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2011 Chevrolet Cruze: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze as our editors live with this car for a year.

Chevrolet Cruze 2011

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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.

Track Tested w/ Video

November 20, 2010

We jumped the gun with the 2011 Chevy Cruze LTZ. We could'e waited for the Long Term introduction and for it to go live on the LT blogs, but it's an important car and virtually as soon as we had the numbers, we wanted them out. So, in case you're not a frequent Straightline reader (You are, right? ) here are the track numbers and impressions of testing a 2011 Chevy Cruze LTZ, powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged I-4.

Vehicle: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ
Odometer: 1,482
Date: 11/09/10
Driver: Chris Walton
Price: $26,085

Drive Type: Front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Six-speed automatic
Engine Type: Turbocharged, port-injected, inline-4 with variable intake and exhaust-valve timing
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,364 / 83.2
Redline (rpm): 6,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 138 @ 4,900
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 148 @ 1,850
Brake Type (front): 11.8-inch ventilated disc with single-piston sliding caliper
Brake Type (rear): 11.5-inch ventilated disc with single-piston sliding caliper
Steering System: Electric-assist rack-and-pinion power steering
Suspension Type (front): Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Torsion beam, control arm
Tire Size (front): P225/45R 18 91W M+S
Tire Size (rear): P225/45R 18 91W M+S
Tire Brand: Michelin
Tire Model: Pilot HX MXM4
Tire Type: All-season
As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,236 (60.6% front)

Test Results:

0-30 (sec): 3.3
0-45 (sec): 6.1
0-60 (sec): 9.6
0-75 (sec): 14.9
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 17.1 @ 80.4
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 9.3

30-0 (ft): 31
60-0 (ft): 122

Slalom (mph): 66.6
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.83

Db @ Idle: 35.3
Db @ Full Throttle: 67.4
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 67.1

Acceleration Comments: Rewards pedal overlap, yet it still cannot scratch the tires with traction control off. Acceleration is characterized by surging turbo and wonky torque converter behavior. There are multiple dead spots on the way to the finish line. Upshifts are pretty lazy and gear spacing is fine (3rd is taller than the rest, though). Absolutely punishing rev limiter that produces shockingly harsh driveline lash. Also, manual shifting is too slow to be of any use for accel runs.

Braking Comments: Some squirm and a light rear end with good fade resistance. Pedal effort is good with aggressive jump-in that became more so with heat in the system.

Handling Comments: Surprising grip and poise that's muddied only a little by spring like steering that offers good buildup but little feel. With ESC on, the throttle breathes off just as the rear gets light and begins to rotate. Light but precise steering, narrow car with plenty of grip and a propensity to rotate predictably off throttle all add up to a spirited and exhilarating slalom. Classic well-sorted FWD behavior like a Mazda 3 and far more capable than a Fiesta or Mazda 2 with ESC off. Well-sorted ESC matches my best efforts.

Leaky Trunk

November 21, 2010

Please note that this took place a couple of weeks back. Before the track tested, before the photoshoot, before anyone had sat it in even.

Every new car entering our fleet gets a thorough check-in. This consists of a visual inspection, fluid checks, noting the break-in period, torquing down the lug nuts (you'd be surprised how often these are loose) and checking tire pressures. This includes checking that the spare tire is present, inflated and that all of the tools are supplied.

Everything was checking in just fine on our 2011 Chevy Cruze — although the tires had been set 6 psi high from the dealer — until I got to the trunk.

Pulling back the trunk liner, I grabbed the satchel of tools to find that it was damp at the top and sopping wet on the bottom. Same went for the liner over the actual spare tire and the spare itself. When everything was out there was, +/- half an inch of water standing in the bottom of the trunk. The top layer was dry, but everything else had water in/on it.

( About 1 cup of water drained from this mat as I left it to dry.)

I grabbed the shop towels, some Lysol wipes and wrung out the tire cover and set it at an angle to dry. It took about half the roll to clean everything, and 5-6 bleach-filled wipes to clean the mold off of the liner (below) at which point I buttoned everything back together. Assuming some clumsy/careless lot hand had washed it with the trunk opened and tried to cover his tracks, I wasn't expecting anything when I took it to the nearest carwash.

One quick trip through a drive-through carwash, however, confirmed our worst fears; the trunk had water in it again. It probably took in +- one cup of water during the trip.

Less than a day into our ownership, the Cruze would have to go back to the dealer.

( Mold. )

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Inside Line

All Dry

November 22, 2010

So, as you know by now, our Chevy Cruze was kinda damp when we picked it up. We took it back to the dealer and had them fix it up.

I had the Cruze this weekend when we got hit with heavy rains and wind. I live on top of a hill that gets a constant sea breeze. In storms the winds get pretty intense. The Cruze was parked in my driveway. Rain was blowing sideways up my street and lashing out at the little Cruze.

I crossed my fingers and my toes. When the skies cleared I ran out and checked the trunk and underneath the liner. All was well.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 2,550 miles

Trunk Snafu Fix

November 22, 2010

I helped arrange the purchase of our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ and after it was delivered to our offices I breathed my normal sigh of relief at having secured yet another long term test car. But over the weekend I got an alarming email that the trunk was leaking. On Monday morning, I called the dealership and told them we wanted to return the Cruze. We had signed contracts and I knew that, short of us suing them, they weren't legally bound to exchange the car. Still, the dealer could, at his discretion, take the car back and make us happy.

I called Ara Mikailian, our salesman at Allen Gwynn Chevrolet, in Glendale, CA, where we had purchased the Cruze. He returned my call quickly and said he would discuss our request for an exchange with his boss. In the mean time, he said to bring the car into their service department. Glendale is a long way from our Santa Monica offices, so I wanted to see for myself the extent of the trunk leak.

I ran the car through the car wash, parked it on a side street, and opened the trunk. At first, nothing. But then I saw little streams of water trickling down the inside of the spare tire well. After a short time, a small puddle of water gathered in a low area. Now I had the motivation I needed and headed for Glendale and Allen Gwynn Chevrolet.

At the dealership, I asked for service manager Michael Leffler, as instructed by Mikailian. He was very friendly and arranged for me to have a rental car, a fine Chevrolet Cobalt, while the Cruze was being fixed.

The next day, Leffler called to say they had found the leak and caulked it. He said they "soaked the hell out of it" and it held tight with no leaks. He asked for some additional time to dry the interior and complete the repair. I returned and got the car the next day. Leffler patiently showed me where the leak was. He said this had happened on other cars in the past, but never on the Cruze. In fact, they hadn't even seen a Cruze in the service bay yet since the car was brand new.

When the problem first came to my attention I was pretty angry and felt that our demand to have a new car was well deserved. But I have to say that the dealership handled the problem well. The salesman, Ara Mikailian, seemed committed to resolving the issue quickly. The service manager Michael Leffler conveyed a sense of "we'll get to the bottom of this" and communicated with multiple phone calls describing their progress. All this helped to instill confidence that the problem would be resolved.

Phil Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor

Coco Cruzies

November 23, 2010

Like our Long Term 2011 Chevy Cruze LTZ? Want to win one? Hate our Chevy Cruze but want to win a free car anyway? Head over to where Conan O'Brien's giving away 20 Pine Tree air fresheners in 20 days. Each pine tree air freshener comes with a free 2011 Chevy Cruze to hold it in.

Only 17 left. Hurry. HURRY!

( Team Coco )

L.A. to Vegas and Back

November 23, 2010

Okay, enough about the leaky trunk. Lets talk road trip.

I've driven our new long-term 2011 Chevy Cruze to Las Vegas and back and the news is good. This is an excellent road trip machine. Comfortable. Quiet. Roomy. And the word solid comes to mind. The Cruze feels solid.

After nearly 600 miles of highway travel, I would honestly never hesitate to hit the interstate (hey that rhymes) in this sedan. I enjoyed it that much.

But a little more power would be nice. Especially on those steep grades between Tinsel Town and Sin City. I had her floored more than I would have liked.

And that, of course, hurt my fuel economy. Well, that and a hardly broken in engine (I left L.A. with only 471 miles showing on the Cruze's odometer.) Anyway, I averaged 27.4 on the first tank. This included about 30 miles of city driving in Vegas. But on the way home I averaged 30.1 on the next tank, which also included about 30 miles of L.A. city driving and traffic.

Remember, the EPA rates the Cruze at 24 city and 36 hwy.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Talk of the Town

November 24, 2010

This morning I went outside to find three men standing in my driveway near the back of the Chevy Cruze. Haven't seen a crowd gather like that since I brought home our long-term Audi R8.

"Nice car, eh?," I said conversationally.

They nodded collectively and shuffled away.

At least no one asked to drive the Cruze.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor


November 25, 2010

See for yourself:

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Navigating the Nav. System

November 26, 2010

During my recent road trip to Las Vegas and back in our new 2011 Chevy Cruze I put the sedan's navigation system to test, using it more than a dozen times. It never proved to be anything but easy to use and accurate.

First of all it found Las Vegas. But it also made it easy to find food along the way. Once in Vegas I used the Cruze's nav system to find an ATM, several hotels and a few restaurants and bars. Sometimes I chose to input the exact address. Other times I went by the name of the establishment. Either way it worked great, never steering me off into the land of frustration.

The only functional oddity about the Cruze's system is that is shares some buttons with the car's sound system. For instance, it asks you to push the sixth preset button on the sound system to set a destination and start the route guidance. Once you get used that (and the fact that it isn't a touch screen like you'll find in most other GM cars) it works wonderfully.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Camping in the Trunk

November 29, 2010

On the day after Thanksgiving, our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and I braved the mall to pick up a very special gift for a very special girl.

The box needed to come from the stock room, and the saleswoman said it was big and weighed 50 pounds. (I could say it contained a doll camper, but you wouldn't believe me, and it sounds ridiculous even as I type the words myself.)

Anyway, she said the stockboy would be out in a minute to discuss the pickup.

"I hear you bought Lanie's camper," he said on the approach. "What kinda car do you have? Hope it's a truck or SUV."

"No," I said. "I have a Chevy Cruze. And the rear seats fold down."

"Hope it's bigger than a Mercedes C-Class," he said. "Won't fit in one of those. Haven't tried the Chevy yet," he said shrugging.

"I'm feeling lucky," I said.

"Drive it 'round back," he responded, shrugging again. "We'll give it a go."

The heavy brown box tucked neatly into the Cruze's 15.4-cubic-foot trunk.

Only then did I fully realize that I had just bought a camper for a doll.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 2,763 miles

A Face I Could Grow to Love

December 02, 2010

My first experience behind the wheel of the Cruze was a pretty enjoyable one. The car's sheet metal doesn't do much for me, but its handling is another story.

The Cruze felt tight as a Beverly Hills face lift as it cheerfully tackled the avenues and boulevards of my neighborhood. And the steering was a real pleasure — exact and not too light. The car might not be an all-star in straight-line acceleration, but there was enough hustle in its turbocharged 1.4 to keep a smirk on my face.

The economy-car segment now has another fun-to-drive choice for shoppers to consider.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Angling for a Compliment

December 03, 2010

One of the things that GM gets right in its current crop of contenders is ergonomics, as least as far is it pertains to the center stack.

The photo above doesn't really do it justice, but the Cruze's stack rests at a relatively generous angle. The tilt of the panel is very driver-centric and makes the controls easier to access and friendlier to use. HVAC buttons and knobs are especially well-placed.

Seems like a small thing, but for some reason, I really appreciated this detail during my time with the Cruze.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Interior Look and Feel

December 03, 2010

First impression of our Cruze's interior: pretty classy. It looks upscale with the two-tone dash, navigation system and metallic trim. For an economy car, the materials used are pretty impressive, with soft-touch in the right places and very little that's shiny plastic. I like the steering wheel, too; it falls right to hand and is ergonomically sound. Chevy would be wise to put this in the Camaro ASAP.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Backseat Comfort

December 06, 2010

I was strapping a child safety seat into the Cruze over the weekend and figured I'd see how comfortable the backseat is for me. Pretty comfortable, actually. I'm 5-foot, 10-inches and didn't have any issues with headroom or legroom; I'd say anyone less than 6-feet tall will be fine. The seat cushioning is firm and there's a respectable amount of thigh support and seatback rake.

As with other small sedans, the center seat is for occasional use only; it's hard and perched high up. Also, the floor isn't flat like it is on a Civic. But overall I was pretty pleased and wouldn't mind riding in back for a short or medium-length trip.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 3,083 miles

Flashback Drive

December 08, 2010

My mom is visiting from out of town, and I picked her up at the airport yesterday in the Cruze. On the way home, she asked, "What kind of car is this?" "A Chevrolet Cruze," I replied. "Oh," she said. "I haven't heard of it. It seems nice, though." I told her that, in fact, it is pretty nice.

It was then that I remembered a pick-my-mom-up-at-the-airport routine about four and a half years ago in our long-term 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt. Yep, we had a long-term Cobalt before we started our current road-test blog format. It was an OK car, but was let down by a cheap interior and mediocre fit and finish. Had I actually owned it, I don't think I would have been particularly proud to show it off to my mom. But our Cruze is a noticeable step up. Granted, our car is loaded up with options, but so was the Cobalt. The Cruze is just more refined, better to look at and, well, respectable.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Future Power

December 10, 2010

Should Chevrolet decide to put a larger engine into the Cruze, I think it's safe to assume space in the engine bay won't be a problem. Judging by the space around our car's 1.4-liter turbo-4, fitting something like the old 2.0-liter turbo from the Cobalt SS seems entirely possible. Alternately, it will be interesting to see if consumer interest develops for aftermarket tuning of the 1.4-liter turbo. Being a turbo, it should be pretty easy and affordable to increase power.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Interior Storage

December 13, 2010

I thought you might find it interesting to see what kind of interior storage you get in the Chevrolet Cruze. I did similar posts for the Sonata and Mazdaspeed 3 earlier this year. Comparatively, the Sonata's the best of the three, with more cubbies and storage options. The Cruze is about equal to the Mazda overall I'd say. Detailed pictures of everywhere you can store stuff follows after the jump.

Up front you have the main cupholders, the center storage bin and a small cubby ahead of the shifter. There's also a small area next to the cupholders. I've found it useful for coins, though it's not lined. The cubby ahead of the shifter is lined; if you've got a smaller cell phone, it will likely fit nicely. The center bin lacks any sort of dual-level storage.

The glove box is average in size. The front door bins are decent sized and have bottle holders. There's also a slot in the passenger foot well. Not sure what you'd put there (who uses paper maps these days?) but it's there nonetheless.

The rear doors have storage but no bottle holders. In back you also have two pockets behind the seats and fold-down cupholders in the armrest.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 3,221 miles

Like The Trunk

December 15, 2010

"I hope you've got a big trunk ... because I'm puttin' my bike in it."Andy Stitzer, Steve Carell's character, in The 40 Year Old Virgin.

I haven't put a bike in the Cruze's trunk, but I've loaded up a bunch of reusable grocery bags and some luggage recently and come away impressed. If you go by official capacity, the Cruze fares quite well against the competition with 15.4 cubic feet of space. Most of the usual suspects in the small car segment, such as the Civic, Corolla and Mazda 3, are right around 12 cubic feet.

Beyond just capacity, though, I happen to like the flat-sided style of the Cruze's trunk that enhances utility. It's annoying to come across a vehicle that has a high luggage capacity on paper only to find that the number's inflated by various nooks or crannies that aren't really usable for loading luggage.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Weather Forecasts

December 16, 2010

A couple years ago, Sirius satellite radio was the only way you could get weather forecasts though the Sirius Travel Link feature. But that type of functionality has now made its way over to XM satellite radio.

Our Chevy Cruze has XM, and pressing the "Info" button on the Cruze's center stack brings up a weather screen with a five-day forecast. You can also see weather forecasts for various points along a route if you've programmed a destination into the navigation system.

Being able to bring up weather along a route is a nice bonus feature. But if I owned our Cruze, I don't envision myself bringing up weather info very often. I'd probably have already gotten it at home or obtained weather forecasts from my smart phone.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor


December 17, 2010

Last night was my first drive in our Cruze. Overall, I think it's pretty well executed, but one thing struck me as being a little "off" as soon as I started moving: the transmission.

The timing and feel of the gear changes seem a little inconsistent to me. Sometimes the six-speed automatic is smooth as anything else in its class, but other times it feels as rough as a teenager learning how to drive a stick-shift. At first, I thought it was driver error, so I drove like a limo driver — very slight throttle inputs and not a lot of load on the driveline. Nope, the first to second gear change resulted in a strange lurch back and forth. At the next light, I tried the same approach and the shift was so smooth, I almost didn't feel it.

