The Chevrolet Cruze does not have history on its side. The Chevrolet division of General Motors has historically done "big" well: big trucks, big family sedans and big V8 muscle cars. When it comes to small cars, though, the General hasn't been so good, with the lamentable Cavalier and Cobalt being the two most recent examples. But that's changed with the compact Chevrolet Cruze sedan, an honest first-class upgrade that leaves pedestrian design and suspect quality behind in favor of well-rounded sophistication that meets its world-class competition head-on.
The Cruze's handling is sharp and precise, but the most welcome improvements involve a roomy cabin and vastly improved styling and quality. With a variety of truly impressive competitors available these days, we wouldn't exactly call it a class leader, but the wholly competent Cruze shows that Chevrolet can now do "small" as well as "big."
Current Chevrolet Cruze
The Chevrolet Cruze is a five-passenger compact sedan offered in LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ trim, plus a fuel-sipping Eco version. A 1.8-liter inline-4 generating 136 horsepower motivates the Cruze LS, while the Eco, LT and LTZ models upgrade to a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine with 138 hp and significantly more torque.
Base LS and LS Ecos transmit their power through a standard six-speed manual transmission, while uplevel Cruzes are equipped with a six-speed automatic that's optional on the others. Acceleration is competitive, with 0-60-mph acceleration in the 9-10-second range. Eco models can achieve 40 mpg on the highway thanks to special aerodynamic features and low-rolling-resistance tires.
Regardless of trim, the Cruze is well equipped, as even the base LS gets air-conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, OnStar, 10 standard airbags, a 60/40 split rear seat and a six-speaker sound system. As with many modern compact cars, the Cruze can be equipped with a variety of comfort and convenience features previously reserved for luxury cars. These include blind spot monitoring, leather upholstery, heated seats, a power driver seat, Bluetooth, parking sensors, a rearview camera, a navigation system and a premium sound system. Just because you're buying a small car doesn't mean you can't have all the bells and whistles.
Taking center stage inside the Chevy Cruze's cabin is a dual-cowl dash layout seen on some other Chevrolets. Two-tone color options combine with a high level of fit and finish to create a stylish and upscale cockpit-oriented environment, though the Cruze uses some plastic trim that seems cheaper and harder than that of its competitors.
The Cruze's front seats are a bit narrow, which might be an issue for some drivers, but they offer plenty of adjustment and are both supportive and comfortable. A low cushion for the backseat diminishes comfort for longer-limbed riders, whose thighs will have minimal support. Actual legroom is average for the segment, but the trunk is surprisingly large.
On the move, the Cruze's handling is athletic even on standard suspension cars, and can be downright sporty in the LTZ. However, it should be noted that ride quality can be overly firm in models with bigger wheels.
Used Chevrolet Cruze Models
The Chevrolet Cruze was an all-new model for 2011. Apart from the availability of a few new features, such as a rearview camera, changes have been minimal since.
Read the most recent 2014 Chevrolet Cruze review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Chevrolet Cruze page.