Diesel, wagon, stick shift: all terms that tend to scare off American car shoppers. But GM isn’t convinced that they can’t make them work. They’re determined to offer variety, and this new Chevy Cruze Hatchback is the perfect example.
The Cruze is one of the best compact sedans you can buy. And now Chevy gives you a more versatile choice. Wagon, hatchback, call it what you will. But this Cruze boasts over 47 cubic feet of cargo room. That’s just shy of the volume found in the Trax SUV and when the seats are left up, there’s far greater room in here. So for those of you who aren’t into the crossover/SUV thing, these little wagons are pretty remarkable in what they can hold. The only knock is that Chevy put zero innovation back here…no grocery bag hooks or any other kind of cleverness.
At a svelte 2,978 pounds for this top Premier trim, the hatch actually weighs less than the sedan, but it’s not cheaper. The base MSRP of $22,115 with manual transmission is about $4,300 more than the entry-level sedan. But the hatch comes with more standard equipment, and when fully optioned like this one, comes in at $29,465. That includes lots of premium features such as a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, OnStar 4G LTE with top of the line infotainment including smartphone projection and Bose audio, wireless phone charging, auto high beams and side blind zone alert among many other goodies. The soft leather front seats are Volvo-like in their comfort and the big windshield provides a commanding view. If you’re sitting in the rear, duck your head before getting in. These seats are elevated theater style for better visibility but that encroaches on headroom.
I already knew the Cruze was a really solid car but this Hatchback adds a sporty flair and versatility that elevates it for me. It’s a car you truly look forward to driving because it feels spry with a light steering touch that’s good at communicating the road. The gas pedal feels a little lazy but when pushed hard generates the turbo excitement you’re looking for, though even more engine would be welcome. This excellent chassis could certainly handle it.
This is the same powertrain found in the sedan; a direct-injected take on the 1.4-liter turbo-4 making 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. The 6-speed auto doesn’t come with sport mode or paddle shifters…you can plus minus from the lever…but it needs a sportier program to keep up when you’re driving for fun. The rear suspension in the Premier also takes a step up from the standard torsion beam to a Watt’s linkage for slightly more sophisticated ride and handling characteristics. 0-to-60mph take a reasonable 7.7 seconds. The Michelin MXM4 tires are usually an excellent fit on performance touring cars, but during this snowy week they proved to be unfit and plus, they contributed to more understeer than desired. The EPA estimate of 31mpg in combined driving is down 2mpgs from the sedan. A stop/start system is standard.
The RS Appearance Package includes the sporty body kit, fogs and rear spoiler giving it a hot hatch look. And yes, a stick shift diesel model is on the way combining everything American’s fear in a car.
The Cruze’s biggest competitor is the Civic, also offered as a hatch. And hopefully Chevy will follow Honda’s lead in offering a performance oriented model because the Cruze is ready for more.