Slowing down, I also feel some rough downshifts, and just like the upshifts, it's not very consistent. With slight pressure on the brake pedal as I approach a stop, the transmission steps down to the next lowest gear. Every now and then, that shift is far too noticeable — like your foot slipped off the clutch pedal of a manual transmission.

I've got it all weekend, so I'm hoping to get to the bottom of this. Maybe I'll toss-in a Dynolicious graph to better explain what's going on. It's supposed to rain all the way through the weekend, too, so I should also be able to tell you if the trunk stays dry.

Got anything else you'd like to know about our long-term Cruze?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Transmission Update and More

December 20, 2010

In the last Cruze post, I noted that the transmission left much to be desired. You, our well-informed and helpful commenters, were quick to inform us that there's a technical service bulletin (TSB) to address the harsh and delayed shifts. It's a problem that'll have to wait until after the holidays, so until then, we'll just have to deal with it.

On to my weekend with the Cruze...

In the interest of full disclosure, I was in a pretty sour mood all weekend. A leaking roof (my home, not the Cruze), car shopping (for my girlfriend, not me) and the awful driving skills displayed in L.A. when it rains all conspired to keep a perma-frown on my face. The wonky transmission had me sighing loudly on a regular basis, but at least I knew what the problem was. Thanks, readers.

That said, if you can look past the current state of our transmission, the Cruze is a decent car. It's quiet enough, even with the windshield wipers running constantly. The wipers, however, are a little streaky, obscuring the forward view at night. The ride quality is acceptable, if not a little harsh over potholes. But hey, this isn't a luxury car.

I noticed one thing in the audio/navigation system that was curious. In navigation mode, I went to select a radio preset but got no reaction. Huh? I switched the display over to radio mode and then it worked. Strange, I thought. But then when I went to program a destination into the nav, I figured out why. Some of the options in the system make use of the preset buttons. For instance, in choosing a route to the destination, I could press 4,5 or 6 to make my selection.

It's not all that intuitive, but certainly not a problem for a Cruze owner who drives it every day. For an occasional driver like myself, I thought it could have been more easily operated with the menu dial that seems to control almost every other function. Looking back, it's a pretty trivial little annoyance, but like I said, every little thing seemed to bug me this weekend. I'm all better now, thanks.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Grinch

Handles Like It's On Nails

December 21, 2010

And what does that mean? Nothing really, I just couldn't think of a headline that made sense, so I went with nonsense.

Now that I've got your attention, the Cruze does actually handle quite well. Not in the "rip your favorite freeway on ramp a new one" kind of way. No, it's more like, "wow, this relatively inexpensive sedan actually feels like it has a real suspension" kind of realization.

The Cruze absorbs bumps and potholes with a reassuring firmness that you don't get in a lot of sedans in this class. Mostly they just sound hollow and a bit fragile. The Cruze muffles hard hits and soaks them up like it could take a beating for many years to come. Feels solid, I like it so far.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

IIHS's Top Safety Pick 2011

December 22, 2010

Photo by Kurt Niebuhr

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety just announced its Top Safety Pick award winners and the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze topped the list in the Small Cars category. It went up against the likes of the Kia Soul, Nissan Cube and VW GTI four-door.

From IIHS:

"General Motors' new Chevrolet Cruze broadens the number of award-winning options for consumers looking to buy a fuel-efficient small car. GM built the Cruze, which has 10 standard airbags, including ones for the knees, to outperform the government's minimum roof strength requirements and touts the achievement as a selling point."

Do such awards usually influence your car shopping picks?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Hydra-matic Coasting

December 24, 2010

Coasting sounds so great.

It makes you think of coasting down a long hill on a bicycle that first time when you were a kid. All that speed, even while you were saving up energy for the next uphill. Coasting is wonderful.

Except in our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ. It wants to coast all the time to save energy, only it's getting in the way of our pedaling.

It's easy to understand Chevy's obsession with minimizing even the slightest bit of frictional losses here, since not only is there an impact on the frequency of your personal visits to the gas station but also an impact on the overall fuel economy of the entire fleet of Chevrolet vehicles. That is to say, since the Chevy Cruze gets really good (and boring) mpg, the Chevy Corvette can get really bad (and fun) mpg.

The trouble is, the torque convertor of the Cruze's Hydra-matic 6T40 seems have been tuned by Chevy to slip into the coasting mode every time you let up on the gas even a fraction. And then when you get back on the throttle pedal again, there's an annoying delay before the driveline hooks up again - a delay accentuated by this turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4's need to spool up to full power. So what you get is a confusing surge through the powertrain in commute traffic as you alternately ease into the gas and then lift off.

Sure, I like coasting, but driving the Chevy Cruze in traffic is like trying to pedal your bike with way too much slack in the chain.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor,

Quick First Impressions

December 25, 2010

Finally got my butt in the new Cruze and my first thoughts are mostly favorable. My sentiments echo my colleagues' for the most part. The little Chevy feels solid from the way the doors shut to the way the chassis stays planted while tackling a deserted on-ramp (a rare treat here in L.A.). The cabin is handsomely styled, boasts supportive seats and is furnished with quality materials. Cruising at 70-75 the Cruze has a relaxed and fairly quiet demeanor — actually impressively so for a car in this segment. Lastly, I have to concur with Mr. Romans on the steering wheel - its ideal diameter, rim thickness and spoke placement (with thumb reliefs) make for a pleasing driver-to-car interface.

As others have noticed, the powertrain could be a little quicker to respond as there is a minor delay when the whip is cracked. But after that heartbeat, the 1.4-liter turbocharged four pulls pretty hard and without much vibration and racket. The tranny was usually smooth and cooperative but I noticed a few instances of harsh gearchanges. As we've already noted, there is a TSB on this very issue that we will have addressed soon.

At first blush, the Cruze strikes me as well-rounded entry that finally gives Chevy something strong in the small sedan segment.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 3,937 miles

Crash Test Vid

December 28, 2010

The 2011 Chevy Cruze LTZ scored an IIHS Top Safety Pick award recently and here's the video to prove it.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Inside Line

Santa Drives One

December 28, 2010

I saw this t-shirt over the holiday break. Looks like Chevy has a new marketing tactic for the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. I'm just not sure who its aimed towards. What do you think they're up to?

Coming soon to a thrift store near you.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

A Closer Look At the Driver Seat

December 29, 2010

I sat down in the driver seat of our long-term 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ for the first time last night. The first thing I noticed is the narrowness of the seat-bottom cushion. It's adequately wide for an average-size driver, but there's noticeably less real-world hiproom than in the Mazda 3 or Civic. That may not be good for Americans, I thought.

But then I noticed something really special about this driver seat.

It offers gobs of seat-track travel. Here's the seat all the way back on its track.

Chevrolet allows you to use all the available space, too. When the driver seat is all the way back, it's barely 3 inches from the front edge of the rear bench (yes, yes, lens flare galore, my apologies to all you dedicated holiday-week readers).

That's a nice touch in a compact car, as chances are good that owners will often be driving the Cruze around with no one in the backseat — and in those situations, might as well let them take advantage of all the space.

I should also note that, at 5-foot-10, I set the Cruze's driver seat little more than midway back on its track. Compare that to any Mazda 3 or Mazdaspeed 3, where I have the seat nearly all the way back. Yes, indeed, the Cruze is friendly to tall drivers, especially those with long legs.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 3,982 miles

Interior Features

January 05, 2011

I made you a video of some of the interior features I enjoy in the Chevy Cruze. Seat heaters included :)

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor


January 07, 2011

Though I like the look and feel of the Cruze's handsome cabin, I've mixed feelings on the exterior styling.

LIkes: The distinct Chevy-signature split grille, the tapering roofline, overall proportions and the split-spoke wheels.

Dislikes: The droopy taillights (a design element for many manufacturers that's been in vogue for a few years now). The plastic triangle at the trailing edge of the rear window that's supposed to give the illusion of glass being there. That part reminds me of a Chrysler Sebring But if the Cruze didn't have it, well then the C pillar might too closely resemble a Mazda 3's.

With so many models out and so many styles already done through the years, I feel for car designers as it must be tough coming up with a pleasing yet distinctive look. That said, what do y'all think? Is the Cruze one of the better looking cars in a segment not exactly known for breathtaking styling?

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 4,547miles

Open Thread

January 07, 2011

I have our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze this weekend and since it's only been in our long-term fleet for less than three months, I'm sure I'll be able to find something to blog about it (macro the interior!). But I wondered if there was anything you wanted to know about it.

I'm looking forward to seeing how it drives (so far it seems like our editors like it), using those seat heaters and checking out its "quality" interior. But, yeah, future bloggers of this car will appreciate your questions.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

A Macro Look at Interior Materials

January 10, 2011

First off, thanks for all the suggestions on what you'd like to see covered in our blog posts about the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ. Will definitely keep those in mind for the future.

But today I decided to explore the interior of our Cruze. Up close and macro'd. By the way, "macro" is photography lingo for "close-up."

We bought our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ for $26,085. The interior materials feel fine, and don't stand out as particularly cheap or plasticky. But what do you think just by these pictures?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Thanks for the Lift

January 11, 2011

As Vincent Vega said in "Pulp Fiction" (while riding in a 1974 Chevy Nova, by the way), it's the little differences that can make you appreciate that things don't have to be done a certain way. You can get a beer in a movie theater. Some people eat their fries with mayo. Your car can give you a snappy trunk-lid salute.

I was weighed down by an overfilled, unwieldy basket of dry cleaning last night when I discovered that the Chevy Cruze's trunk lid opens not just a little, but a lot. This is nothing like the trunk on my older model Acura TL, which opens just a hair and has to be lifted thereafter. It's far superior to the trunk of my husband's sporty-sport car, which clicks open, but then requires that you do exploratory surgery to locate the latch for full release.

Just a little difference with the Cruze, but a thoughtful one when your hands aren't free.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 4,790 miles

$9,800 of Value?

January 12, 2011

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ might be the dumbest long-term test car we've ever bought.

It's a monstrosity that costs $26,085, some $9,800 more in features and options than the base-model $16,285 Cruze LT1.

It's also the smartest thing we've ever done, a reflection of the future.

It's not like you're going to see very many $26,085 examples of the Chevy Cruze on the street this year, but as gas climbs past $4 per gallon, you might see a few next year. Soon we'll all be making smarter choices about fuel economy and suddenly the small car with an inline-4 makes sense.

And while you might be offended by the idea of a cheap and cheerful car overlaid with expensive niceties, we'll all be buying small cars outfitted to resemble the large cars of the past. Two-tone upholstery and soft-touch controls and high-output audio might seem frivolous, but when you read through the comments in our blog for long-term test cars, you find nothing but whining about such things. (If I have to read another comment about the visual quality of interior plastics, I'm going to slap somebody.)

It's true that we could have done without some of these options, but almost all of them are things that you can see and feel and experience. We all like nice cars, not stripped-down bargains.

That's why this Cruze is the car of the future.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 4,852 miles

Audio Review

January 14, 2011

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ has been in our long-term stable for just a few months, and so far the tough Edmunds editorial crowd has mostly been kind to the car on this blog. But GM's entry into the compact segment faces even tough competition from perennial frontrunner like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic and eager over-achievers like the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. And — no pressure — but it's considered a make-or-break model for the new GM.

Maybe that's why Chevy chose to outfit the Cruze with lots of electronic amenities in hopes of turning what would otherwise be just another common commuter-mobile into something more cool and comfortable by decking it out with tech such as standard Bluetooth hands-free, an optional hard-drive nav system, rear park assist and remote start. You can also add a premium Pioneer sound system for an extra $445 like we did. And which I put to the test to see if it's worthy of that price, and the type of praise that other aspects of the car have received here.

The Setup
The Cruze's Pioneer system consists of nine speakers powered by 250 watts. The speakers include a 1-inch tweeter in each A-pillar, a 3.5-inch midrange in the center of the dash, a 6.5-inch midrange in each front door, a 6.5-inch full-range speaker in each rear door and a pair of 6x9-inch subwoofers in the rear deck.

The Sound
As with each and every system I test, I listened to about a dozen different musical tracks in the Cruze that I've heard in hundreds of other vehicles to gauge clarity/lack of distortion, tonal balance, timbre, tonal accuracy, soundstaging, imaging and dynamics. I also used non-musical tracks to test soundstaging, imaging, linearity and absence of noise. For more details on the testing process and the tracks used, click on the article Sound Advice.

Stock systems have gotten a whole bunch better, and these days you don't even have to pay a lot for a premium system to get decent sound. And "decent" is the operative word here in describing the sound of the Cruze's Pioneer system. While listening to test tracks, I assign numerical scores from 1-10 for the sound-quality categories mentioned above. And almost across the board the Cruze system scored in the 5-6 range in the first five, which translates to average to slightly above-average sound.

Like many systems in this segment, the Cruze's Pioneer setup struggled with low-end and high-end frequency reproduction: bass was boomy and the highs were shrill. There was also little sense of separation or openness to the music, and individual instruments were reproduced with a low-res quality, while dynamics were almost nonexistent. The two 6x9s in the rear deck produced plenty of boom, but nothing that sounded like musical bass. A downward tick or two of the bass level did bring the low end somewhat under control, however.

The two interrelated bright spots were staging and imaging, which is usually the case in a car with A-pillar tweeters and especially a center channel. The soundstage was above average, but not as wide as I would have liked. Imaging was also good, although center images tended to waver and weren't stable.

This was confirmed by the non-musical test track in which solo voices are mixed left, center and right; the system failed since the center vocal could be heard in the left and right channels. But it did pass the other imaging test, a series of drumbeats that move across the stage at precise intervals. It also passed a zero-bits/absence of noise test (no surprise there), but scored poor and poor-to-fair respectively in linearity, a measure of how well the system holds together at low- and mid-volume levels.

The Sources
The Cruze's system comes with a single-disc CD player and AM, FM and XM radio. iPod hookup is also standard via a USB port, and a USB drive loaded with music files can also be plugged in. Next to the USB port in the center console is an aux-in jack to connect almost any external audio source. Of the nav system's 40GB hard drive, 10 gigs are reserved for storage of music files, and those can be ripped from a CD or a USB drive. The hard drive also enables a time shift feature for AM, FM and XM that allows storing up to 20 minutes of live radio, and it will keep recording for up to that long even after the engine is turned off.

iPod integration in the Cruze is typical of what we've seen in other GM vehicles with a nav system. It's adequate feature-wise and fairly user friendly, and files are organized into the usual playlists, artists, albums, songs and genres structure; same with music files on a USB drive. But the interface does have some quirks that can quickly turn into pet peeves. First, the system instructs the user that "to avoid data loss, select Eject USB from the menu." One editor's iPod wasn't the same after not following those instructions, but I forgot and yanked the cord without any permanent damage. I also noticed that, with my iPhone, within the songs menu the screen instead listed albums, as in our former long-term Camaro.

What We Say
The Chevy Cruze grew out of the do-or-die circumstances that GM was up against and, for the most part, the company got it right with this car. And while the premium Pioneer system isn't even close to audiophile quality, you'd be hard pressed to get something as good or better for under $500 from the aftermarket. The system certainly won't win any sound-off competitions or impress your bros on the block, but it does make a decent cruising companion.

The Scores
Sound: C
Source Selection: B
iPod Integration: B-
Cost: B+

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology

Happy 5K

January 18, 2011

It's not always easy to take a photo at the exact time a test car hits a specific mileage.

So instead of concentrating on the questionable quality of the odometer pic, let's instead celebrate the Chevy Cruze's 5,000-mile accumulation.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor

Closing the Gap

January 20, 2011

One thing that strikes the single person driving around town in a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is the right-size feel of this sedan. It has ample room for the long of leg and assorted passengers, and it's easy to street-park without feeling like a subcompact rugrat.

From the driver seat, the Cruze feels similar in mass to other "right-size" sedans I've driven and enjoyed — the 1998-2005 Volkswagen Passat, the 2005-2009 Subaru Legacy. And it turns out that it actually is close dimensionally. It's 181.1 inches long and 70.7 inches wide, and stretched over a 105.7-inch wheelbase and 60.7/61.3-inch track. Compare that to a 2009 Legacy, which was 185 inches long, 68.1 inches wide with a 105.1-inch wheelbase and 58.9/58.5-inch track.

I've given up on hoping that nameplates the Legacy, Passat and Accord will shrink back to reasonable proportions anytime soon. Instead, I'll just wait for compacts like the Cruze and and Mazda 3 to size up to small-family proportions. And the Chevrolet is pretty much already there.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 5,161 miles

Ten Airbags and More

January 21, 2011

With regard to safety, our long-term 2011 Chevy Cruze is well-equipped. It's similar, in fact, to many larger cars.

The Cruze has 10 airbags, including: driver and passenger side, knee on both sides, seat side (front and rear), and curtain, front and rear. The Cruze also has a collapsible brake pedal assembly to relieve crash forces on the lower leg. GM Safety Engineer Ken Bonello will break it down.

