The Chevrolet Cruze is a compact sedan with an appealing blend of fuel efficiency, elegant styling and overall refinement.
Chevrolet has given the Cruze a mild facelift for the latest model year. The sedan adopts a softer design loosely inspired by the larger Malibu and Impala sedans. The front fascia features a bigger version of the outgoing model's two-part grille, while the rear end boasts mildly revised tail lamps.
Inside, the Cruze gains a host of available high-tech equipment such as Apple Siri integration and a Text Message Alerts feature that reads incoming texts through the car's speakers.
The primary engineering and development work for the Cruze was performed by GMDAT, GM's Korean partner, although there was also strong input from the North American and European planning groups.
The Cruze is a truly global model that is offered in a variety of markets. The U.S. version sees the rear independent suspension sold elsewhere replaced with a less sophisticated Z-link suspension, but gains an acoustic laminated windshield for added interior quietness. The Cruze also features rack-mounted electric power steering, a feature that delivers a small fuel economy benefit and reduces required steering input for low speed maneuvers.
Entry-level models are powered by a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft. of torque. The mill returns 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway when linked to a six-speed manual transmission, or 22 in the city and 35 on the highway with the optional automatic gearbox is selected.
Higher trim levels feature a turbocharged 1.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder mill that puts out 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque. The turbo four returns up to 28 mpg in the city and 42 mpg on the highway when the Eco trim and the manual transmission are ordered, while non-Eco models are rated at 26 in the city and 38 on the highway with either gearbox.
Representing General Motor's first U.S.-market oil-burning car since the 1986 Chevette, the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel uses a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder that produces 148 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. For quick bursts of acceleration, an overboost function can increase peak twist to 280 lb-ft for up to 10 seconds- that's a serious amount of torque for a small sedan.
With shifting duties handled by a six-speed automatic, the Clean Turbo Diesel is capable of charging from zero-to-60 mph in 8.6 seconds. Fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg in the city, 46 mpg on the highway and 33 mpg combined.
To help meet emissions standards, the Clean Turbo Diesel uses a urea injection system with a 4.5-gallon tank. It eats up roughly two cubic feet of cargo space, although that still leaves a respectable-by-class-standards 13 cubes. One tankful of urea will last about 10,000 miles before a refill is required.
Trim level breakdown
The Cruze is offered in four standard trim levels: LS, LT, LTZ and Eco. The diesel model gets its own set of standard features, and the gas-burning Cruze can also be had with a specialty option package, known as RS Appearance, which includes rocker moldings, unique front and rear fascias, front fog lamps and a rear spoiler.
The base LS trim level comes with the 1.8-liter Ecotec engine and a six-speed manual transmission, A/C, power locks and windows and remote keyless entry.
Opting for the LT essentially swaps out the less efficient 1.8-liter four-cylinder for the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine (the six-speed stick remains standard) and bumps the wheels up to 16-inches, adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and outside power-adjustable, body-color mirrors.
The 1LT sub-trim level also adds the Connectivity Package as standard, which adds Bluetooth for select phones, UBS port in the center console and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. There is an available 1LT All-Star Package which adds a power sunroof and premium Pioneer audio system. The 1LT Driver Convenience Package includes driver six-way power seat adjuster with manual recliner, driver and front passenger illuminated vanity mirrors, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror and outside heated, power-adjustable mirrors
The 2LT sub-trim level adds front bucket seats with leather seating surfaces, six-way power driver seat and heated driver and front passenger seats. A seven-inch touch-screen that operates the sound system is new for the latest model year. The 2LT also has available navigation with touch screen seven-inch color display system, available premium Pioneer nine-speaker audio system, 17-inch alloy wheels with four-wheel disc brakes and rear park assist. The available 2LT Driver Convenience Package includes driver and front passenger illuminated vanity mirrors; auto-dimming inside rearview mirror; rear vision camera and outside heated, power-adjustable mirrors.
Factory remote start is included when the automatic transmission is selected.
The high-mpg Cruze Eco is packaged similarly to the LT trim level with 17-inch alloy wheels and ultra low-rolling resistance tires, as well as a package to improve aerodynamics.
Jumping to the range-topping LTZ will result in the same 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, but with a six-speed automatic transmission. Drivers enjoy an uplevel chrome-trimmed instrument panel, drivers and passenger illuminated vanity mirrors, a six-way power driver's seat, leather seating surfaces, steering wheel and shift knob. Also standard is cruise control, Bluetooth, USB, steering-wheel radio controls, automatic climate control, ultrasonic rear-parking assist, 18-inch wheels and remote start.
The turbodiesel Cruze comes standard with such niceties as leather upholstery, heated front seats and Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system. MyLink functions through a seven-inch touchscreen mounted in the dashboard - or, alternatively, voice commands or redundant steering-wheel-mounted buttons - and controls the sound system as well as the optional navigation system. It also handles Bluetooth pairing duties and provides access to smartphone-based apps like Pandora radio and Stitcher radio.
Notably, a two-year free maintenance plan that covers oil changes, tire rotation and diesel exhaust fluid is part of the package, as is an extended five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
All Cruze models are available with Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system, which offers voice control of certain entertainment functions and includes Bluetooth smartphone connectivity and streaming audio via Pandora radio and Stitcher SmartRadio. Mylink is not available on LS models, optional on the 1LT and standard on all other trims.
The Cruze features several high-tech options and features such as a premium Pioneer nine-speaker stereo system featuring a 250-watt amplifier, heated leather seats and OnStar.
A new enhanced Safety Package brings rear park assist, Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
The Cruze comes with an impressive 10 airbags, include dual front, front side, front knee, rear side and full-length side curtain airbags. Traction and stability control systems are also included.
Notably, the Cruze is the first automobile to utilize single-stage "smart" airbags. In contrast to traditional dual-stage airbags, which rely on one inflator for low-speed crashes and another for high-speed crashes, the single-stage airbags make use of a single inflator to handle both low- and high-speed crashes. In order to compensate for the single inflator, the single-stage air bag system employs a unique flexible venting technology that uses the driver's forward momentum to push air out of the bag, reducing the risk of inflation-induced injury.
The single-stage system is lighter and less complex than dual-stage units and, more importantly, has proven to be just as safe.
Those interested in the Cruze should also consider the Honda Civic and the Americanized Volkswagen Jetta. Other options include the Nissan Sentra and Mitsubishi Lancer.
The only true competitor to the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is the oil-burning Volkswagen Jetta TDI, which isn't as powerful but boasts slightly higher combined fuel economy. Unlike the Cruze, it can also be spec'd with a manual transmission.