One ex­tra door give the Cruze plenty of prac­ti­cal space and even adds some style

The Hamilton Spectator - - WHEELS -

Con­cur­rent with growth in the com­pact-util­ity-ve­hi­cle seg­ment in Canada is a rise in com­pact-hatch­back pop­u­lar­ity, as new-car buy­ers seek greater us­able space in smaller mod­els.

That height­ened in­ter­est means the new-for-2017 Cruze Hatch­back is ar­riv­ing at just the right time and for all the right rea­sons.

As a com­pan­ion to the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Cruze sedan, the hatch­back joins the Ford Fo­cus, Toy­ota Corolla iM, Hyundai Elantra GT, Honda Civic and the Volk­swa­gen Golf (the grand­daddy of all small hatches). In fact, of all main­stream au­tomak­ers, only Nis­san and Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles lack a par­tic­i­pant in this class.

The Cruze Hatch­back uses the sedan’s plat­form as a start­ing point, which means the dis­tance be­tween the front and rear wheels is the same. In to­tal length, how­ever, the hatch­back is about 15 cen­time­tres shorter. The hatch’s sus­pen­sion and steer­ing sys­tems are iden­ti­cal to the sedan, ex­cept for a rear in­de­pen­dent setup used in the Pre­mium Hatch­back trim, which re­places the stan­dard solid tor­sion beam.

Of course what re­ally mat­ters to hatch buy­ers is how much stuff they can stow and is this re­gard the Cruze ap­pears pretty ef­fi­cient. Be­hind the rear seat there’s more room than you’ll find in a sim­i­larly shaped Ford Fo­cus, Mazda3, VW Golf and Toy­ota iM, but a bit less than the new Honda Civic Hatch­back de­liv­ers. With the rear seat folded al­most per­fectly flat, the Cruze re­mains spa­ciously com­pet­i­tive, al­though the squared-off Golf is tops in class.

The hatch­back’s styling is ar­guably more at­trac­tive than the Cruze sedan’s. The curvy lines, gen­tly slop­ing roofline and dis­tinc­tive rear end help make it a vis­ual de­light.

Also es­thet­i­cally pleas­ing are the in­te­rior ap­point­ments that mir­ror those of the sedan. The touch-screen is easy to see and use, al­though the myr­iad of steer­ing-wheel switches might seem too in­tim­i­dat­ing for the unini­ti­ated.

The Cruze Hatch­back legs it out us­ing the same pow­er­plant as the sedan. The tur­bocharged 1.4-litre four-cylin­der puts out 153 horse­power and 177 pound-feet of torque, which is ad­e­quate for a car weigh­ing in at about 1,400 kilo­grams. It does fall short of the sporty Civic Hatch­back’s num­bers, how­ever.

Some­time in 2017, a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel en­gine will be avail­able in the Cruze sedan and hatch­backs with an ex­pected out­put of 136 horse­power and 236 pound-feet.

There are ru­mours that a more po­tent turbo en­gine might also be­come avail­able, which would help the Chevy com­pete against the Fo­cus ST, VW GTI and up­com­ing Civic Si hot hatches.

Trans­mis­sion choices con­sist of a sixspeed man­ual and an op­tional six-speed au­to­matic with man­ual-shift con­trols. The lat­ter helps pro­duce best-case fuel-con­sump­tion num­bers of 8.3 l/100 km in the city and 6.4 on the high­way.

The base Hatch­back sells for $22,400, in­clud­ing des­ti­na­tion charges. That’s up from the sedan’s $17,700 base price, but the hatch starts at a higher (LT) trim level that in­cludes more of the ba­sics than the sedan’s price-leader L and LS des­ig­na­tions. Se­lect­ing the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion gets you a power sun­roof, fuel sav­ing en­gine start-stop sys­tem and a larger touch­screen dis­play.

At the top end, the Premier maxes out with key­less start, leather seat cov­er­ings (heated in front), power-ad­justable driver’s seat, heated steer­ing wheel and 17-inch wheels (16-inch­ers are stan­dard).

Avail­able op­tions in­clude cli­mate con­trol, nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, nine-speaker Bose au­dio pack­age plus ac­tive safety tech­nol­ogy de­signed to pre­vent or at least warn the driver of im­pend­ing col­li­sions.

By any mea­sure, the Cruze Hatch­back should ex­pect a warm re­cep­tion with buy­ers bent on max­ing out their com­pact-car pur­chase. Given its ca­pac­ity, the hatch rep­re­sents more than a fair com­pro­mise be­tween out­right util­ity and a shape that’s down­right de­sir­able.

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