With the forthcoming 2016 Chevrolet Cruze, the automaker can safely lay its history of small-car troubles to rest. While the current car is a solid choice all around, more space and refinement should make the next-generation car even better.
Expect a more refined interior design; new four-cylinder engine joins efficient diesel offering; secure handling; big trunk.
Larger size means it will have to safely straddle two segments.
For 2016, the Cruze will be redesigned and offer a new engine along with the possibility of a new eight-speed transmission as well as coupe and hatchback models.
First, the good news: The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze will be among the first models designed atop GM's new global compact car platform, making the next-generation car a little longer and roomier inside. The bad news: It won't be here for awhile. GM says additional engineering work will delay the new Cruze by about a year.
The Cruze is GM's best-selling car globally, so we don't expect a significant departure from current styling. Spy photos confirm the same basic proportions and greenhouse as the current model, with a slight overall aerodynamic smoothing of the Cruze's traditional angles. A slightly longer wheelbase, however, should increase rear seat space -- one of the current model's few drawbacks -- and trunk space.
A 1.5-liter four-cylinder from GM's new Ecotec engine family will likely replace the current 1.8-liter base engine. Although smaller, the new turbocharged four-cylinder shouldn't have trouble topping the current engine's 138 horsepower. Whether the Cruze needs a second small turbo four-cylinder leaves the future of the current car's optional 1.4-liter uncertain. The turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel introduced with the 2014 model year, however, is almost certain to carry over.
Top trim levels and diesel models could continue to offer a standard six-speed automatic transmission, while lower trim models get a six-speed manual. But the Cruze is also a likely candidate for GM's new in-house eight-speed automatic, currently in development and expected by the time the 2016 Cruze launches. Finally, as Chevy looks to grow its small-car momentum, hatchback and coupe versions are distinct possibilities for the U.S. market.
The new Cruze should begin production in December of 2015 and go on sale the following spring as a 2016 model. Check back for a full review of the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze, including specs, driving impressions and buying advice as it becomes available.