cruzes are fitted with a small turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine rated at 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. The optional 1.6-liter turbodiesel engine checks in at 137 hp and 240 lb-ft, but its most impressive figure is its 52 mpg highway fuel-economy rating. The Cruze is offered with 6-speed automatic or manual transmissions, plus a 9-speed automatic that’s exclusive to the turbodiesel. All models are tuned more for comfort than for performance, but we’ve found the Cruze lineup to be quiet, comfortable, and composed even when pushed hard. They fall short of entertaining, even with the optional RS package, but they deliver what most buyers will want.

We recommend the more roomy Chevy Cruze hatchback. It's the utility player, with 47 cubic feet of cargo space, which rivals some of Chevy's own small crossover SUVs for carry-on stuff.

One notable demerit, however, is the Cruze’s subpar safety record. We don’t have full crash-testing data, but the NHTSA's rates the Cruze at five stars overall. Additionally, even the priciest Cruze can’t be fitted with high-tech safety features such as automatic emergency braking. That’s a surprise given the technology is now standard on several of the Cruze’s key competitors.

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2018 Chevrolet Cruze

Styling

A crisp, clean look inside and out gives the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze a rich look for a small car.

The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze boasts a clean, eye-catching design regardless of body style. Both its interior and exterior are above average in our opinion, elevating it to a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Outside, the Cruze’s look is toned and crisp, especially with the optional RS package that adds a sporty-looking body kit. That package can be fitted to certain LT and Premier models, depending on other options. The Cruze hatchback is particularly neat-looking at the rear, with its pert tailgate and mock diffuser rear bumper design.

One caveat: The base Cruze L and LS trim levels come standard with dinky 15-inch hubcap-clad wheels that look pretty downmarket. More and more rivals are eliminating hubcaps in favor of standard alloy wheels, and given the Cruze’s somewhat premium pricing, it’s a surprise to see these basic wheels as standard.

Inside, all Cruzes boast a simple, clean dashboard design. Buttons and switches are sparse, but are laid out in a convenient manner. A 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard across the lineup, which further elevates this small car’s interior. Higher-spec trim levels like the Cruze LT and Premier can be ordered with saddle-colored leather upholstery that looks especially rich—as it should at a sticker price that can top $30,000 with every option selected.

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2018 Chevrolet Cruze

Performance

The Chevy Cruze’s multiple engine and transmission options make it an intriguing choice for drivers.

The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze is available in a variety of flavors—none especially tame, but none that will set your heart racing, either.

It’s the only compact car with an optional turbodiesel engine, for which we give it an extra point. Its sublime ride quality adds another point to its tally, bringing it to a 7 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Most Cruzes are fitted with a 1.4-liter turbo-4 rated at 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. It’s fairly smooth, but doesn’t endow the relatively lithe Cruze with exceptional grunt when mated to the optional 6-speed automatic. A 6-speed manual is standard and it offers good shift action paired with a light, easy clutch.

A 1.6-liter turbodiesel inline-4 engine was added last year and is now available in both the sedan and hatchback bodies with either a 6-speed manual or a 9-speed automatic. The turbodiesel attempts to fill the vacuum left by Volkswagen’s departure after the disastrous admission that it intentionally cheated the EPA’s emissions testing. For the most part, this little diesel motor is a gem. With 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, it’s not a rocket, but the engine is nearly silent and the broad torque spread endows it with easy acceleration. The 9-speed automatic shifts with little hesitation; we’ve yet to drive the 6-speed manual, however.

All Cruze models have the same suspension tuning regardless of wheel and tire package. They take bumps in stride, almost like little luxury sedans. Electric power steering delivers little road feel to the driver, but it is nicely weighted and helps the Cruze cut through a twisty road well.

Competitors from Mazda and Hyundai are sportier, but the Cruze fulfills its middle-of-the-road mission well.

Certain versions—the range-topping Premier and certain LTs optioned up with either the RS or the Redline package—have a more sophisticated rear suspension with a Z-link design that helps them zip through corners with a hint more poise, but it takes back-to-back driving to really feel the difference.

All versions are quiet and comfortable highway cruisers, with excellent straight-line stability and little road noise intrusion. The hatchback filters out slightly less road noise than the sedan but, again, you’d have to do a back-to-back comparison to really notice the difference.

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2018 Chevrolet Cruze

Comfort & Quality

The 2018 Chevy Cruze offers up good room for adults and their gear.

Few compact cars offer the interior roominess of the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze; we’ve given it extra points for its big trunk space regardless of bodystyle and for how it can sit four adults in real-life comfort.

That brings it to a 7 out of 10 in our eyes. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Cruze offers up terrific stretch-out space for average-size adults at all four outboard positions; a middle rear-seat rider makes things tight in the back seat, but that’s expected. Cloth upholstery is standard on all but the Premier—leather is fitted there and it’s also optional on the Cruze LT. With cloth seats, the Cruze has a six-way manually adjusted driver’s seat, but an eight-way power unit with adjustable lumbar is a worthwhile option. The Cruze’s standard cloth is firm and durable-feeling, but the available leather has a nice grain to it that feels a class or two above.

In terms of interior material quality, the Cruze is about average for its segment aside from the available leather. Soft-touch, nicely grained trim abound up front, but there’s more hard plastic in the rear seat.