If you find this boring, watch the video anyway to see the Cruze get crashed...crashed real good.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~5,200 miles

Guess What This Is?

January 24, 2011

Hey gang, guess what that "AQS" in the climate control section of our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze's dash stands for? Now before you give me a hard time, I'll have you know that editor JayKav didn't know what it was either.

Whoever guesses correctly wins...something...OK nothing but the respect of your peers.

Answer after the jump.

Yup, it's for the Air Quality Sensor to limit exhaust fumes in your car. Its sensitivity can be adjusted by pressing the "Menu" knob when the AQS is highlighted. Then turn the knob to highlight high or low sensitivity. Press the "Back" button to confirm the selection.

Neato or meh?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Impressive Range

January 25, 2011

I'd planned to fuel up our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ before my quick trip to San Diego, but there was a line at my usual gas station, and I got impatient, and hopped on the freeway, figuring I'd fill up somewhere in Orange County. The "distance to empty" meter promised about 89 miles at that point.

But I made it all the way to Oceanside before I really needed to fuel up — 20 miles past when the low fuel light came on. That was an easy 451 miles on that tank, and I wasn't even trying. My pace was perhaps 70-75 when the freeway was clear.

I then put in 14.067 gallons of 87 octane, which is 32 mpg. Not an earth-shattering number, but still very good, and right on target with the 24 city/36 highway EPA rating on the automatic-equipped Cruze LTZ.

What I really like about this car, though, is its big gas tank — 15.6 gallons — meaning that a 500-mile tank should be in the cards for us without too much effort.

In reviewing the specs for the Cruze Eco model (which comes with a taller-geared version of the 6-speed manual gearbox), I noticed this car only has a 12.6-gallon tank. Of course, the Eco has a higher 28/42 EPA rating, but in theory, if the Cruze LTZ and Cruze Eco both hit their EPA highway targets, our LTZ would still have a longer range due to its bigger tank.

More notes from the trip coming tomorrow.

P.S. The photo was obviously taken when I was fueling up, accounting for why the fuel gauge needle points almost to the full mark. It was pegged near the E when I pulled into the station.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 5,461 miles

Can Fit a One-Man Camera Crew

January 25, 2011

I know I've mentioned this many times before but my brother, a film editor/videographer, is in the market for a new car, *still*. And he needed help this weekend transporting his video equipment which included lights, sandbags, camera, etc. and had asked that I borrow a big car for the occasion. Problem is I totally forgot about this request and had already signed out our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. Oops. In any case I figured that since he's looking for a new car that's affordable, midsize, has decent mpg and is quick-ish, he might want to take a look at our Cruze.

"But will all this fit in your car?" he asked me, gesturing to all his video equipment. With the Chevy's fold-down seats, I knew it would. The long bags of lights fit through the folded-down second-row into the cabin. But that blue cart, although placed in the trunk for the picture, would have been crushed had we tried to slam the trunk shut so we just put it in the second row. No biggie.

"Well that's a good selling point...that all my stuff can fit in here," bro said. "Yeah, especially if it's usually just going to be you in this car and you don't have more than one passenger," I replied.

Bro was also impressed by the way the car sounded as I drove as well as its interior materials. "It's surprisingly nice. This is a Chevy?" he asked. Yup.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Finally, a Road-Trip Worthy Chevrolet Small Car

January 26, 2011

I logged just 250 miles and 6 hours of seat time in our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze during a quick trip to San Diego and back this week. It was a pleasant trip overall and I enjoyed being in the car, even in heavy traffic, which is far more than I can say for our old long-term 2005 Cobalt. That car had motor, but the seats were uncomfortable, the cabin was cheap and poorly packaged, and the ride was pretty coarse and unsophisticated.

With our Cruze, it's pretty much the opposite.

Although the driver seat in our Cruze seemed a bit narrow and flat at first, it's actually very supportive and I love sitting in it. The driving position is excellent, too, as the dash and door panels all feel pretty low, so you can easily see out over them — like you can in a Honda Civic. Materials quality is generally good, although the brown trim on the steering wheel and dash is a bit daring for my pedestrian aesthetic taste, I like that a two-tone color scheme is available in a budget-oriented small sedan. The steering wheel fits comfortably into my hands at 9-and-3, and I like that I can get supplementary nav instruction in the trip computer display.

Ride quality is just excellent in this car. It reminds me a lot of the Regal, in that it errs on the firm side but has just enough compliance to see you over the punishing slab-style pavement used on Southern California freeways.

Unfortunately, the drivetrain in our Cruze also reminds me of the Regal 2.4 I drove. The turbocharged 1.4-liter needs to be revved hard for decisive passing, and it just doesn't sound good doing that (we'll make a video for you at some point... the one I shot yesterday didn't turn out). It's almost as if someone at GM thinks that V8s are the standard for how an engine should sound, and if you're buying a four-cylinder, well, you must be too financially strapped to care what it sounds like. Now, I'm sure that's not actually the case, but I wouldn't put up with an engine this raucous in a $26,000 car.

The transmission still leaves much to be desired, but we're going to have the relevant TSB performed on it this week, so stay tuned.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 5,621 miles


January 27, 2011

We dropped the Cruze off this morning at Santa Monica Auto Group to take care of the transmission reflash. In a previous post Mark described what was wrong.

While I was there, the service advisor told me there were two other outstanding recalls. They seem like small things. He estimated this would take a day and a half. Hopefully, we'll have our Cruze back in time for the weekend.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 5,656 miles

Service Complete

January 28, 2011

We picked up the Cruze today after having three recalls performed, the most important of which was the transmission reflash.

We'll let you know if it feels any different after driving it this weekend. Stay tuned.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Lubed, Labeled and Reflashed

February 01, 2011

As I'm sure you already know, our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze went in for a little servicing last week. And though I can promise you the freshly lubed strut assembly and shiny new label have done wonders for the car, it's the transmission reflash that you're probably interested in.

The last time I drove our Cruze the transmission felt like, well it felt like I built it. In wood shop. But this time, fresh from the dealer, the car had none of the old surge-y indecisive nonsense it had before. Instead, the Cruze progessed through its gears like any automatic does these days. The only thing I noted was the transmission's tendency to hang on to second gear (past 4k rpm in normal driving conditions) most every time.

I won't speculate as to how the Cruze came to leave the factory with such a terrible calibration, but I am glad that the solution was a quick and easy fix.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 5,792 miles

Yes Please!

February 01, 2011

Now, I'm not saying that I would rule out buying the Chevy Cruze simply because it's a sedan, but if it were a hatchback like this concept soon to be shown at the Geneva Auto Show, I might consider owning one.

That's a nice looking car right there...and with the 2.0-liter diesel and 6MT we've got a Golf TDI fighter that doesn't look like your girlfriend's car. (Sorry, Ron.)

But then again, I really liked the Astra, too.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Inside Line

The Good, the Bad and the Reflash

February 02, 2011

As Photo Editor Niebuhr pointed out, many of the Cruze's transmission issues have been resolved with the TSB service. He also mentioned that it tends to stay in second gear for an unusually long time. I found that to be true too, if you gave it any more than a light throttle application. So, problem solved, right?


I drove the Cruze on the highway at actual highway speeds yesterday. I was in the number one lane (left/fast lane) and spotted a slower car ahead. I decided to pass the car on my right to get ahead of both cars. I gave the pedal a little more and not much happened. Time and distance to pass was dwindling. A little more pedal, and the Cruze slowly gained speed. Finally, I had to floor it.

A brief pause and a downshift resulted — but only a single gear downshift. There was nowhere near the amount of power needed to pass. It was as though the Cruze was towing our Raptor. I finally gave up, slowed way down and slotted in behind the car that was on my right.
I didn't get the opportunity to drive the Cruze on the highway before the reflash, so I can't say if this is a new issue. I can say, however, that it's an issue now. In the future, I suppose I'll have to slap the gear selector to manual mode and drop the gears down a few cogs by hand.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Pain In The Leg

February 04, 2011

During a two-hour-plus drive home from a photo shoot last night in the Cruze, I noticed the right side of my right leg was throbbing a bit, being irritated by something. At first I thought it must be the seatbelt connector; I knew it couldn't be the seat itself, because the cushion is quite plush, not to mention the seatback's near-perfect lumbar support.

Now I know what you're thinking: Since it's true I've put on a couple extra pounds recently, the problem must be that my fat ass won't slide all the way into the seat. But at 5-foot-8, 155 pounds, I've not quite reached Mr. Lardo status...yet. Plus, it's not my ass, it's my leg.

Upon further inspection, it turns out it's the bolster's very thick and very hard seam that's rubbing my leg the wrong way. This has never happened with any other car I've driven, including ones with far more lateral support. Maybe a thick seam on a bolster isn't such a great idea.

Anyone else notice this with the Cruze?

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 6,138 miles

Super Bowl Ads

February 06, 2011

Just in case you're one of those people ignoring the Super Bowl, here's what Chevy is doing with the 2011 Cruze during Super Bowl XLV.

There's still a chance for another car company to come out and take it, but so far, Chevy's killing it with ads this year.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Inside Line

Cramming It In

February 07, 2011

Actually, there isn't need to do much in the way of cramming to get a mountain bike into the little Chevy. It slides in nice and easy, thanks to the Cruze's amply-sized trunk, folding rear seat and a legitimate trunk pass-through; meaning, one that allows for more than just a pair of skis.

The latter two are welcome features not found in a lot of sedans, and they're even more important here because of the Cruze's compact size.

Although I admit I have occasionally stuffed a bike into the back seat of a car over the years, I much prefer to flop the rear seat down and make use of the trunk and pass-through whenever possible (far less chance of dirtying up the interior), and I appreciate that Chevy made the Cruze handy in this regard.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 6,271 miles

My First Real Drive

February 09, 2011

I was expecting the Chevy Cruze to be a competent little car that is infinitely better to drive than the dismal Corolla (which Chevy is gunning for in its ad campaign). I knew that those readers who branded it just another Cobalt didn't know what they were talking about. Just sitting in the Cruze's cabin was enough to know that it was nothing like its predecessor — the last Cobalt I drove was an XFE and it felt like some Mexican-market special they use for taxi service in Cancun.

Yet, I hadn't really driven the Cruze until yesterday. Uh oh, where is this going?

Jiminy Tap-Dancing Christmas, our Cruze is legitimately fun to drive. Out on my top-secret handling course just off PCH beyond Chart House and through Topanga Canyon, I discovered a little car that handles remarkably flat and feels light on its toes. Its electric power steering is pretty much devoid of feel, but it's decently weighted and ultimately responsive in quick transitions.

The turbocharged engine has plenty of low-end torque that makes it feel a lot stronger than its humble power numbers and 9.6-second 0-60 time would suggest, while I was flat-out shocked that our reflashed transmission was able to keep up with me through hills and turns. It hangs onto revs and was quick to downshift — something that is anathema to modern, fuel-saving transmissions. It felt like some sort of sport mode had been engaged.

Of course, away from that top-secret handling course, our Cruze LTZ has a ride that could be considered harsh and lacks the well-damped sophistication of a certain new Ford competitor. The transmission also hangs onto revs a split-second too long in daily driving and has an odd shift quality — sometimes CVT smooth, other times automanual abrupt. I don't mind it really, it's just odd. I'm trying to reconcile this observation with Takahashi's highway-bound concerns with the transmission's reluctance to downshift, and all I can say is perhaps it's has just finally adapted to our collective aggressive driving style. If it has, good for the Cruze, but I'll keep my ears open for other editors' observations.

Regardless, I'm very impressed with the Chevy Cruze. I'd be interested to drive it in non-LTZ guise, without the big wheels, sport-tuned suspension and rear disc brakes. It probably won't be as fun, but as such there are certainly more reasons to buy the LTZ than just a lust for leather and navigation.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 4,609 miles


February 10, 2011

The Cruze has been on the market for just a few short months but it's making quite the impression. Chevy's ambitious little overachiever cracked the top 10 for the first time last month - with 13,631 units sold, it was the 10th best-selling vehicle in the land for January 2011, in the company of established sales titans like the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry.

Quite an accomplishment. How to explain its rapid rise to the top?

Well, it starts with a quality product, obviously, and on this front, the Cruze certainly delivers - functional and fun, it hits all the required bases and manages to throw in a little something extra. I also think the Cruze has come along at the right moment, presenting a compelling domestic alternative at a time when many people would love to have a reason to buy American.

What's your take as to the factors behind the Cruze's success?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Wheelbarrow vs. Little Red Wagon

February 14, 2011

The way I see it, there are two types of front-wheel-drive cars.

There are front-wheel-drive cars that handle like a wheelbarrow and there are front-wheel-drive cars that handle like a little red wagon.

The Chevy Cruze is a little red wagon. (Maybe we should paint it up like the Radio Flyer you had when you were five.)

A car that handles like a wheelbarrow handles off the nose, so that the front tires do all the real work of steering and accelerating and braking. Even more than most fwd cars, the rear feels like it's just along for the ride.

Although there will be the usual handwringers who will claim that such an arrangement is a crime against physics, the car that results is often easy and natural to drive, simply because it communicates with you so clearly through the steering wheel. You can balance the car on its front tires quite effectively and you can drive very fast, provided you have plenty of front tire under you.

I've driven some pretty effective wheelbarrows on a race track, including the Dodge Neon (remember the Neon ACR?), Subaru WRX and Volkswagen GTI.

On the other hand, a car that handles like a little red wagon feels like it works all four tires as it's being pulled along, carving through high-speed corners with poise and making quick left and right transitions with confidence. You feel the whole car moving with you, and the suspension at all four corners does the real job of communication. Maybe it's communicating less through the steering wheel and more through the seat of your pants (actually more like the lumber vertebrae, as the science guys tells us).

Among some pretty nice Radio Flyers that I recall, I can count the Mazda 3 and Nissan Sentra SE-R among little cars, and assorted Acura and Audi sedans among large ones.

It's hard to say which strategy is better, really. But I am prepared to say that during a recent photo shoot deep in the Santa Monica Mountains where only photographer Kurt Niebuhr knows the way, I drove the 2012 Ford Focus and this 2011 Chevrolet Cruze back to back and liked the Chevy best. It followed the road so intuitively that it made me feel like a better driver, perhaps because the sense of all four tires following the road surface with finely damped resiliency improved my confidence.

Hard to say which strategy is faster or just plain better, but the Chevy Cruze makes me believe that I like driving a little red wagon more than a wheelbarrow.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor,

World Touring Car Champion

February 14, 2011

Did you know that about the same time we took delivery of our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ, a UK-based touring car racing team was wrapping up their 2010 racing season with a fleet of Chevrolet Cruzes of their own?

It's true. And they had a pretty good year, too.

In the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), the RML Chevrolet Cruze team won seven races with driver Jason Plato, who also took home the 2010 BTCC drivers' crown. His competition included the Honda Civic Type-R, the BMW 3-series and the Ford Focus, all with 2.0-liter engines.

Barely a month later, the FIA's World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) held its final race of the season in Macau. A different arm of the same team campaigned three Cruzes in the worldwide WTCC series. This time, the Chevrolet Cruze went one better, taking the driver's crown with Yvan Muller while also winning the manufacturer's championship for Chevrolet.

This year, FIA WTCC rules are moving away from 2.0-liter normally aspirated engines to 1.6-liter turbocharged powerplants. BTCC rules are staying put at 2.0-liters.

The 2011 season hasn't started yet, but you may still be able to catch reruns of 2010 events on Speed if you program your DVR to seek them out.

There you have it. How many of you were aware of any of this?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

You Can't Have It All

February 15, 2011

Buying a car is about priorities, since it's impossible to get absolutely everything you want. The car that's hugely powerful, sips gas, handles like a sports car, rides like a Rolls, has a huge interior, is packed with every feature available and costs a reasonable amount just doesn't exist.

For most American buyers, size and power have reigned supreme forever. More power equals better, bigger means you're not poor. I saw this in the reader reaction to our Chevy Cruze. "Why the hell did you buy a $26,000 compact car that goes from zero to 60 in 9.6 seconds when you could buy a Hyundai Sonata (bigger, more power) for less money?"

For most European buyers, there is more of a willingness to pack on features to smaller cars due to high fuel prices, limited space and just general taste. There is also more of a priority placed on interior quality and handling. In other words, their priorities aren't size and power.

In this way, our particular Cruze certainly seems like more of a European sort of car. It's probably one of the reasons why I like it so much. Back when I bought my 2000 Jetta, I appreciated it for all the reasons I like the Cruze: loads of features, high-quality interior, sporty handling and it was small. Yes, some people like a smaller car even if they can afford something bigger.

