USA TODAY US Edition
Chevy Cruze ups its game
Sleek and spacious, it’s better all around,
Among vehicles that send a tingle up car enthusiasts’ spines, Chevrolet’s Cruze hasn’t exactly risen to the top of the list. In a crowded field of compacts, it had just sort of melted into the cityscape.
But a new design has dramatically improved its appearance. Besides being far sleeker, the new Cruze is longer and lighter than the previous generation. And, through some thoughtful redesign inside and out, the new Cruze is just better all around.
To us, the Cruze feels like coming home. Lately, we’ve driven a series of brash cars that scream for attention — from the McLaren 570S to the Ram Rebel pickup. Each has its own delights, but they often came with compromises. Cruze, by contrast, is a comfortable, no-hassle car that functions and feels distinctly American. You don’t need a degree from a German university to figure out how to set the air conditioning or work the radio. Buttons are where you’d expect to find them. You don’t have to fumble for the trunk release, for instance. It’s right there on the driver’s door.
There’s also ample space. It has a roomy trunk, refreshing after driving a series of hybrids and smaller cars lacking that feature. There’s good leg room, though we wouldn’t mind a little more headroom. And there’s just the right amount of tech to be practical, including General Motors’ 4G hot- spot, which can save the day when driving outside cities.
The latest Cruze adds about 2.7 inches to previous generations, yet it is about 250 pounds lighter. Chevy also says its body structure is 27% stiffer, but this isn’t the kind of car likely to be cornered hard very often.
It’s fairly plush. At least in the Premier edition, the Cruze is quiet enough to feel like a larger car. It’s so quiet that at first you don’t notice when the engine shuts off and restarts at stops to save gas. Soon, though, that stop-start feature becomes annoying, especially the way the steering wheel ticks slightly to the right when the engine kicks back in.
That 1.4-liter turbocharged engine was a competent performer but not a standout. It provides adequate pep, but certainly not an overabundance. It’s rated at 30 miles per gallon in the city, 40 mpg on the highway and 34 mpg overall. We got a little more than 30 mpg in a mix of city and freeway driving.
In this premium version, it comes with some nice safety features. A $790 “driver convenience package” adds all those alerts that are becoming increasingly popular, like forward collision warning. Before options, the Cruze Premier is priced at $23,120, plus $875 in delivery fees. That’s a healthy premium over the base price of $16,620, but the Premier has a much plusher feel. A cruise in a Cruze? Not a bad idea.
At least in the Premier edition, the Cruze is quiet enough to feel like a larger car.