The Cavalier never really stacked up to its Japanese rivals. Neither could the Cobalt, but all this is going to change with the Cruze. Chevy's newest answer to the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. It's bigger, roomier and has a more classy interior. But is this enough to lure American buyers back to Chevy?
Performance: The Cruze comes with two four-cylinder engines. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 138hp and a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 138hp. Picking between the two clearly depends upon taste. If you desire more oomph on the highway, the turbo version makes the most sense. The 1.8 offers good fuel economy too and is the only version offered with a manual gearbox, unless you choose the Eco trim that has the turbo engine.
Ride & Handling: The Cruze doesn't offer sharp handling like some of its keen rivals. The ride has a jiggly quality, some bumps and potholes can easily upset the ride comfort. Handling is a mere acceptable, there isn't much body roll in corners. However, it doesn't feel as sporty as the Volkswagen Jetta. The steering is quick and light, but has very little feedback. Feeling almost numb at times.
Refinement: The engines don't offer much in terms of power. Both provide good pace around town, the turbo version feels more punchy thanks to the extra torque at low revs. At higher speeds the engine sends a loud sound track into the interior. Wind noise is well supressed, but some surfaces can kick up a bit too much road roar than desired.
Behind the wheel: There's adjustment for reach and height for the driver seat and steering wheel. Many drivers will find it easy to get comfortable. Some may not find the front seats comfortable. They're strangely shaped and are short on lower back support. All the controls are within easy reach of the driver's hand. Everything feels easy to use and operate. Rear visibility isn't great, but it isn't bad for a small sedan.
Space & Practicality: The rear seat offers plenty of space for two. The large center tunnel and narrow cabin means trying to carry three in the back is best avoided. The boot is fairly large, but the trunk uses an old fashioned hinges that eat into cargo space. The split folding rear seats increase cargo space.
Equipment: The Cruze comes with air-conditioning, cd-player with MP3 compatibility and tire pressure monitors all standard. You'll have to step up to the higher trim levels to get alloy-wheels, cruise control and heated front seats. Top of the range offers climate control, rear reverse camera and keyless start.
Buying & Owning: The Cruze doesn't seem much of a value compared to its rivals. But you do get plenty of kit for the money. Fuel economy is decent, and resale value should be average. Some may be put off by its bland styling.
Quality & Reliability: The interior looks and feels like a major leap forward for Chevy. The dash materials are hard to the touch, but look smart and are well textured. However, there are signs of cost cutting in some areas of the interior. Reliability for the Cruze is too soon to say.
Safety & Security: ESP, ABS and six airbags are all standard. An engine imobiliser and deadlocks are fitted on every model to keep theft at bay.
Likes: Roomy interior, a major improvement over the Cobalt, interior feels up to par with Japanese rivals, available turbocharged engine, decent fuel economy.
Dislikes: Two engines with the same output doesn't make much sense, the front seats lack support, some trim levels don't seem like much of a value for the money, exterior looks are on the dull side.
Overall: The Cruze is a major leap forward for Chevy. The interior feels high much improved, and there's plenty of kit for the money. If Chevy offers a more powerful engine, the value for the money factor will be well justified in the top of the range trim.