Chevrolet Cruze review
The Chevrolet Cruze is cheap to buy and run, but basic cabin and noisy diesels dent its appeal
The Chevrolet Cruze rivals compact family cars like the Skoda Octavia and VW Golf and is based on the same platform as the Vauxhall Astra. The Cruze's main selling points are its value for money, and practicality, while its five-year warranty and prepaid servicing deals offer considerable peace of mind. The latest Cruze is a giant leap forward over Chevrolets of old (all of which were essentially rebadged Daewoos), but it lacks the polish of its mainstream rivals. While the car is robustly engineered and well built, the interior lacks the quality on offer from similarly priced rivals. Saloon, hatchback and SW estate variants are available, with the stylish yet practical hatch making the most sense for the large majority of buyers.
Our choice: Cruze 1.7 VCDi LTZ 5dr
The Chevrolet Cruze is unlikely to win first prize in a beauty pagent. While there are shades of the smart Citroen C4 in its appearance, on close inspection, the car's detailing lacks the appeal of its mainstream rivals, while the hatchback rear looks awkward when compared to the better proportioned saloon. It's a similar story inside. The cabin is well equipped, and features luxury touches like a leather steering wheel and gearlever gaiter, but it's no match for the likes of the Kia Cee'd. At least the interior is very comfortable, with supportive seats and plenty of leg and headroom while the mid-range LT model gets 16-inch alloys as standard. The Cruze is due a facelift in 2013, but this will most likely consist of light revisions rather than a complete external redesign.
There are four different engines in the UK Cruze line-up, two petrol and two diesel. The ancient 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated unit is best avoided, while the quicker 1.8 still feels slower and more asmatic than the pair of pokey diesels. The 1.7-litre VCDi diesel is much better, with plenty of mid-range torque and relatively low CO2 emissions as well. The Cruze Station Wagon also comes with the option of a 2.0 VCDi mated to an automatic transmission – but this feels slower and more sluggish than the punchy 1.7. However apart from the strong diesel engine, the Cruze has few positive dynamic qualities. The ride is jarring and firm, while the steering feels completely numb. To make it worse, road and wind noise is very high at motorway speeds and the tinny cabin makes any long journey a wearing experience.
The Chevrolet's modern underpinnings mean that the Cruze is a strong car. It was awarded a five-star score by Euro NCAP in its stringent crash tests, and all cars get six airbags and traction control as standard. The Cruze has proved reliable and while the current model didn't feature in our 2012 Driver Power satisfaction survey, the Vauxhall Astra on which it is based placed a respectable 39th. That said, the interior is cheaply finished and touch points like catches on cubbies and the glovebox are particularly flimsy.
There's no ignoring the size of the Cruze hatchback's 413-litre boot. It's roughly the same size as that in the Citroen C4, but it's much easier to access. The rear seats fold almost flat to create an 883-litre space, giving it generous but not class-leading dimensions. Storage in the cabin is reasonable, with a practical glovebox and decent door pockets. There is plenty of space in the rear – even for taller passengers, while the saloon and SW estate are even more generous still. The saloon has a 450-litre boot, which is 60 litres smaller than a Volkswagen Jetta's.
The 1.7-litre diesel engine offers the best fuel consumption and lowest emissions, at 62.7mpg and 117g/km respectively. We would definitely recommend it over the noisy and apallingly slow 1.6-litre petrol which has a combined fuel economy of 42.8mpg and high CO2 emissions of 153g/km which will mean a comparatively high tax bill. Low list prices and generous dealer discounts mean the Cruze is cheap to buy, while the excellent five-year warranty and pre-paid servicing deals mean they are cheap to run, too.