Though SUVs are suddenly back in fashion, the bevy of new compacts hitting the market is providing traditional car shoppers with some excellent choices. And this next generation Chevy Cruze is one of them. Spoiler alert; it’s even better than its equally new big brother.
Having just finished up an ambivalent week with the all-new midsize Malibu, it turns out that this new Cruze is the car I thought the Malibu would be; stylish, premium, and most of all a huge improvement over what was.
The Cruze is a compact sedan priced from $17,495, offered with a manual transmission on all but the range-topping model, and now comes in a reimagined and lighter package affording more rear seat legroom. While the diesel option will have to wait a year, engine choices have been downsized to just 1; a direct-injected take on the 1.4-liter turbo-4 significantly upping the power quotient to 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. More get-up-and-go combined with fewer lbs makes for a quicker Cruze, capable of a 0-to-60mph time of 7.7 seconds; an impressive number in this class. When you take the Cruze all the way, you end up here with the Premier trim and its standard 6-speed automatic transmission sans paddle shifters or a sport mode. While most of the Premier’s appeal lies in its high level of content and upgraded aesthetics, the rear suspension also takes a step up from the standard torsion beam to a Watt’s linkage for slightly more sophisticated ride and handling characteristics. A stop/start system is standard, further helping the Cruze go from 30mpg in combined driving on last year’s car to 34mpg here. Though the car is 3” longer upon the same wheelbase, overall passenger and cargo volume is down slightly and the gas tank is smaller.
The Cruze approaches the driving experience with a mature bias, free of turbo lag, extraneous sounds or an overzealous suspension setup. Whether around town or on the highway you get the feeling that you’re driving a car from the next segment up. However, if you’re in search of a true driver’s car, the Civic has raised the bar to a height the Cruze can’t quite reach. Sporty driving here is met with about 7/10ths of the excitement found in the Honda. But I imagine most shoppers in this segment will appreciate the Cruze’s premium demeanor. And after all, there’s no shame in being a Kevin Durant in a LeBron James world.