November 19, 2010
The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze has been called the most important car release from GM in decades. The Cruze is Chevy's new post-bankruptcy world car that it's been working on since 2006. The car will be sold in markets all over the world and was designed by an international team from Germany and Korea. It's one model for one world. The cost savings of such a setup far eclipse the expense involved in planning and executing worldwide distribution.
Assuming it sells, that is. Because if there's anything harder than trying to develop a world-class compact car for the entire world, it's trying to convince people that the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is as good as a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla. That it's better than the new Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. That it's not a Cobalt or a Cavalier.
With a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4, navigation, iPod integration, heated seats, leather interior and a six-speed automatic transmission, the Cruze hits all the right notes. And to see if those notes hit with harmony or simply echo through a hollow room, we've bought a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ for our long-term test fleet.
What We Bought
In LS trim, with a 138-horsepower 1.8-liter inline-4, 16-inch steel wheels, antilock brakes, a six-speed manual transmission, OnStar and XM Radio, the 2011 Chevy Cruze will run you $16,275 before any options. Opting for that would be the cheapest way to get into a new Cruze. And while it wouldn't have been a penalty box, we wanted to see what the Cruze really had to offer.
The first step up the ladder, to 1LT, gets you GM's new 1.4-liter inline-4 which is turbocharged and makes the same horsepower (138) as the 1.8-liter but with much more torque twisting the meter all the way to 148 pound-feet compared to 123 in the 1.8. This new engine is bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission. A 1LT Chevy Cruze will run you $18,175.
In 2LT trim ($20,675) you get the 1.4, the six-speed auto, 16-inch split-spoke wheels, leather-wrapped wheel and shift knob, heated power seats, steering-wheel-mounted radio controls and remote start. Nice. But the LTZ, one step up, adds a USB port (a new must-have), ultrasonic park assist, chrome door handles, four-wheel disc brakes, 18-inch wheels, automatic climate control and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity. These features come at a price, though; $21,975. Some $5 grand more than the base car, and that's before options.
Painted Summit White and with a cocoa/light neutral interior, our 2011 Cruze has the $1,995 audio system with navigation, 7-inch color screen and 40GB hard drive; the power sunroof ($850); Pioneer Premium audio system ($445); and compact spare tire ($100).
An iPod hookup, hands-free phone, navigation: These are all niceties that, when found in our long-term cars, always result in higher mileage at the end of the year. Something about knowing where you're going, how to go there and having something to do while you're going there all add up. Besides, we shelled out our own money for this Cruze and this is how we wanted it.
And speaking of our own money, we paid for the 2011 Chevy Cruze out of our own budget at a time when the vehicle was just launched and dealers were completely unwilling to negotiate. The Cruze was ours for exactly the sticker price of $26,085.
Why We Bought It
It's GM's first serious dance on its global platform and the hype machine is spinning the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze as a compact giant-killer. A year in our long-term test fleet should prove or disprove the claim.
Let's be good Americans for a minute and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. In the U.S. alone, according to our data, in 2009 Toyota sold 252,389 Corollas, Honda sold 244,603 Civics and Chevy sold just 104,724 Cobalts. That's a difference of some 140,000 units, which is a lot. Can GM get a bigger chunk of the pie with the new Cruze? Is a 1.4-liter inline-4 enough for an American car? Will we get the 24 city and 36 highway mpg the EPA predicts?
At the end of 12 months and 20,000 miles, will we be won over by GM's effort, or will this fall into the same tired category of "better than before, still not good enough?"
Current Odometer: 2,098
Best Fuel Economy: 30.2 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 22.2 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 25.5 mpg
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.