There is a main difference, however: my Jetta had the 2.8-liter VR6. It had guts, whereas the Cruze "feels stronger than its power numbers would suggest." On the flip side, the Cruze returns 28 mpg combined while that VR6 got 19.

I'm not sure why I went off on this tangent, because I started writing this blog with the intent of comparing it to a Hyundai Sonata. So here it goes.

Our Cruze LTZ with the optional audio/navigation package, sunroof and Pioneer stereo hit the register at $26,085. If you were to pack a similar amount of stuff onto a Sonata, it would be $28,530. There are certainly unique features here and there, but for the most part, you're looking at spending roughly $2,500 for the Hyundai's extra space and power (And keep in mind that the Sonata is the class value champ).

I know I'd gladly spend some of that $2,500 on more power, but then, I like the Cruze's size. As such, I could get a VW GTI for roughly the same price or wait for a Focus ST, but then I wouldn't get all the Cruze's stuff.

Again, you can't have it all.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 6,775 miles

Lukewarm Seat Heater

February 17, 2011

As an avid seat heater user, I've enjoyed a variety of bun burners but none as lukewarm as those in our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. Even at the highest setting, the seats were merely warm. What? Boo.

Yes, I was wearing jeans but even then there have been cars with seat heaters that singed me through denim. I don't chalk this up to a Chevrolet thing considering the seat heaters in our Chevrolet Traverse actually got up to toasty, while in the Cruze they're just "Is this thing on?" warm. Disappointing for the highest setting. I'm guessing fellow seat heater connoisseur, Ms. Donna DeRosa, won't be pleased.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Canada Feels the Love

February 18, 2011

Well folks, the Canadian car buffs have spoken and it's now official: They're tingly all over for the Chevy Cruze. Chevy's hot seller was named Car of the Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) from a field of 144 vehicles. The winner of this competition was picked based on back-to-back testing that sadly didn't include fun Canadian things like dog sledding and Timbit eating. Last year's winner was the Volkswagen GTI.

"We are very proud to receive AJAC's 2011 Canadian Car of the Year honors for the all-new Chevrolet Cruze, which reflects a major refocusing of investment on smaller vehicles and fuel efficient technologies," said Kevin Williams, GM of Canada's president and managing director (pictured above looking very happy with his award). "The Cruze represents our line in the sand: We're playing to win — and delivering the goods — in the small car business."

Well, alrighty then. The Cruze's runners up were the Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Jetta TDI — for me, it would come down to the Cruze or the Fiesta. Of these three top finishers, which would have gotten your vote?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Packaging Is Everything

February 21, 2011

Though I am not sold on the drivetrain in our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, I like pretty much everything else about this compact sedan. It rides well. The seating position is great. Materials quality is good. The backseat is usable. And I can actually stand looking at the thing.

However, in listing these items, I'm dancing around the single biggest improvement on the Cruze compared to its Cobalt and Cavalier predecessors: the packaging.

The people who designed this car obviously gave a lot of thought to how owners would actually use it, and spent a lot of time sweating various details. How should the driver seat be shaped? How should the doors be damped when you open and close them? How wide should the door openings be? How should the steering wheel feel? What sort of resistance and detents should all the center stack buttons and dials offer? What kind of sightlines should there be from the driver seat... how do we make them bigger?

I could go on, but you get the idea. The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is an easy car to live with and in, and that is why, as much as it pains me to say this, it is a far better car than the turbocharged 2008 Cobalt SS I drove. I still can't get over how well that Cobalt handled and how fast it felt, but it was also one of the worst-packaged cars I've ever driven — no one paid attention to the details in that cabin.

Still, I really hope all the knowledge about drivetrain and chassis turning GM gained from that neat little Cobalt can eventually be applied to the Cruze.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Check the Mirror

February 22, 2011

If you're ever looking for a creative way to check your teeth for broccoli or spy on that Corolla nondescript Camry parked across the street, our Cruze LTZ's super-shiny door handles have got you covered. The chrome on those things is the most reflective I've ever seen — it looks like it was excised from a mirror ball.

Chrome door handles are standard on the top-of-the-line Cruze LTZ but this subtle little upgrade isn't offered on other trims. Shiny certainly has its place but I'm not so sure I'm feeling it on the Cruze.

What do you think of our Cruze's door handles?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 6,910 miles

Big Horn Edition

February 25, 2011

Last night, it seemed like there was an unusually high amount of idiot drivers on the road. From drivers who were simply not paying attention to the road, to those who thought that blocking traffic is totally acceptable. My recent marathon sessions of playing Xbox games have left my hands in a gnarled mess, so obscene finger gestures were not an option. So in one of those "too close for missiles, go to guns" moments, I laid on the Cruze's horn.

And I was oh so pleasantly surprised.

It's not one of those wimpy little squeaks that are barely louder than a Vespa's. No, it's a good beefy report that screams "GET OUT OF MY WAY!" I used it so many times, I was half expecting it to stop working before I got home.

How I wish I could mount some push bars to the front of the car or give it the "Mean Mazda Deuce" treatment. In the meantime, deep breaths.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Made in Lordstown

March 08, 2011

There was a lot of buzz generated last month when Chrysler's Eminem commercial, "Imported from Detroit" aired during the Super Bowl.

Well the Chevrolet Cruze is also Made in America, although not in Detroit. Our long-term 2011 Cruze LTZ is manufactured in Lordstown, OH. The Chevy Cruze is the sole product of the Lordstown plant. On September 8, 2010, the complex officially launched and started shipping the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze.

Some plant stats:

  • 4,500 employees
  • Products: Chevrolet Cruze
  • 2010 CY Production Total: 158,140
  • Plant Size: 6 million square feet/905 acres
  • Facilities: Vehicle Assembly, Paint Shop, Metal Center Stamping/Body Shop

Made in America. Does that matter to you?

(Bonus: Full-length Chrysler 200 Imported from Detroit video after the jump.)

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~7,100 miles


March 08, 2011

When you’re cruising down the freeway in the fast lane, the Cruze is in its element. Poised, quiet and efficient, the Cruze really shows us just how refined compact cars have become. You can drive this car across the state and never wish for something longer, lower and wider.

But as soon as the Cruze drops into expressway traffic, it gets hateful. When you’re following the surge of cars and trucks, you’re always accelerating, coasting and braking between 40 to 60 mph. You need a car that can keep its balance, blending engine and transmission performance.

And balance is the very thing the Cruze’s powertrain lacks.

As we’ve said before, it’s easy to blame the transmission. But it’s really everything that conspires against you — the transmission programming, the nature of the turbocharged, small-displacement engine and even the action of the throttle pedal.

When you’re motoring at moderate speed in urban traffic, the six-speed automatic always seems to be in the wrong gear. It’s calibrated for optimal fuel economy, so it shifts to a taller gear as soon as possible. And this means that as soon as you lay into the gas pedal for even moderate acceleration, the transmission has to cycle to a shorter gear, a pause in power delivery that quickly becomes annoying.

What’s more, the nature of the turbocharged 1.4-liter engine also works against you. It wants to coast for maximum fuel economy as well, so the turbo falls asleep. Then when you accelerate, the turbo wakes up and starts spinning, the boost comes up, and the engine is up on the torque curve. The problem is, the change in torque output forces the transmission to think. Maybe it’ll downshift once to take advantage of the power increase. Maybe it’ll downshift twice if it thinks you’re serious. Or maybe it won’t downshift at all.

You’re trying to send the engine and transmission the right kind of signals through the throttle pedal, but the Cruze’s throttle pedal always makes me wonder if the powertrain is getting the message. The light-effort action is meant to make the powertrain seem extra responsive, but instead it makes it harder to keep from disturbing whatever equilibrium the engine and transmission have been able to achieve.

The transmission can even be annoying at low speed. It wants to coast with the torque convertor backed off — another fuel-saving strategy — but as soon as you need a little power, the torque convertor re-engages and there’s a small but noticeable lurch from the powertrain in response. It makes for a long commute.

None of this really makes the Cruze undrivable, of course. Most people would probably never notice this behavior, which is why it’s so hard to describe. It’s one of those development things, where more time is needed at the proving ground to find a way to effectively balance the inputs from the engine, transmission and throttle pedal. No doubt it’s a difficult thing, as the Cruze gives us a kind of rising curve of performance from all three sources. For example, equilibrium is much easier to find when you have a broad, unchanging plateau of engine power.

What worries me is that we’ll soon be driving a lot more cars like the Cruze — cars that are trying to find the balance point in powertrain performance under the constraint of extreme fuel-efficiency requirements. BMW’s six-speed automatic transmission already shows much of the same behavior depending on the car in which it’s installed (it was hateful in the 2009 BMW 740i), as does Ford’s six-speed automated manual in the 2012 Focus.

The days are gone when an automatic transmission minimized shifting and was meant to deliver a long pull of seamless power. Now automatics like this one in the Chevy Cruze almost seem as if they have been engineered to maximize shifting, attempting to keep a car poised at the balance point of maximum fuel economy.

If the Cruze is any measure, some development problems lie ahead.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 7,076 miles


March 10, 2011

That's our long-term Chevy Cruze in this comparison test. But how did it perform against the Ford Focus?

Read the test of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ vs. 2012 Ford Focus Titanium on Inside Line.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

All-in-One Childproof Button

March 14, 2011

Take a look at the rectangular button on our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. It's found underneath the driver's side window switches. You may have seen a variation of this button on our recently departed GMC Terrain, but this one takes it a step further.

In addition to activating the childproof locks, it also locks the windows to prevent kids from rolling them up and down or throwing a juice box at another car. I noticed this button because I had to transport my nephew around for a few hours this weekend, and couldn't find the locks in the usual place on the door. It was nice to see this function consolidated to one button at the driver's fingertips.

After I dropped my nephew off, it was especially convenient to just hit one button and have everything return to normal. This was the first time I had seen a button like this. Do any of your cars have this feature too?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 7,371 miles

Driver Mode

March 15, 2011

Like this detail: a belt guide for the rear seat belts. Good for shorter passengers or kids in boosters, so that the chest belt doesn't strangle them. Nice little sheath they can slip under when not needed. A small detail, but illustrative of GM's effort to make the Cruze interior feel appointed.

Too bad they didn't extend that effort to the six-speed slushbox.

Other staffers have discussed and written about it, Jordan articulated it, reader/owners have confirmed it: the Cruze automatic just plain sucks. Up, down, up, up, up. Down. The Cruze's constant gear laddering makes it suitable only for the driving which inspires its name. If you mostly travel flowing, freewheeling highways and interstates, you may love it.

Its bones and joints feel taut and substantial, surprisingly so for a compact. Steering feels crisp and direct. Good seats, nice material quality inside. The multimedia interface is clean and intuitive, a snap to scroll through terrestrial and sat radio stations or iPod playlists (although the center stack button layouts for A/V and climate control are a directional jumble).

We've been kicking this idea around the office. With fuel economy and CAFÉ restrictions narrowing the margins for engineers, this is only the beginning of cars built first to satisfy some government weenie, then the prospective owner. So we'll have more of these jumpy, erratic, boggy cogs in the future.

But maybe there's a silver lining. We're already seeing more cars with adjustable modes: Eco, Normal, Sport. Eventually we'll see one mode to earn some regulatory toad's signature, then the rest of the modes for the driver! Power to the Pedal People, man!

And what the automakers don't provide us, the aftermarket will. Already there are caffeinated, sleep-deprived mad code hackers re-calibrating factory powertrain control modules, some of whom are on this very board and contribute to the discussions. In the interim, of course, the Factory will punish you and void your warranty until some clever, lead-blooded attorney spins a variation on the Magnuson-Moss Act.

Until then, we lurch and surge, lurch and surge…

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

Ergonomic Hits and Misses

March 22, 2011

Our Cruze has a lot of luxury features — automatic headlights, automatic climate control, heated seats, navigation system, steering wheel-mounted audio controls. And using them is a mixed bag of no-brainer and head-scratcher.

Heated seats: No hunting around for them — they're right there within the HVAC's large temp and fan knobs. As opposed to, say, somewhat hidden next to the seat cushion as on our Outlander Sport.

Steering wheel audio controls: I like that the mostly used preset/track and volume adjustments are two distinct controls — the former a thumb wheel-like toggle switch and the latter a typical rocker switch.

Navigation system: Looks like a touch screen but poke what look like virtual buttons and you'll find it isn't. It's similar to the one in our Buick Regal that James griped about in that you have to hunt and peck with various buttons to set a destination.

Headlights: Though this is a non-issue if you actually just leave the lights on the "auto" setting, the headlight control knob's marking is unreadable as it's a white hash mark that gets lost in the knob's shiny chrome trim ring.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 7,643 miles

Make the Rough Places Smooth

March 24, 2011

When the freeways are clogged with traffic between Edmunds HQ and home, I sometimes take surface streets all the way. Swapping stories of the best routes is a kind of hobby here.

I've been trying out a west-east leg that is, let's say, picturesque. Recent route highlights were a gentleman engaged in some broad-daylight, open-air micturation, a tricked-out, curb-jumped Pontiac hemmed in by a police cruiser and a sheriff's copter making lazy circles over a housing project. I didn't hang around to see what that was all about.

And then there's the road itself: small potholes, gaping potholes, railroad tracks, washboard blacktop — a veritable smorgasbord for your suspension.

The Cruze handled it all with aplomb, although I did steer around hazards of Mariana Trench proportions. Our review of the Cruze says that the LTZ's sport suspension is firmer than in base models, "but not anything approaching jolting." My impression was that it did an excellent job smoothing a rough ride without canceling out the driver's sense of the road.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 7,777 (lucky) miles


March 30, 2011

Pretty nice console, right? Click on either image to take a closer look at the rubber gasket where the dimpled-metal surround meets the piano-black fascia. Fluke? Anomaly?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 7,985 miles

A New Sort of Milestone

April 01, 2011

Coincidental to our monthly fleet fuel update, I topped off the Cruz and was more than a little gobsmacked at the total cost. I know we're all waiting for the Raptor to break a Benjamin at the pump, but seeing over $50 of gasoline go into the Cruz was a bit of a milestone in itself.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 8,120 miles

You Es Bee

April 04, 2011

Sometimes, I forget my iPhone cord. Sometimes, pairing a phone through Bluetooth and enabling streaming audio is a button-pushing voice-prompting two-minute pain. Sometimes, it's easier to just carry a thumb drive with music stored on it. Sometimes car audio systems merely list files, and other times, like in the Chevrolet Cruze LTZ (with its optional navigation system), sorting through the music feels like a dream come true.

It's nice to be able to select how you'd like to sort your music: alpha, track list, all songs, etc. and the graphics quality is really easy on the eyes, too.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 8,333 miles

Recipe for Success

April 04, 2011

GM's sales numbers for the first quarter are in and they don't look too shabby, thanks in large part to the Cruze. Despite a decline in incentives, GM's passenger-car retail sales for the first quarter are up by 34 percent relative to Q1 2010. Driving this increase is the plucky little Cruze, whose sales numbers represent a 287-percent gain over those of the Cobalt, the model it replaces.

According to GM, the Cruze is gaining ground in markets that have typically been import-car strongholds — states like California, New York and Florida, where relative to the Cobalt, Cruze sales have been up 370 percent, 225 percent and 230 percent respectively. Nearly two-thirds of Cruze buyers are new to GM so the manufacturer seems to be winning some new converts.

GM surveyed over 500 Cruze buyers and the results show that their top two reasons for purchasing the Cruze over a competitor are exterior styling and fuel efficiency. Huh — info like this underscores the fact that though appearance may be subjective, it sure does count for a lot.

What factors do you consider when evaluating a potential new-car purchase?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Is This the Best Looking Vehicle GM Makes?

April 08, 2011

The other day I was "driving" on the 405 North next to a white 2011 Buick Regal. I said, "Oh, look, someone in LA bought a Regal. Neat. Hm, the rear end looks funny. Hmmm. Really funny." And upon further inspection as I sat in horrible traffic, I really started honing in on the trunk area. It's got a sort of double-bustle thing going on like the old 6 series. (Which is one of the ugliest cars according to, well, us.) The back doesn't flow with the side design which still isn't enough to break up the giant slabs of door and it doesn't fit with the front. It wasn't working for me.

Then (a while later) black 2011 Chevy Cruze LTZ rolled up on me. It looked....good. Damn good. The whole package is safe, yes, but well executed, cohesive and stylish. And then I thought, "Except for the Z06 Carbon, is there a better looking vehicle in the GM fleet than the Cruze?"

The Camaro is a gag-gift, like one of those T-Shirts that says "World's Best Lover" or "Federal Bikini Inspector," fun for about 45 seconds and then you realize you can never be seen in public with it and shove it in the back of the garage.