Even the Cruze sedan is roomy, with nearly 14 cubic feet of trunk space (14.8 cubic feet for L and LS models). The hatchback’s posterior balloons to more than 24 cubes and maxes out around 47 cubic feet with the rear seatback folded. That said, some hatchback competitors are roomier here thanks to the way the Cruze’s rear window slopes more aggressively than more mini-wagon rivals like the Ford Focus and Subaru Impreza.

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2018 Chevrolet Cruze

Safety

There’s some room for the Chevrolet Cruze to improve its safety tech and crash-test scores.

Although we don’t have enough data to assign the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze a score for its safety record, what we do know leaves some room for improvement. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Federal testers rate the Cruze at five stars overall, albeit with four stars for side-impact and rollover crash protection.

The IIHS hasn’t subjected the Cruze to its full barrage of tests yet. In the moderate overlap frontal and side-impact tests, the IIHS scores the Cruze at its highest “Good” rating. However, the IIHS assigns only its lowest score—”Basic”—to the Cruze’s collision avoidance and mitigation tech.

That’s because the Cruze doesn’t offer automatic emergency braking on any model. Frankly, we’re shocked that Chevrolet doesn’t at least offer this important tech, which automakers have agreed to fit to nearly every new car by 2021, as at least an option. That’s especially surprising in light of decisions by Toyota and Nissan to make the tech standard.

The Cruze comes with 10 airbags, including knee airbags for front seat occupants and seat-mounted side airbags for both the front and rear outboard positions. Blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts are optional as part of the Driver Confidence Package on LT and Premier models with automatic transmissions. A separate Driver Confidence Package II relegated only to the Premier adds automatic high-beam headlights, forward collision alerts, and active lane control.

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2018 Chevrolet Cruze

Features

There are lots of Chevy Cruzes to pick from, but they can get pricey with options.

The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze is available in a wide array of trim levels for just about every budget, but they’re all about par for the course with few surprises. That said, we like the Cruze’s standard infotainment system with its 7.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, which adds a point above average for a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Cruze L models are the ones you’ll see advertised in newspapers; they’re not spartan, but they don’t pile on the luxuries, either. At less than $19,000, the Cruze L is fitted with power windows, locks, and mirrors, plus air conditioning, four speakers, a USB port, Bluetooth, a one-piece folding rear seat, and a rearview camera. But they’re only available with a 6-speed manual.

To get an automatic, you’ll have to step up to the Cruze LS. It brings little other than floor mats and an additional USB port to the L party, but it can be specified with an optional 6-speed automatic.

Available in both sedan and hatchback bodies, with either gas or diesel power, the Cruze LT offers a wider range of customizability. Both the sedan and hatch mostly mirror each other in terms of standard equipment, which includes steering wheel audio controls, six speaker audio, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, cruise control, satellite radio, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Several option packages are available with features like leather upholstery, a power moonroof, Bose audio, heated front seats, keyless ignition, and a power driver’s seat. An 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with upgraded software and navigation is also available.

The most notable option package is the RS appearance group with its 18-inch alloy wheels, special front and rear fascias, and tasteful rear spoiler. The RS package is standard with the 6-speed manual and optional with the automatic.

Topping the range is the Cruze Premier with its standard leather and heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, keyless ignition, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

An optional Driver Confidence Package adds blind-spot monitors, lane departure warnings, and rear cross-traffic alerts to both LT and Premier trim levels. Only the Premier can be fitted with the Driver Confidence Package II with automatic high-beams, forward collision alerts, and active lane control.

It’s hard to place an exact premium for the diesel engine over the base gas unit since Cruzes aren’t equipped quite the same, but figure that the diesel runs about $2,800 more.

Notably absent features, even on the Premier? A head-up display, air-conditioned front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and automatic emergency braking.

Somewhat making up for those surprising deficits is standard OnStar with a 4G LTE antenna on all Cruze variants. In addition to concierge and emergency services, it also turns the Cruze into a wi-fi hotspot. Some OnStar features are standard for an initial trial period and Chevy offers even more features as part of a monthly subscription.

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2018 Chevrolet Cruze

Fuel Economy

The Chevy Cruze is among the thriftiest cars you can buy—and the diesel sips even less fuel.

Our 7 out of 10 score is based on the most popular 2018 Chevrolet Cruze: the gas-fueled sedan with an automatic transmission. But those looking for a miserly car will find the Cruze hard to beat, as long as they pick the right options. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The gas-fueled Cruze sedan with its available 6-speed automatic checks in at a solid 29 mpg city, 40 highway, 33 combined (29/39/33 mpg for the Cruze Premier thanks to its larger wheels). Stick with the, well, stick-shift, and you’ll see those figures fall slightly to 27/40/32 mpg.

The Cruze hatchback gas model is a little less aerodynamic and comes in at 29/38/32 mpg with the automatic or 27/38/31 mpg with manual.

Those averse to a Toyota Prius, but looking for good fuel economy, should look no further than the Cruze diesel. The automatic sedan is rated at 31/47/37, while the manual checks in at an impressive 30/52/37 mpg—that’s right, 52 mpg on the highway. That gives the Cruze diesel sedan with the 6-speed manual a 712-mile theoretical range.

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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$16,975
MSRP based on 4-Door Sedan 1.4L L w/1SM
 
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6.8
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety N/A
Features 6
Fuel Economy 7
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  • 2018 Cruze supplies in good shape
  • $1,750 rebate on all styles
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  • Get 2.9% APR for 60 months
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