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Chevrolet Cruze

Is new saloon the car that can finally help brand crack the tough UK market?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Chevrolet hasn’t managed to establish itself with UK buyers so far – and although the Cruze is clearly its best car yet, it’s unlikely to change the manufacturer’s profile here. We doubt its looks, quality or performance will cause the likes of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf to lose any sleep. But it’s still a big leap forward for Chevrolet – and the forthcoming hatchback version could well be the car that finally breaks through. For now, you can’t argue with a model that provides Vauxhall Astra space for the same money as a Corsa – so if you’re in the market for budget family transport, it’s worth a look.

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The future starts here, says Chevrolet. This car will herald an all-new range of exciting and modern family models from the General Motors-owned brand.

On sale in July, the four-door Cruze saloon is based on the upcoming new Vauxhall Astra, and sets out to offer a big car feel at a small car price. The line-up kicks off at £11,545 – but can the newcomer put Chevrolet on the shopping lists of family buyers, or is the Cruze another also-ran?

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The seeds of the Cruze were sown at the 2006 Paris Motor Show, when Chevrolet revealed the Ultra concept. This striking, sporty hatch whetted appetites for a truly desirable family car from the brand.

We’ll have to wait 18 months to see the five-door join the Cruze range, however – so, until then, this saloon is about as exciting as things get. At the front, the grille gets a similar split design to the show car, while the bold headlights and sleek roofline are further well judged details. Otherwise, though, the Cruze doesn’t exactly stand out. From the rear it looks a little like the Hyundai Sonata!

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Things get better inside, where the Cruze takes inspiration from its larger Vauxhall cousin, the Insignia, with an attractive centre console and a neat dash with blue-backed dials. It’s just a pity there’s so much grey material, and while the plastics are hard-wearing, they are basic in places.

Getting a comfortable driving position is easy, as the steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake. There’s just about enough room in the back for three small adults, while the deep boot has a 450-litre capacity. What’s more, equipment is generous, particularly on the flagship 1.8-litre LT we drove. It gets climate and cruise control plus 17-inch alloys as standard. The Cruze sits on GM’s latest Delta II platform, which will underpin the new Astra.

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Up front are McPherson struts, and at the rear is a torsion beam layout. While top-end versions of the Vauxhall could boast an independent multi-link set-up, most will feature the Cruze’s more cost-effective arrangement at the back. Still, the chassis is genuinely good. The Cruze has a very comfortable ride that doesn’t come at the expense of the handling. Body roll is kept in check, the car feels stable and only the numb steering lets the side down. All in all, it bodes well for the next Astra.

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Power comes from a range of 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol engines, plus two 2.0-litre diesels. Our manual 1.8 LT is expected to be the top seller. It delivers 139bhp and promises 0-62mph in 10 seconds, so you might expect brisk performance. But as the unit offers only 176Nm of torque and has a 1,290kg kerbweight to pull, the car feels rather lacklustre on the move. It needs to be revved hard to make meaningful progress – and this highlights the engine’s coarseness. Nevertheless, it settles down at high speeds, and the well padded seats help the Chevrolet take the sting out of motorway miles.

So should the Cruze be on your shopping list? Well, it doesn’t really offer anything new in this class. However, it’s an honest compact family car that does exactly what it sets out to do – bring generous amounts of space and equipment on a budget.

Rival: Kia Cee’d If you demand value for money, look no further than the Cee’d. Not only is it very competitively priced, it’s also equipped to a high standard, good to drive and extremely practical. Buyers get a wide choice of engines, too – but it doesn’t feel like a budget car. Add in a seven-year warranty and you’ve got a winner.

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