The Regal has bland doors and there's no sense that the front (which is pretty cool) has anything to do with the rear.

Aveo? No and like the current Malibu, has already been shown the door. Impala? You didn't even know that still existed. Volt? Neat, but no.

Terrain? Acadia? Savannah? Nope.

Escalade? God no.

CTS-V sedan / wagon? Oh. Right. Yes. So very close. A little over done, though. The CTS coupe is way over styled and thus falls into the silly category.

The CADILLAC (!) CTS wagon and seadan are the only things that can touch the compact, budget-minded Chevy Cruze for overall style right now. Not sure what that says for GM (currently mid-model range and revising EVERYTHING), but it says a lot for the Cruze.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Inside Line

Family Reunion

April 11, 2011

Early Friday, I drove our Cruze to Hollywood Park's huge lot to check out GM's Main Street in Motion. The free three-day test-drive event is making 18 stops around the country between now and the fall, and it's worth checking out. This weekend, it's setting up in Phoenix, at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Cruze is among 70 cars that you'll find spruced up, gassed up and ready to drive, without any pressure to buy. It's not all GM vehicles, by the way. In addition to GM, Buick and Chevrolet vehicles (including the Camaro, Corvette and Volt), there are representative competitor cars to check out from such manufacturers as Acura, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota.

Even though the crowd was light on Friday, there was almost always a short line to drive the Cruze. That could be because of high consumer interest in car or because the event's rules require that you drive a Cruze before you drive a Volt.

Either way, if you go to a Main Street event, you'll find a clutch of Cruzes in various trims and colors. I have to say that although our car's Summit White paint job is nice, the Cruze looks even better in Crystal Red Metallic Tintcoat. Of course, that shade will cost you an extra $325.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @8,560 miles

Recalled for Detachable Steering Wheel

April 11, 2011

(Photo courtesy of the talented Mark Takahashi)

General Motors is recalling 2,100 2011 Chevrolet Cruze sedans because the steering wheel can detach from the steering column, according to the NHTSA. Details here.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

Cirque du Soleil Recliner

April 12, 2011

Most cars that use a pull lever/lean back system to adjust the seat rake have it a little more accessible (typically right where your hand would drop down) than what you see here in the Cruze. This awkward, too far rearward lever placement reminds me of VW's old spin knob recliner which was similarly located back at the seatback/seat cushion intersection.

Maybe it's just me; unfortunately I'm not double jointed. Or maybe the same guy that designed the Camaro's steering wheel drafted this up...

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 8,609 miles

Video of a Detached Steering Wheel

April 13, 2011

On Monday, Chevrolet recalled 2,100 2011 Chevrolet Cruzes because of a detachable steering wheel issue. We Photoshopped our own example of what that must look like but there's nothing like seeing a video of it. Eesh!

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Sensible Styling

April 14, 2011

Sensible has pretty much defined the styling of every compact sedan over the last couple decades or so. It's what buyers in this category expect, so that's what the manufacturers give them. The Cruze fits that mold, but I think it's one of the better interpretations of the breed.

Unlike most of the cars in this class, there's some substance to the Cruze's shape. It has well defined belt line, noticeably flared wheel arches and a strong stance. It's not overdone like the Hyundai Elantra, it's just conservative styling done well. Saw one in Ice Blue the other day and it caught my eye. Not many cars can pull off a color like that, but this particular Cruze looked great.

From what I've seen of the new Malibu, Chevrolet is taking a slightly more aggressive approach with its midsize sedan. I'm not sure if I like it yet, but the Cruze has certainly grown on me.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

Liking It More, But Keep It Quiet

April 21, 2011

Hadn't been in the Cruze for awhile, and after some recent seat time in the new Civic, Elantra, and Corolla, I wondered what about the Cruze would stand out good, bad or otherwise. These are just some impressions relative to its class, not a comparison.

The doors close with a pleasant, damped thunk, a welcome sound for cars in this segment. It's a head game. A car that closes with a hollow whoosh gets a pass if it's reliable and hassle-free for 100,000+ miles. Many are, so you learn to disassociate a wimpy door sound from the car's proven quality. But the Cruze sounds good, and at least fosters the perception of a solidly-built mass of metal. Our leaky trunk blemishes that perception, but beyond that we're so far, so good.

I also like that the Cruze's horn is a muted staccato mumble, and not the raspy bleat of many low-budget honks. It's not embarrassing to lock the Cruze from the keyfob while walking away from it.

The Cruze also suppresses road, wind and tire noise pretty well - there's obviously something in those door panels and A-pillars - but it pays for it a bit with its 3,232-lb. curb weight. Interior materials feel good, or at least innocuous, to the touch, and the seats are comfortable. I think Chevy interior designers missed with the Transformers-like center stack layout. There's some superfluous designory-nerdness and wasted space, such that there's no good storage for phone and - wait for it - yes, coffee.

Yep, I'm complaining about cupholders. And their awkward placement. That and the pretty useless center console, a small, short cavity that can't hold much of anything except maybe a deck of cards and some smokes.

And now, the deal breaker: the Hydra-Matic auto transmission. The trans and the turbo. They are just not on the same page. It’s like a bad competitive dance show that has paired Pau Gasol and Kathy Bates as tango partners. The Cruze's clumsiness is largely a low-speed affair. Once you've got the converter locked up at around 3,000 rpm at highway speeds, the Cruze is a quick responder and moves easily through traffic.

But for a real walk on the edge, try blasting an uphill on-ramp in manual shift mode. Regardless of when you select an upshift, the real fun is waiting to see where the boost lets loose, and where the trans decides it wants to fall.

It's maddening. The Cruze's competitors also suffer to some degree from fuel-conscious shift strategies. And this isn't the first AT we've driven that feels either lifeless or has a life of its own. We've had the trans in for its TSB, and I know the Cruze has a "learning" feature. Perhaps we've completely scrambled its brains with the staff's individual drive styles?

The answer seems simple: Get the six-speed manual. Haven't driven one yet, so can't compare. Any 6MT Cruze owners care to weigh in?

Oh, and just so we're straight, don't interpret any of this criticism or praise as an indication that I like the car or am saying anything positive about it. It's a nice car that earns its place in the segment, although the auto-trans is a liability. But I can't really say that because, you know, I could get canned. Everyone knows we have it in for the General. Just between us, cool?

Oh, and the cruise control icons are still dumb. Roast away.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

Thinker's Bump

April 22, 2011

See that little bump atop the door panel that encases the lock pin? Drives me bananas.

You finally get a little break in traffic and just want to ease back, rest your arm up there and reflect on the day's toil when - poke - you got this little lump of hard plastic and metal (the pin does not retract fully flush) jabbin' ya. So you redistribute and lean on the dinky armrest, which tends to slide back to its default position anytime you shift a little weight on it.

Still like the Cruze. But the little things add up.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

Radio Reboot

April 25, 2011

In honor of Earth Day weekend, the radio in the Chevy Cruze decided to save some energy and resources by broadcasting static instead of, you know, actual radio programming. Tried restarting the radio as a fix but that didn't do it.

Turns out what was needed was a full system reboot — the problem happened twice over the weekend and in both cases, turning the engine off and then back on again did the trick. Our Keepers of the Keys have been notified.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 9,051 miles

GM Finally Designing Some Decent Wheels

April 29, 2011

GM does not have a good track record when it comes to wheel designs. It's been a pet peeve of mine for years. With all the design talent available to the General, you would think at least some of its cars would have some decent looking rims. But no, it's been one mediocre wheel after another.

Recently, the tide has started to turn. Cars like the Corvette, Camaro and CTS-V Series now have some proper wheel options. The improvements have even trickled down to the Cruze.

The set of 18s on our long-termer aren't going win any awards, but they do look better than most cars in its class. They're simple, have some dish to the lip and a non-chromed finish. It helps that they're wrapped by a meaty set of 215/45 tires. Nice job Chevrolet.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

The Buzz From the Buyers

May 02, 2011

Just a quick public service announcement for all of you out there who may be in the market for a new car. In addition to checking out our road test(s), long-term blog updates and pricing information, you should also see what folks who've bought the car have to say. As you know, we like to cover all the bases for automotive consumers and as such we also provide consumer comments and ratings. We have 69 comments / ratings for the whole Cruze line thus far, but note that you can also just look at those for a specific trim level.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 9,315 miles

No. 2 GM Vehicle and Compact Car in U.S. for April

May 03, 2011

Would it surprise you to know that the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is the second biggest selling vehicle for General Motors? Yup, right behind the Silverado. In fact it's with the Cruze's help that GM led the Detroit automakers in sales in April. Analysts are attributing it to Americans preferring smaller, fuel-efficient cars because gas prices are so high. The compact Cruze gets 24 city/36 highway/28 combined, our average is 25.2 mpg.

And even though the Cruze was just introduced last year it is already selling triple the amount that the Cobalt did. Other recent accolades include its being dubbed by Wards as having one of 10 best interiors. It also is now the No. 2 compact car in the country, moving up from a No. 4 spot in March. Does that make you feel better about the Cruze or can 25,160 Cruze fans (number of folks who bought the car in April) be wrong?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Like a Rock

May 03, 2011

You know what the Chevy Cruze's armrests feel like?

That's right Bob Seger, they feel like a rock. The center armrest? Hard. The door armrests? Hard. This is especially annoying since the dash is covered with padded pleather. The Cruze has a pretty nice cabin for this price range, but the armrests are a let down.

That sweaty construction worker dumping a bucket of water on his ripped body would be so disappointed. So would the old couple on loan from a Cialis commercial dancing outside their camper. And Alec Baldwin.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Recall for Steering Shaft

May 05, 2011

Yup, yesterday General Motors announced another recall (the previous one being the detached steering wheel issue) for the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. Apparently the steering shaft on some of the Cruzes was improperly installed, an issue discovered when "a customer lost steering control in a parking lot" but, didn't get in an accident. Also, the cars with automatic transmissions will be checked for proper installation of transmission shift linkage.

Analysts guess that this recall won't impact the Cruze's sales. April was a big month for the Chevy, wonder how May will look.

In any case, if you have a Cruze a visit to the dealership should only take about an hour; the fix doesn't require parts.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Big Small Car

May 09, 2011

Spent the weekend in our longterm 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, my first good long seat time in the car. And you know what? I'm liking it.

It's small, but does not feel flimsy. From a chassis dynamics perspective it's spot-on, with firm but compliant damping, sharp steering and a general sense of substance. That goes for its well-tamed road and wind noise, too. I'm not crazy about the autobox that often feels one step behind where it needs to be, or the sometimes-hesitant throttle response. Still, this is an entry-level-ish car that doesn't feel cost-cut to death in the way it goes down the road.

And talk about a utility sedan — in addition to the four mounted tires you see here (yes, there are towels to protect the seats, and no, nothing got marred in any way), there were also four take-off tires in the trunk. Who the heck needs a truck?

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

Spare Tire vs Tire Repair Kit

May 17, 2011

I wrote an article on spare tires recently, and the research I did for it made me more aware of the spare tires — or the lack thereof — in cars today. Our long term Chevrolet Cruze came with this temporary spare. But it's not a standard feature. All Cruzes come with a tire repair kit, unless you opt for the $100 temporary spare (as we did).

We are going to start seeing more of this in the coming years, as automakers seek ways to reduce weight in vehicles. Over the past two years, there has been an increase of 30 vehicles that come standard with tire repair kits. Both the spare and the tire repair kits have their pros and cons, but if it was my car, I'd want the temporary spare.

Would you pay the extra $100 to get a spare? Would you mind using an inflator kit? Or would you just call roadside assistance?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 10,014 miles

10K Milestone

May 18, 2011

Our long term Chevrolet Cruze just crossed the 10,000 mile mark. The only major issues since we bought the car have been the watery trunk and the transmission, which needed a reflash. It has been solid ever since. In honor of this milestone, we will be taking the car in for its first service. We'll have more on that later.

The Cruze is currently averaging 25 mpg. The EPA ratings for the Cruze are 24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. We're coming up a bit short on the combined rating, but we have another 10,000 miles to lighten our lead feet.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate

Recall and an Oil Change

May 19, 2011

The maintenance light in our Chevrolet Cruze came on shortly after 10,000 miles. We took the car to our local dealership for its first oil change and a tire rotation. While we were there, our service advisor reminded us of the steering shaft recall after an incident in which the steering wheel detached on the road.

The warranty service consisted of inspecting the intermediate steering shaft pinch bolt. The Cruze's bolt was already at proper specifications, so it didn't need further repair.

Next up was the oil change. While the Cruze didn’t beat the Pontiac G8's 13,000 mile record between oil changes, 10,000 miles is still an impressive number for a car using non-synthetic oil. Lastly, the dealer gave us a tire rotation on the house.

The dealership completed the scheduled maintenance in the same day and it cost us $41.76.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 10,017 miles

The Dexose Oil Specification

May 23, 2011

The recent oil change on our Chevrolet Cruze sparked some debate as to whether or not it needed synthetic oil. It was difficult to get a clear answer on this, but after some extensive research, I was able to find something. The GM branded Dexos oil that will be used in the dealer bulk tanks and sold over the parts counter is a synthetic blend. But if purchased from another manufacturer, it can also be a full synthetic. Sound confusing? Let me explain.

The photo above was taken from the owner's manual. The manual only says that the oil needs to be Dexos certified 5W30. In fact, there is no mention of the word "synthetic" anywhere in the owner's manual. The official "about Dexos" page didn't mention synthetic either.

Dexos is an oil certification standard created by GM to consolidate its recommended oils. It is comparable to the upcoming ILSAC GF-5 standard — the one to which the entire oil industry will have to adhere. According to GM, the Dexos1 oil specification will decrease harmful piston deposits by up to 28 percent and improve fuel efficiency by up to 0.3 percent compared to the ILSAC GF-4 specifications. Dexos compliant oil is higher quality oil, but it isn't always fully synthetic. GM licenses the Dexos certification to motor oil manufacturers that can then choose to offer a full-synthetic variation, as long as it meets the requirements. All 2011 GM models and newer will use Dexos1 branded oil. Dexos2 is for diesel vehicles.

In the link that sodaguy posted, Mobil1 full synthetic is listed as one of the alternates that can be used in the event that Dexos1 is not available. While they haven't been formally tested, fully-synthetic, non-Dexos oil is listed because it meets and may exceed the Dexos requirements.

Tom Read, a GM powertrain technology representative, says that the term "synthetic," has different meanings depending on the oil marketer. "The use of the term "synthetic" with engine oil is used broadly and not standardized in the industry. However, Dexos would certainly qualify in the commonly understood definition of a synthetic blend oil," says Read.

If you go to the Dexos licensed brands page, you'll find that both non-synthetic and synthetic oils are listed. Now take a look at the second line, and you'll see "ACDelco Dexos1 SAE 5W30," which is supplied by General Motors. This is the oil that will be supplied to the dealers.

Read says that GM is in the process of distributing and educating its dealers about this new oil standard. But it takes time to get the message out. I found this out for myself when I called the parts departments of a few local Chevy dealerships. Most of them had never heard of Dexos and couldn't tell us whether or not Dexos was a synthetic oil. The ones who had heard of it said that it cost about $7 per quart — a far cry from the $2.50 per quart on our recent bill. When I called the parts department of the dealer that had performed our oil change, it did not even have the oil in stock. I then knew for sure that our Cruze was not filled with Dexos oil.

I told our service advisor that we had reason to believe that our Cruze was not filled with the proper oil and showed him the Dexos page from the owner's manual. And as fate would have it, an internal dealer memo about Dexos was sitting on his desk. The service advisor referred to Dexos as a synthetic blend. He told me that the dealership had recently ordered a batch of Dexos oil and that the service department would replace our oil as soon as Dexos was in stock. He assured us that since it was that dealership's policy to fill all cars with a synthetic blend, we would be OK in the meantime and that our warranty would not be compromised.

These mix-ups are bound to happen when well-established standards change. We suspect that this kind of thing might have happened at Toyota dealerships, too. That company is slowly phasing in full-synthetic oil in many of its models.

On a final note, we asked Read what would happen if a person used a conventional 5W30 oil with the API starburst symbol (as per the owner's manual) for an entire oil interval:

"If a customer uses a non-licensed engine oil that is simply ILSAC GF-5 quality, they will not enjoy the benefits of using a Dexos licensed product. Those benefits could include better low temperature performance, cleaner pistons, better aeration performance, etc. This could be especially important as the engine oil ages. Furthermore, with the extensive licensing and quality monitoring program in place, the customer can be sure that the Dexos licensed product they are using actually meets that performance level."

If you own a 2011 or newer GM vehicle, I suggest checking with your dealer to make sure they give you the proper oil.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 10,175 miles

Transmission Isn't That Bad

May 24, 2011

There have been a few comments on our Compact Sedan Comparison test, much of it concerning our perceived bias against the Chevrolet Cruze. No sense rehashing it all here, but let's just say that the Cruze lost a few points for its slow-shifting transmission.

I drove our long-term Cruze last night and I think I know why the transmission feels so slow. It's not the shift program, it's the engine. It's utterly torqueless, or at least it feels that way. The transmission may call up a lower gear, but you barely even notice.

I can't say that I really expect big torque from a turbocharged, 1.4-liter engine, but the average consumer expects something. It's a bit worrisome when you're on the freeway and nothing really happens when you downshift.

It's not a deal breaker for the Cruze. It's a solid car otherwise and I don't mind driving it all. If it wants to be considered best in class, though, it's going to need a little more juice.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 10,223 miles

Seat-Height Adjustment Done Right

May 25, 2011

It's easy to dwell on the fact that the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze finished 3rd of three in our recent economy sedan comparison test. But both that Imperial Blue Cruze LTZ and our long-term Cruze do plenty of things right. For example, the two-way tilt for the driver seat-bottom cushion.

In most cars in this price range, all this power adjustment switch would do is raise you higher, progressively dumping you forward toward the pedals. But in the Cruze, you can fiddle with the front half of the switch to raise or lower the front part of the seat-bottom cushion, and then separately tweak the back part of the cushion with the rear half of the switch. Sounds like a small thing, but for me, it really improves comfort.

Even more suprising is that Chevy offers the same functionality for the front-passenger seat-bottom cushion — all but unheard of in a U.S.-market small sedan.

Mind you, you have to use a couple of manual levers — the front lever works the front half of the cushion, the rear one works the back half — but the functionality is the same.

Thoughtful touches such as this make me want to like the Cruze more than I do. If this car had a better drivetrain (different engine, different transmission calibration), I'd really be into it. It is so time to bring back an SS model.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,230 miles

Considerate Climate Control

May 30, 2011

When you make or receive a Bluetooth-aided phone call, the Cruze not only automatically lowers the radio's volume (which is expected), but also the climate control's fan speed. I had the blower on medium/high speed and when I received a call, it lowered along with the tunes making it easier to converse. Upon completion of the call, the audio volume and fan speed both returned to their pre-call settings. Just another example of how much they sweated the details on the Cruze.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 10,392 miles.

A Most Appropriate Moniker

May 31, 2011

I spent a lot of time on the freeway with the Cruze this past weekend and was thankful a) that I had the little Chevy and b) that the freeways were actually moving freely, a rarity in greater L.A.. Here are a few random observations.

Once you realize you have to really lean into the throttle it to get the Cruze's transmission to downshift, there's perfectly adequate merging/passing performance here. And the tranny swaps gears smoothly whether dealing with city traffic or when grabbing that downshift to get up to freeway speed. As we've stated before, the nav system's interface is a bit clunky (looks like a touchscreen but isn't and selecting letters/numbers is done via up/down/left/right arrow buttons or by the radio's tuning knob). But it's easy to understand and no big deal after you've used it a few times.

The aptly-named Cruze settles in nicely at higher cruising speeds (70-75) where it provides a hushed cabin that allowed me to enjoy the (admittedly just average) audio system and use the Bluetooth phone feature. The Cruze's front seats were very comfortable during the long-weekend's various couple-hour driving stints — no complaints from my sometimes finicky lower back — and of course having them heated is a bonus. Just an easy car to live with in the real world of city traffic and long highway stints.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 10, 591 miles.

Informal Fuel Economy Test

June 02, 2011

General Motors conducted an informal fuel-economy test recently, with two Chevrolet Cruzes as the test vehicles. While not as extensive as our Fuel Sipper Smackdown, this test did highlight how different driving styles can affect a car's fuel economy.

GM fuel-economy engineers Ann Wenzlick and Beth Nunning drove identical Chevrolet Cruze LTs. The car has EPA ratings of 24 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. They drove the cars on a 20-minute route that included city and highway driving as a stop for coffee. Their results showed that taking care of small details can potentially save drivers as much as $100 a month at the pump.

The test results showed that Wenzlick averaged 37 miles per gallon using efficient driving habits. Nunning drove less efficiently and managed only 21 miles per gallon. Though the test took place for just 20 minutes, GM projected that Nunning would get 250 fewer miles per tank of gas, while Wenzlick would save $100 a month — or $1,200 a year — assuming 15,000 miles and $4 a gallon for gas.

As you'll see in the video below, they used the in-car fuel economy gauges for this test, so take these numbers with a grain of salt. But the fact remains: Driving styles have a real impact on your fuel consumption. And while this may not be news to some people, not a day goes by without me seeing someone driving without regard to fuel economy. If I can make one person more aware of his driving habits, I've done my good deed for the day.

Here are a few fuel saving tips from GM. Let us know if any of these work for you.

5 Driving Tips to Save at the Pump

Here are five things Ann Wenzlick did to drive more efficiently in her Cruze:

1. Get out of the drive-through lane.
"While Beth waited in the drive-thru with her car running, I shut off the engine and went inside for my morning coffee. Idling for 15 minutes burns through an average of a quarter of a gallon — adding another $1 to the cost of your latte."

2. Take it easy
"In the city, I accelerated smoothly while Beth demonstrated one of the most common mistakes we see on the road: Jumping on the gas at every light, only to hit the brakes as she caught up with the traffic ahead. Such aggressive driving isn't going to get you home any faster, while driving smoothly can improve your mileage by 20 percent."

3. Driving 70, not 80.
"On the highway, I drove 70, compared to Beth’s 80. Again, a 10-mph difference likely won’t add much time to your daily commute, but it will save you up to four miles per gallon on the highway."

4. Use cruise control
"I tried to maintain a constant speed during our drive, while Beth’s fluctuated with traffic. Try using cruise control when possible, and maintaining a constant speed over time, which is much more efficient than speeding up and slowing down over and over again."

5. Roll up the windows
"One of the most common questions we get is 'Is it better to drive with the A/C on, or off?' At slower speeds, turning off the air conditioning can save you a little, but I always roll up the windows on the highway. Beth was driving with her windows down, and the increased air pressure acted like a parachute trying to slow her down — consuming much more energy than air conditioning ever will."

5 Vehicle Mistakes That Hurt MPG:

Here are things that contributed to Beth Nunning’s poor fuel economy:

1. Low tire pressure
"All four tires on my car were five pounds under their recommended air pressure. That's not enough to change how the Cruze drives, but it does make the engine work much harder to turn the wheels. Check your tires at least once a month, as a tire that is 10 pounds under pressure can cut your fuel efficiency by more than 3 percent."

2. Using roof ornaments
"To show support for my Detroit Tigers, I put up window flags on my Cruze for every home game. But, when the boys hit the road, the flags will come down." At highway speeds, up to a third of your fuel is used to overcome wind resistance, so even small changes to your vehicle's aerodynamics will have a big impact in fuel economy.

3. Carrying extra junk in the trunk
"I had six bags of water-softener salt in the trunk I bought on sale at the hardware store. But, according to EPA estimates, every 100 pounds of weight can reduce fuel economy by 2 percent. While I saved at the checkout, that 240 pounds of salt added almost 5 percent to my fuel costs for the trip."

4. Ignoring the "check engine" light
"I called OnStar to run a remote diagnostics check on my Cruze, because the check engine light was on. Turns out the light was on because the gas cap was loose. But, more serious engine problems can cut your fuel economy by up to 40 percent."

5. Not bundling errands
"An engine at operating temperature is up to 50 percent more efficient than a cold engine. So, when possible, it’s much better to run five errands in an afternoon, than running one errand every day of the week."

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 10,611 miles

Why Choose the Cruze?

June 08, 2011

There is plenty of competition in the compact sedan segment. There are the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra to name a few. Many players have upped their games in this class. When all of these cars are available, what would make the Cruze stand out to a buyer.

I don't have the answer.

In my early twenties I owned a Chevy Cavalier. The Cruze reminds me of that car. It's a better car than the Cavalier was, (my Cavalier used to shake when it got to 65 mph) but it's not so much better that I would consider it vastly improved. Our Cruze LTZ is a $26,000 car. You could get a Malibu, Camry or Accord for that money.

You can get a base model Chevy Cruze for $16+K. But the new Volkswagen Jetta starts at even less.

Take a look at the Edmunds sedan buying guide. What would you choose?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Sales Leader

June 09, 2011

Last month the Chevrolet Cruze was the best-selling car in its segment, with 22,711 units sold. That's better than Corolla, Civic, Elantra, et al.

A nifty bar graph follows after the jump.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Excellent Pioneer Stereo

June 10, 2011

Folks have criticized our long-term Chevy Cruze for being too expensive, but I tell you, the $445 that went to the optional Pioneer sound system was worth every penny.

This nine-speaker system sounds excellent, even when utilizing the rather imperfect sound quality of iPod files. Strong bass, sharp treble, etc. I thought the pre-set tone settings (rock, pop, etc.) worked rather well, too, giving me a quick-and-easy way to maximize the sound quality of differing music styles. Both Limelight by Rush and Young Blood by The Naked and Famous sounded superb.

Of course, I'm not an audiophile.

If you are, then Doug Newcomb says that the Cruze's nine-speaker system gets "decent" sound quality with a letter grade of C. He notes such things as "the soundstage was above average, but not as wide as I would have liked. Imaging was also good, although center images tended to waver and weren't stable." Okey dokey.

I'd say this is relative, since you might also be disappointed by the Cruze's handling if you own an M3. The important thing to note is that Newcomb also says you can't get a better aftermarket system for less than $500. You'd also be hard pressed to find a better OEM system in one of the Cruze's competitors.

Therefore, I say this stereo is quite good relatively speaking and a must-have with the Cruze. I also pulled out the infrequently used "Right!" stamp just for the hell of it.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 10,707 miles

Dexos Do Over

June 14, 2011

The last service on our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze included an oil change. Chevrolet Santa Monica performed this oil change using a non-Dexos blessed oil. A quick flip of the owner's manual told us that was a big, potentially warranty voiding, no-no.

Upon realizing the mistake, we called the dealer and asked them to drain the poser Dexos for the real thing. "We don't have any," began our advisor, "We've always used a blend supplied to us by GM. But the Dexos oil is on the way. I'll call you when it arrives."

It arrived. We dropped the Cruze off in the morning and it was ready in the afternoon. Old oil was drained and new oil added at no cost to us. Whew, that was close.

Total Cost: None

Total Days out of Service: None

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 10,711 miles

Some Like It Hot, But Maybe Not This Hot

June 15, 2011

Where on earth did our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze encounter 111-degree weather? About 50 miles west of Phoenix, that's where. It was well over 100 for about 250 miles of the trip, and the temperature gauge reached triple digits pretty much as soon as I dropped into the desert near Palm Springs.

I had decided to drive the Cruze on a quick business trip to Phoenix because, the way I figured it, I'd spend less time getting here by car than I would if I drove 50 miles west to LAX, parked someplace and rode a shuttle, timing that to arrive at least 1 hour early. After that I'd go through the TSA line, board my plane, fly the 1 hour to Phoenix, wait for my bag at the other end and then, finally, grab a cab and ride 40 miles west to my hotel. No way, Jose.

So there I was rolling along I-10 on cruise control at 70 to 75 mph with no trouble, listening to podcasts and playing with the fuel economy meter to pass the time. Just before this picture was taken I decided to take a scenic back road and got off the I-10 freeway for a bit. Shortly thereafter I stopped by the side of the road for a few minutes to stretch and take a few pictures.

Through all this the Cruze sat parked on blacktop, about 10 minutes, I'd say, with the engine off. When I got back in and drove away, or tried to, it started normally but then acted as if the parking brake was still on partway — except it wasn't. Not much acceleration, weak throttle response, and no warning lamps or any overt signs of trouble, either.

JKav isn't back from his LeMans trip, and since I'm not the engine guy around here I can only take a stab at it. I'm thinking the intercooler was heat-soaked because it felt like the turbo was pretty much 100% out of the picture. The acceleration was just about as bad as you'd expect from a normally aspirated 1.4-liter four in a car of this size. If I had had a VBOX on me (sorry, fresh out) I'd bet that the 0-60 time was no better than 13 or 14 seconds, probably more. And it wasn't smooth about it, either.

I repeated the pattern of driving followed by a 5- or 10-minute stop on asphalt a couple of times and it happened over and over. Once up to speed and cruising again, everything was fine and the brisk acceleration this mill is capable of returned.

I'm not sure if this is normal hot-weather behavior for a 1.4T Cruze. I'm here another day and I'll be keeping close tabs on it. Tomorrow morning should be cool and I'm expecting no such behavior unless and until things heat up later on.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11,212 miles

Hot Hot Heat and MPG

June 17, 2011

Day Two of my quick Phoenix excursion in our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze dawned just as bright as the day before. It was clear from the outset that this was going to be another hot one.

First thing in the morning I topped up the fuel tank to isolate yesterday's long freeway drive from today's in-town driving. In the relatively cool Phoenix morning air, the heat-related turbo boost problems I had yesterday were gone.

The run from my home in Orange County to here had been a vague attempt to duplicate the conditions of the fuel economy run I made recently in a 2011 Chevy Cruze Eco. But California and Arizona freeway speed limits are set at 70 and 75 instead of 65 mph and the prevailing speed of traffic is even higher than that. I didn't dare set the Cruze on cruise at a pokey 65 mph like I did in the Eco on the east coast. Instead I settled on a 70-mph target speed to keep things close without making myself into a rolling chicane.

Our Cruze LTZ with its 1.4T motor and 6-speed autobox is EPA-rated at 24 city and 36 mpg highway. I was able to match the Cruze Eco's 42-mpg highway figure a couple of weeks ago. Could I achieve 36 mpg in the Cruze LTZ here?

The short answer is no, not even close.

Our Cruze LTZ gulped 12.19 gallons of unleaded after 364 freeway miles on a run that included a smaller number of side trip miles than I made in the Eco. That works out to 29.9 mpg, a full 6 mpg shy of this car's EPA highway rating.

Driving at 70 instead of 65 mph probably accounts for no more than 1 or 2 of the lost mpg. So what's left? Heat. Oppressive desert heat. My schedule forced me to make the drive in middle of the day, and the outside air temperature gauge hovered between 105 and 111 for at least 275 miles of the trip. Perhaps the boggy low-speed behavior I experienced was an overt sign of a more subtle loss of turbo efficiency that blanketed the entire run.

But that's not an entirely comfortable explanation because the Cruze also did worse than Erin in the portlier Buick Regal turbo, a car rated at only 28 mpg on the highway. On a similar hot desert run at a higher cruise control set speed she managed 30.7 mpg. She managed 30.9 mpg on a return trip run at the same 70-mph target speed I used for this run. In short, her Regal is kicking my Cruze's ass.

The only other difference I haven't mentioned yet is the fuel used. Erin used 91-octane supreme in the Buick while I stuck with 87-octane regular in the Cruze, just as I had in the Eco test weeks earlier.

What conclusions can we draw from this? Not sure. I need to drive home and bake in the return trip data first.

Stay tuned.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11,107 miles

Hot Weather MPG Part 2

June 20, 2011

The numbers are in. Our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze has returned from Arid-zona and is back in the cooler coastal environs of SoCal.

Before we get to that, I thought I'd share a couple of highlights from a conversation I had with Mike Katerberg, the Assistant Chief Engineer of GM's Ecotec 1.4-liter turbo engine.

First off, Mike thinks you guys rock. He didn't use those exact words, but he said more than once that Inside Line has some knowledgable commenters on this blog.

He confirmed my suspicions about the intercooler for the low-speed launch behavior, but also pointed out that extreme hot weather favors the use of 91-octane premium unleaded. My use of 87-octane in these conditions led to my loss of drive-away power as well the wonky fuel economy over the trip.

In mild weather, 87-octane does just fine, but with high heat comes detonation, and the Cruze's ECU counters by retarding the timing, a move that does engine torque output and efficiency no favors.

At drive-away, where V = not much, my heat-soaked air-to-air intercooler can do little intercooling, allowing hot compressed air into the cylinders instead. The resulting low density mixture prompts the ECU to retard the timing to ward off detonation. The intercooler comes back to life with speed and airflow, but the overall high ambient temperature conditions still bring with them a higher chance of detonation. So there's still less spark advance at cruising speed in hot weather, it's just harder to tell. And you've got no way to feel it happening if you're on cruise control, as I was.

JKav, back from LeMans but still jet-lagged, is drawing me an MBT graph (maximum brake torque) graph showing how turbos benefit from the spark advance that comes with higher octane far more than naturally aspirated engines do. "Turbos like octane," he said. He's explaining the tech behind that "no duh" knowledge.

But this octane sensitivity is even more true of small engines with a small turbo like the Ecotec 1.4T engine. Such mills reside further down the inverted parabolic MBT curve from the theoretical apex point of optimum ignition timing. Anything that allows more timing, such as 91-octane fuel, will make a noticeable difference by allowing torque to march up the steep part of the curve. Jay scribbles a few tick marks with his pen saying, "A little goes a long way."

On the freeway, the cutback in ignition timing reduces engine torque and efficiency for a given amount of throttle, which means that even though I'm not aware I'm doing it I am in fact loading the engine to a higher degree by booting the throttle a little bit more to keep my cruising speed where I want it. Unlike a large-diplacement blown engine, the turbo on a small forced-air engine such as this is actually doing something other than pinwheeling while cruising on the highway, meaning it's more sensitive to the above-described ignition timing and efficiency issues.

Enough of the Dr. Science routine already. Here are the overall trip mpg numbers for the Cruze 1.4T to and from Phoenix and the Buick Regal 2.0T to Las Vegas and back.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ 1.4T automatic

  • Phoenix and back, 672 miles
  • 87 octane unleaded
  • 36 mpg EPA highway rating
  • 28.1 mpg trip average
  • 111 degree peak

2011 Buick Regal CXL 2.0T automatic

  • Las Vegas and back, 578 miles
  • 91 octane unleaded
  • 28 mpg EPA highway rating
  • 30.8 mpg trip average
  • 107 degree peak

The weather was more or less equally hot on both routes and both of us used cruise control. Erin apparently had a couple advantages: premium gas and a larger displacement turbo mill.

As for the Cruze, it's certified to run on 87-octane fuel because that makes sense for most buyers most of the year. But that doesn't mean that 91-octane fuel is always the more expensive choice in hot weather. The use of more expensive fuel on this trip would have paid for itself on a cost-per-mile basis if it had pushed average mpg up to just 30 mpg. Anything higher than that and I'd have saved money by buying "expensive" gas for this trip to Phoenix.

This impromptu comparison wasn't as scientific as it could have been — Erin I basically compared notes and realized we'd driven much the same way in much the same conditions. She happened to use 91-octane because she felt like it.

Look for a repeat test with more of the variables controlled, but it seems that desert dwellers that drive certain small-displacement turbo cars may actually save money by paying for premium gas in summer.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

Seat Squab

June 22, 2011

Whenever I take a seat in the Chevy Cruze, the phrase “seat squab” comes to mind.

I don’t really know why this is so except maybe this slimmed down seat, so carefully minimized in shape and size to enhance a sense of spaciousness in a very small car, reminds me of a perch in a bird cage.

Actually seat design is a pretty complex business, as well it might be since the seat really is your primary interface with a vehicle. You can read all about it .

Mostly the engineering reminds me that I like seats that are minimalist, the kind that hold you only where you need to be held. And this, it turns out, is the primary difference between the Cruze seat and the seat in a comparably priced utility vehicle, like the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

When you're deciding between two vehicles like this, you might consider the fact that you have to sit in the thing. Lots of people just buy a car from the outside, but it's better to buy it from the inside.

Small car, small seat. (By the way, “squab” defines an overstuffed cushion, and it is technically the part of the seat that supports your lower back.)

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 11,805 miles

You Write the Caption

June 24, 2011

Vehicle Testing Director Dan Edmunds sent me this photo of our pure white Chevy Cruze at an interesting truck stop.

We're going to do it a little differently this week. You can write a caption as usual. Or you can write movie titles for the 10,000 videos you might find in this store.

You have all weekend on this one. I'll post the winner on Monday.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Our Favorite Caption

June 27, 2011

Thanks to e90_m3 for this week's favorite caption. Here are the others that made us rewind.

Mad Betamax (ergsum)
Big Trouble In Little Chevy (ergsum)
They Rewind By Night (ergsum)
Speed 2: Cruze Control (finn4723)
Smokey and the Banned It (actualsize)
Who Killed the VCR? (finn4723)
Vimeo killed the video store (actualsize)
Apostrophe 2 - Grammar Gone WILD! (felonious)
Apostrophe Fail. (teampenske3)
10,000 videos. Please ask about special financing from GMAC. (sniperruff)
"... and some of them aren't porn!" (felonious)
2011: A Truck Stop Odyssey (ergsum)
Done in 60 Seconds (noburgers)

What was your favorite?

To the winner:
You can select any of the items in my prize drawer:

- red fuzzy dice
- Top Gear Season 14 (Blu-ray only)
- GM Design paperweight
- Mercedes history DVD
- Hendrick Motorsports DVD

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Fuel Used

June 27, 2011

...not according to the pump I used to top off the tank this morning.

If we used the "4.6 gal" reported here, the fuel economy computes to 25.6 mpg. If we use what the pump reported, the fuel economy computes to 21.4 mpg.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 12,025 miles

My Parents' New Car

June 28, 2011

My parents are buying a Chevrolet Cruze. They just don't know it yet.

While driving our long-term Cruze this morning, it occured to me its likely to be their next car. That side of my family has a long history with General Motors, and the chances they'll buy outside of GM is slim to none.

The Cruze is well-priced for a couple of Detroit-area retirees, it gets good gas mileage, and it comes with stability and traction control to help them get around during the Midwestern winters. Plus it offers more features than they'll ever use.

Whew, glad that's been decided.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 12,108 miles

Best-Selling Car in the Land

July 11, 2011

In May, the Cruze took honors for being the best-selling car in its segment. June sales figures reveal the little car has stepped it up a notch; last month, the Cruze rose to become the best-selling car not just in its segment, but in the nation. With 24,896 units sold, the Cruze was second only to the Ford F-150.

The fuel-efficient Cruze Eco, good for 42 miles per gallon on the highway, comprised 17 percent of the model's sales during the month of June. Retail sales for Chevrolet were up 16 percent, marking the tenth straight month of retail sales increases for the brand.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Lightning Is Taking Pictures

July 12, 2011

Photo: Glenn Paulina

Mother Nature can be beautiful and frightening. Here she is toying with our Chevrolet Cruze in Death Valley.

These images have not been altered in PhotoShop. They remind me of the Stephin Merritt song Night Falls Like a Grand Piano, "Thunder sings a requiem. Lightning is taking pictures..."

But the question is: Has GM struck lightning with the Chevy Cruze? They moved 24,869 units of the popular compact car in June, resulting in a 10.9-percent gain for the Chevy brand last month.

More photos after the jump...

Photo: Glenn Paulina

Photo: Glenn Paulina

Liberated Gasket

July 14, 2011

Take a look at the shifter on our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. We tried to fix it by tucking the gasket back in. Of course, that was just wishful thinking. We'll add this to the list next time the Cruze visits the dealer.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 13,800 miles

15,000-mile Recap

July 20, 2011

After 9 months with the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze we finally reached the 15,000-mile mark. Let's recap the notable moments in our test to-date. Take the jump, this is not a short list...

- transmission reflash
- lube strut assembly
- affix new VIN label
- improper steering shaft installation
- detachable steering wheel

Additional problems:
- trunk leak
- radio freakout
- shifter gasket slipping

Routine maintenance:
- service at 5,000 miles
- service at 10,000 miles
- back to the dealer for Dexos oil do-over

- lost to the Ford Focus in a comparison test

Draw your own conclusions from the lengthy maintenance list. But if nothing else the Cruze is certainly keeping busy.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 15,000 miles

Photos From the Desert

July 28, 2011

We have more pictures of our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze from the desert. You seemed to enjoy the lightning photos. How about some taken with night vision? These were lit only by the full moon...

Now with the sun up...

(All Photos by Glenn Paulina)

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 14,300 miles

Our Favorite Caption

July 29, 2011

Thanks to ergsum for this week's favorite caption. Here are the others that had us green with envy.

Moonshine runner (ergsum)
Transformers: Light of the Moon (ergsum)
Target is down range. Aim for the transmission. (eidolways)
Looks like this Cruze is a desert-er. (eidolways)
Star light, star bright, Chevy Cruze is the first star from GM that gets it right. (altimadude05)
Chevy Cruze: Road trip to area 51. (technetium99)
Chevy runs deep cover (aleclance)
Shouldn't the moonlight picture be of a *Sonata*? (technetium99)
carmageddon aftermath (distortedlife)
LA Smog is really bad this week (noburgers)
Looked better with my beer goggles on (noburgers)
Cruzin' under the radar. (teampenske3)
Chevy Runs Deep into enemy territory (teampenske3)
The Cruze steering feels a little alien to me (noburgers)
Chevy - "Like Iraq" (cjgt)
Chevrolet, surviving the economy, decepticons, and nuclear war since 1911! (autospadetail)
Hello, this is Skynet, how may we terminate you? (ergsum)

What was your favorite?

To the winner:
You can select one of these three prizes.

- Top Gear Season 14 (Blu-ray only)
- MOPAR t-shirt (size M or L)
- Imported From Detroit t-shirt (size L)

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

You Write the Caption

July 29, 2011

Here is a "spy" photo of our long-term Chevrolet Cruze in the desert taken by the light of the full moon. Or is it on the moon? I can't tell.

What is your caption?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Fahrenheit 126

August 03, 2011

(Photo by Glenn Paulina)

Even when subjected to extreme exterior temperatures the A/C in our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze blows cold, nice and cold. Whether the engine is breathing easy on flat land or under load on a grade, the air is equally refreshing. GM definitely knows how to do A/C.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 19,000 miles

20,000-mile Recap

August 11, 2011

(Photo by Glenn Paulina)

At the 15,000-mile recap there was some excitement surrounding our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and its level of activity in the fleet. From the recalls to the oil change mix-up to those issues specific to our vehicle, the Cruze was needy during its first 15k. Well, no more.

There is nothing new to report between 15,000 miles and now. For the past 5k our Cruze has done everything we've asked. And it should be due for its next service any day now.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 20,000 miles

20,000-mile Service

August 12, 2011

(Photo by Glenn Paulina)

We anticipated that our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze would be due for service soon. As if we planned it, the service reminder illuminated on the IP. A visit to the local dealer set us back $53 for the oil change, tire rotation and various inspections.

We typically test our long-term cars for 12 months and 20,000 miles. After just 10 months the Cruze has eclipsed that milestone. Maybe we'll reach 25k before it's time for the auction block.

Total Cost: $52.93

Days out of Service: None

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager 20,112 miles

You Write the Caption for Our Cruze

August 19, 2011

Here's a picture of our Chevy Cruze getting a little love from a burro. Is that a kiss or does he think it tastes good?

What is your caption?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Our Favorite Chevy Cruze Caption

August 19, 2011

Thanks to mullysalt for this week's favorite caption. Here are the others that were to our taste.

Shortly after, the donkey was seen kissing a Caliber. (cantdrive92)
The Chevy Cruze is seen with an unidentified test mule. (ergsum)
Less filling! tastes Great! (throwback)
Sorry, Cruze, this still doesn't make you a pony car. (kain77)
Democrats really love reduced emissions (missmymiata)
Autoerotic (blackngold1000)
Evidence in the divorce case of Mr. $ Mrs. Donkey (blackngold1000)
The Cruze gets great ass mileage. (ergsum)
Chevy no longer needs to burro from the government. (ergsum)
Nobody likes a kiss-ass. (technetium99)
Both were driven like a rented mule (noburgers)
Chevy Cruze: It takes a licking and keeps on...selling. (technetium99)
This tastes OK but I prefer my 3-series (aleclance)
In Soviet Russia, ass kisses you! (altimadude05)
Behind the scenes of "Let's Make a Deal" (aleclance)
Spy shots of GM's new mule. (weezedog)
Tastes better than cobalt! (pengwin)
Gas, grass, or ass, nobody rides for free (noburgers)
It's just ass-king for a Cruze. (questionlp)
Hi I'm Johnny Knoxville and this is the Chevy Cruze. (robert4380)
Cruze beats its competition in the mules per gallon category (nullcode)

What was your favorite?

To the winner:
You can select one of these three prizes.

- Top Gear Season 14 (Blu-ray only)
- MOPAR t-shirt (size L)
- Imported From Detroit t-shirt (size L)

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Lazy Temperature Gauge

August 30, 2011

(Photo by Glenn Paulina)

Our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze never learned to read. Look, we aren't the type to belittle the poor guy by telling him that sign says he can't run the air conditioning anymore. So we keep driving. And the Cruze keeps belting out the cold.

It's 120-degrees outside and we just gained 4,000 feet in elevation. The Chevy doesn't care one bit. It goes about doing its thing. Now the temperature gauge is another story...

(Photo by Glenn Paulina)

While the Cruze is busy keeping us comfortable the temp gauge does nothing. Once it reaches operating temperature the needle just sits there, reading at a steady hashmark next to a thicker hashmark degrees. Steady is good. But we'd sure like to see some numbers on the face for reference.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 20,417 miles

Compact Love

August 31, 2011

For me, compacts like the Cruze strike exactly the right balance when it comes to size. Compacts are small enough to offer certain benefits regarding fuel efficiency and maneuverability; unlike many subcompacts, they're also big enough to offer a reasonable amount of utility.

The Cruze is diminutive enough to slide into most parking spaces, but it's also roomy enough to easily accommodate a couple of friends.

Not surprisingly, more and more drivers are feeling the love for small cars like the Cruze in these tough economic times. So far (through July), sales of compacts are up 12.8 percent for 2011, over the same period last year. And the Cruze has been a top seller in this growing segment.

GM's racing to keep up with demand. Associated Press reports that at current sales rates, Cruze dealers have only enough models on the lot to last 27 days, far lower than the 60 days that's considered ideal. To boost supply, the manufacturer plans to add Saturday shifts at an Ohio Cruze factory, starting in September.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

The Ultimate Hot Weather MPG Test - Regular vs. Premium

September 08, 2011

(Photo by Glenn Paulina)

Most volume-selling economy cars, including our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ, are certified on 87 octane regular unleaded because, well, it costs less at the pump. But many of the same cars also carry advisories in their owners manuals that suggest the use of 91 octane premium unleaded "for best performance."

To most of us performance equates to acceleration and speed, not mpg. After all, the sort of driving that leads to good fuel economy isn't exactly taxing one's engine. Why buy premium when you're not running hard, right?

This theory began to show cracks (for the Cruze's 1.4-liter turbo engine, at least) back in June when I drove it sedately to Phoenix at the beginning of summer in an attempt to meet or beat the EPA ratings — and fell far short.

Instead, the hot weather led to a very noticeable lack of drive-away power and sub-par highway fuel economy. Subsequent discussions with GM powertrain bigwigs and our own Jay Kavanagh revealed that small turbo engines are especially octane sensitive, which means their computers may agressively dial back the engine calibration in order to ward off knock in high load situations or in very hot weather.

To put it another way, our Cruze LTZ might've achieved better highway mpg if I had filled it with 91-octane premium unleaded for the trip to Phoenix and back.

We decided a deeper dive was in order, so we decided to subject the Cruze to an extended hot-weather MPG test. We sent the car out into Death Valley, where it spent an entire month sipping nothing but 87-octane regular, followed by another on the "good stuff", premium unleaded rated at 91 octane.

The results are surprising.

87 octane: 4,381 miles, 179.00 gallons

24.5 mpg

91 octane: 4,551 miles, 169.73 gallons

26.8 mpg

Fuel economy during the month spent on premium fuel was up by 2.3 mpg — a gain of nearly 10 percent. Yes, the Cruze's EPA combined rating is 28 mpg (on regular gas), but this driving pattern included extensive use of the air conditioner and much hotter weather than any EPA test dyno has ever seen. The point in this case wasn't to hit the EPA rating for the Cruze; we were interested in fuel related differences.

"So what?" you say. "Premium is more expensive."

Is it?

87 octane: $3.60 per gallon (average), $645.01 for 4,381 miles

14.72 cents per mile

91 octane: $3.82 per gallon (average), $648.74 for 4,551 miles

14.25 cents per mile

Turns out that the MPG benefit was large enough that it offset the higher per-gallon cost.

We can't say this applies to every car in every climate, and the per-mile costs will of course depend on the relative prices of the two fuels in your area. But if you live in a very hot place and drive a Cruze with the 1.4T engine, you'll very likely get better MPG if you use 91 octane premium. And it's quite possible that the gains will be large enough to offset the higher per-gallon cost and save you money in the long run. It's certainly worth trying for a couple of tanks.

As for us, we're going to continue to pay attention to the issue in a variety of cars in more temperate conditions.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

Sunset Photo Op

September 14, 2011

It seems whenever Mother Nature provides us with a photo opportunity, we're always driving the Chevy Cruze. This time we caught sunset in the South Bay. The soft pastel sky complemented the white Cruze.

Yes, there are prettier cars in our long-term fleet, but this is the one I happened to be driving. It has a rather nice profile, no? Tonight, I'll be driving our Kia Optima, whose bright blue paint would have clashed with the softness of this sky.

On another note, after spending months in Death Valley for our fuel economy tests, the Cruze has a strong dry, earthy stench. It smells like tumbleweeds and scorpion breath. Not that I know what a scorpion smells like, but you get the point. I tried to let the sea air sweeten its interior last night, but it didn't really help.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Legroom vs. Kneeroom

September 15, 2011

(Photo by Glenn Paulina)

This is our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. No, that is not a grapefruit resting against the temperature dial. It's a knee. And no, it is not my knee either. Now to the point...

The dials are positioned too low on the center stack. There is enough room to tuck most lengths of leg under the dash, but the longer versions are left with their knees flopping around. And floppy knees inevitably come to rest upon these unfortunate temperature dials.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 24,917 miles

Fun-Factor Feature

September 19, 2011

By now we all know the Chevy Cruze isn't exactly the greatest little car ever produced. It's held back by its noisy, turbo-laggy engine and crude automatic transmission, the last which sometimes shifts rather abruptly and other times gets utterly confused if it even wants to downshift at all, in the meantime hanging in limbo while it contemplates its next move. I've taken to calling it the Chevy Crude.

Then there's the interior, which both looks and feels cheap.

On the bright side, the Crude handles pretty well while delivering a decently comfortable ride. You can attack a corner with it and not be utterly disappointed.

And last night as I was about to make a U-turn into a gas station to fill up with fuel, I remembered this:

The Cruze has an actual handbrake, something that seems to be less and less common these days, what with the proliferation of electronic emergency brakes and foot brakes.

Plus, the Cruze's ESC system can be fully defeated, so if you want to, say, have a little fun with the e-brake in that U-turn, the car won't fight you. All in the name of testing, of course.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 26,682 miles.

One Man's Opinion

September 20, 2011

You guys are giving Mike Monticello quite a bit of heat over the unflattering post he wrote about our long-term Chevy Cruze yesterday. Which is fine, that's what this blog or any blog is all about.

What I don't understand is why many of you are complaining about inconsistency. This blog is about variety. We have 20+ cars being driven and reviewed by 30+ people for hundreds of thousands of miles. The point is inconsistency. The point is different viewpoints. In our group are youngs, olds, moms, dads, singles, home owners, renters, gearheads, greenies and commuters.

Honestly, if we all agreed about every aspect of every car throughout its 12-month test this would be the most boring blog on Earth. And there would be no reason for it to exist.

I personally don't agree with Mike's assessment of the Cruze, but I've had my personal say about the car many times. Fact is, most of us at Inside Line and are fans of the Cruze, but not all of us are. Our long-term Cruze has been driven over 26,000 miles by our staff and we've written 132 blog posts about the car. Most of those posts are positive, some are negative and some are somewhere inbetween.

Again, that's the point. And I think it's that variety that makes this blog worth visiting every day. I hope you agree and decide to come back tomorrow.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Seats are Still Solid

September 23, 2011

It's been awhile since I got behind the wheel of our Cruze, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that the seats are holding up well. I remember thinking that the firmly bolstered seats were one of this car's better features when we first got it. They have a good shape to them, you can actually feel the contours and there's plenty of adjustment.

As you can see, after over 26,000 miles they still look pretty good. No obvious signs of wear and even the tan leather is staying fairly clean. Can't really ask for much more than that in a compact sedan.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line


September 28, 2011

It's a dumb thing to get fired up about, but I like the knurled bowtie in the Cruze's steering wheel. I know it's shared with others across the line (Camaro), but it's a cool touch in the Cruze. Since we've already hit a nerve with the interior discussion, we'll just skirt those waters for now. So just some final impressions as we prepare to bid the Cruze farewell.

We took a drive down to San Diego last weekend, and the Cruze capably ate the miles. As Ed mentioned earlier, the seats still hold up nice. Not too soft, not too firm. Not too anything actually, which is plenty fine for 200-odd miles roundtrip.

Our 6'2 front seat passenger wished for more legroom, even with seat fully extended. It wasn't the distance to the firewall that bothered him, but more the Cruze's tight cockpit feel. We advised him to ease back on the lager next time and stop his belly-aching.

But the transmission. Adaptive learning TCM, recall, gutless 1.4-liter - however the fanboys explain it away, after 27,000 miles, this one still sucks. This was the first time in a Cruze for both passengers along for the ride and, unsolicited, both noted the abrupt shifting. Is it mechanical defect? Power deficiency? GM playing CAFÉ/EPA games? Maybe all of them (the Cruze averaged 28.5 mpg on the San Diego run, by the way).

Eventually, I took over the shifting in manu-matic mode and just learned to time the delay between input and actual shift. It worked, but I wouldn't want to have to live with it. A lot of people eventually will, though. With the pace of current sales, you'll see plenty of used Cruze on the roads in the next three years. Maybe they will hit up shops like these guys looking for redemption and an additional 50 lb-ft torque.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

Solid Price

September 30, 2011

The Chevrolet Cruze and I are back from Carmax and I was surprised by the appraisal. It took longer than usual since we arrived at a busy time, but otherwise the service was great.

Carmax offered us $18,000. Mlowery85 was the closest with his guess of $18,300. I was expecting $17,000. Now that the guessing game is over, here are all the numbers to put things in perspective:

MSRP at the time: $26,085
We paid sticker price.
Our out the door price with tax and title was $29,085
Trade in TMV: $18,144
Carmax offer: $18,000

Edmunds trade-in TMV was once again close to the Carmax price. Edmunds private party TMV is $19,960 so the margin is small if we want to improve on the Carmax price. We can't list it at $20,000 because people will think "I can buy a new one for a couple of grand more." In these situations, you compare how much profit you think you will make versus the amount of effort it will take to sell it.

We're tapering our expectations, but it's still worth throwing up an ad on Craigslist and eBay Classifieds to see what happens. We will list it at $19,500 — which is likely what Carmax will resell it for. If it doesn't sell within a week, we'll take it back to Carmax.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 27,335 miles

Predict the Price

September 30, 2011

I'm taking our long term Chevrolet Cruze to Carmax today. Any guesses on what they will offer us?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 27,320 miles

Upcoming Uptown Cousin

October 04, 2011

In case you haven't heard, at the end of this year Buick's coming out with a fancy version of the Cruze called the Verano. Although it will obviously share many components, it does have rather distinct sheet metal.

A few of Buick's modern styling cues are incorporated — such as the waterfall grille and upswept lower character line — along with (to my eye) better proportioned and more attractive headlights and taillights. The Verano will also have a unique engine — a 2.4-liter inline four with 177 hp as opposed to the Cruze's 1.8- and turbocharged 1.4-liter units — a quieter ride, more features and a higher pricetag.

But strictly from a styling perspective, I think it's a handsome small car and much prefer it over the Cruze. What do y'all think?

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 27,325 miles

Will It Last Forever?

October 07, 2011

Here's a little factoid for you. General Motors went CSI on the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze and had its corrosion engineer, Christa Cooper, analyze "Cruze test vehicles subjected to extreme durability testing representing 10 years of wear, tear and elements." The tested cars are then disassembled with every piece carefully looked over for any sign of rust.

The point? To come up with ways to prevent rust thus aiding in the longevity of the car's body.

From the General Motors site:

"While Cruze was under development, Cooper and her team uncovered corrosion where the inner panel of the rear door is joined to the safety beam. The team recommended switching out an uncoated steel bracket with a rust-resistant coated steel stamping. The change eliminated corrosion in that area."

I'm not sure how different this is from what other automakers do with their cars but this should make Cruze buyers feel a bit more secure about their purchases, no?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

The Safer Bet

October 10, 2011

"Why is it so cheap?" asked a potential buyer of our Chevrolet Cruze. I didn't think our price was that off base. As I started to write a well-thought-out reply in defense of the Cruze, I realized what she was talking about. The ad had an asking price of $19.50, rather than the $19,500 I thought I'd put in. Oops!

I promptly corrected my mistake and let the buyer know the correct price. She never replied. In fact, hers was the only inquiry I received on the car — until the night before the Carmax offer we'd received was set to expire.

This would-be buyer said he would pay $18,000 cash. That was on par with Carmax's offer. There was a slim chance that I could get him to do better, but I decided to go for the safer bet: Carmax. This person hadn’t even seen the car yet, so there was no guarantee that he'd buy it. And if I would have pursued the sale with him, we would have gone past our Carmax deadline.

Sure, I could have had Carmax re-appraise the Cruze, but we had put about 500 miles on the engine since we last took it in. Carmax doesn’t care how many miles you put on a car in the seven-day period you have for your decision to sell. But once that time had passed, there was a chance that Carmax would have brought the offer down to $17,500, due to the extra miles. (The company only makes its offers in $500 increments.) I didn't want to take the chance on an iffy buyer. As the Carmax representative succinctly put it, "Our checks don't bounce."

So just like that, the "most expensive Cruze there was or ever will be" left our fleet (thanks for the nickname, ed124c). And we walked away with $18,000 in our pocket.

I wonder if the Cruze will be an easy sell for the Carmax folks. It got a few compliments from the employees who were appraising it. But then again, they're not the ones actually buying it.

Selling Price: $18,000
Original MSRP $26,085 (before tax and title)
Final Mileage: 27,816

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate

Great World Car, Apparently

October 19, 2011

The Cruze was GM's best-selling car in the US last month, second only to the Silverado (we love our trucks here in the US of A) in the manufacturer's lineup. This little Chevy is also proving to be a popular world car — it was the third best-selling vehicle in China (GM's largest market, ahead of the US) last month and is GM's best-selling model globally.

Why do you think the Cruze has been such a worldwide hit?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor


December 02, 2011

GM introduced the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze at a pivotal moment in the automotive market. The General had recently graduated from a crash course in accounting, and a natural disaster was months away from devastating Japanese automobile manufacturing. If ever there was an opportunity for Chevy to succeed with a new, global compact sedan, this was it.

But as our introduction alluded, there was more to the challenge for Chevrolet. It was not good enough for the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze to simply be better than the Cobalt it replaced. To attain the levels of success GM expected, the Cruze had to compete with the compact legacies of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Not to mention show well against the upcoming, all-new Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. This was no small feat.

We jumped right into the fray, purchasing our Cruze the moment they were available on dealer lots. A base Cruze was available in the $16K range so our $26,000 top-trim Cruze LTZ garnered extra attention. We wanted to test all of the available gadgets. So we spent $3,400 on the optional navigation system, power sunroof, premium audio system and a compact spare, which replaced the standard tire sealant and inflator kit.

Was this Cruze good enough to earn GM a larger share of the compact market? Was a 1.4-liter four-cylinder enough engine for displacement-hungry Americans? How would its 28 mpg EPA average hold up after 20,000 miles? These questions echoed in our minds as the 12-month test began.

Starting Off on the Wrong Foot
Every new test vehicle is subject to our standard protocol of safety and equipment inspections. Such checks range from torquing lug nuts to confirming the car has a spare tire. And it was the spare tire check that started this test off on the wrong foot. That is because the spare was resting in a half-inch pool of water. The trunk liner was soaked. We had a leak. Less than a day into our ownership, the Cruze was headed back to the dealer.

Our gut reaction was anger toward the selling dealership, Allen Gwynn Chevrolet. We first sought to remedy the situation by trading our leaker for a new car. But we decided instead to give the dealer a chance to fix it. As Consumer Advice Editor Phil Reed relayed, "The dealership handled the problem well. The salesman and service manager committed to resolving the leak quickly and communicated their progress with multiple phone calls." The service manager called us the next day: "We found the leak and caulked it. Then we soaked the hell out of it. It held tight." He asked for the rest of the day to further dry the trunk. After two days out of service the Cruze was back, good as new.

Shifting to the Right Foot
We took note when the now-dry Cruze returned to our garage. After jokes of car washes, showers and the Old Spice commercial guy faded, the peanut gallery remarked, "That's a good-looking car," which was quickly met with a "Still a rental if you ask me." Another editor noted, "Those wheels are better than most cars in its class. Nice job, Chevrolet."

The economy car segment today is a place for manufacturers to maximize space and give owners the sense that they've got good value in their purchase. Inside the cabin is where economy cars often remind us why they are so affordable. Not in the Cruze. Senior Automotive Editor Brent Romans offered nothing but praise. "Pretty classy. It looks upscale with the two-tone dash, navigation system and metallic trim. For an economy car, the materials used are pretty impressive, with soft-touch in the right places and very little shiny plastic," Romans said.

Compact sedans aren't known for comfort. This driver seat had gobs of travel fore and aft, yet the gangly still managed to bang our knees on the center stack every time we drove the car. However, the seat cushions themselves were adequately comfortable and supportive. Rear-seat room was smaller for its class, though it satiated even the grumpiest of passengers over moderate distances. Overall, the interior left a good impression.

Behind the Wheel
On the open road we found the Cruze quite agreeable. Inside Line Editor Ed Hellwig had a "Wow, this relatively inexpensive sedan actually feels like it has a real suspension" realization after his first drive in the Chevy. He continued, "The Cruze absorbs bumps and potholes with a reassuring firmness that you don't get in a lot of sedans in this class. It muffles hard hits and soaks them up like it could take a beating for many years to come." These attributes garnered the Cruze "not bad for a road trip" acclaim. To test its roadworthiness we sent it to Las Vegas and Phoenix early in our test. It performed great.

Where the Cruze stood tall on the open road, it occasionally stumbled around town. This is where our initial praise began to waver. Associate Editor Mark Takahashi observed, "The timing and feel of the gearchanges seem a little inconsistent to me. Sometimes the six-speed automatic is smooth as anything else in its class, but other times it feels as rough as a teenager learning how to drive a stick shift." No matter our driving techniques, the transmission often seemed a bit confused in everyday situations. It was frustrating, until a recall notice arrived.

First-Year Recalls
As a first-year car, we expected some minor recalls while the bugs were flushed out. Our expectations were met by some notable items early in the test. A mailer came first.

GM sent a letter informing us of recalls for a transmission reflash, to lube a strut assembly and to affix a new VIN label. The latter two were technicalities but the first was very familiar. We visited the dealer. After the reflash our Cruze shifted far better than before, although some stop-and-go situations remained a bit awkward. Other recalls during our test, both ominous but neither affecting our vehicle, included one for improper steering shaft installation and one for a detachable steering wheel.

We experienced just one other issue with our Cruze. The radio suffered a minor freakout. Just as one editor (to remain nameless) was belting out the chorus to Eddy Grant's classic, "Electric Avenue," the radio went to static. Two verses later he realized the radio wasn't working, so he turned it off and back on. No luck. A complete restart of the car was necessary to fix the issue, which oddly, never resurfaced.

Questions Answered
Our test began with questions as to how the Cruze would fare in the highly competitive compact sedan segment. After 12 months and more than 27,000 miles it's Judgment Day.

The Cruze had a lot going for it. From a cosmetic perspective it was attractive enough to deflect the rental car stigma. Interior materials quality far surpassed that of previous GM compacts. Maintenance settled into a predictable routine following a rough start. And at $48 every 10,000 miles it was also affordable.

Beneath the surface the Cruze continued to shine. Its suspension was impressive, as if somebody actually spent time to develop it rather than go the economy route. As we delved into the powertrain, our excitement reached a plateau. The 1.4-liter turbo wasn't the most powerful engine in its class, which we were willing to forgive in exchange for superior fuel economy. But it didn't deliver on that.

Fuel economy is a big deal in this segment. EPA estimations set our sights on 24 city/36 highway, or an average of 28 mpg for our new Cruze. By test end we averaged just 25 mpg. Our best single tank was a mere 32 mpg. GM's efforts to match the transmission calibration to EPA testing missed the mark. Not only was fuel efficiency below par, but its everyday drivability was compromised. Even after the transmission reflash, the Cruze didn't feel quite dialed-in around town. It was not a deal breaker, though it did require practice to minimize awkward shifting.

Bottom line? This Chevy was better than any GM compact preceding it. Depreciation (based on a private-party sale) was 23 percent, suggesting increased resale demand as well. Ditching the Cobalt for the Cruze, GM moved up the compact sedan hierarchy from tailpipe to B-pillar. Was middle of the pack enough to get our attention? Yes. But with the new Elantra and Focus out there, it's not quite enough to get our money.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $94.69
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: Reseal trunk to prevent leak, transmission reflash, new VIN label, strut lube
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Days Out of Service: 3
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Best Fuel Economy: 32.1 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 16.9 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 25.3 mpg
True Market Value at service end (private party): $19,960
What it sold for: $18,000
Depreciation (dollars): $6,125
Depreciation (% of original paid price): 23 percent
Final Odometer Reading: 27,816 miles

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.