Used 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Review

Edmunds expert review

Although the 2015 Chevrolet Cruze doesn't dominate the small car class, it's on equal footing with most competitors and certainly worth a look if you're shopping for a fuel-efficient compact sedan with solid credentials in most areas.




What's new for 2015

For 2015, the Chevrolet Cruze receives a new base trim level called "L" which causes some minor shuffling of equipment. There's also the addition of 4G cellular and an in-car WiFi hotspot connectivity through its OnStar system. The Siri Eyes Free smartphone feature, which gives iPhone owners expanded voice command functionality, is also new. Finally, this year's Cruze gets an updated front end design.

Vehicle overview

For decades, import brand models were eating Chevy's lunch in the compact car segment. That changed four years ago when Chevrolet introduced the Cruze, a sharply styled sedan that finally matched up well with all-stars like the Civic and Corolla. The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze is still in good standing, even though it isn't necessarily one of our top picks for this year.

High fuel economy is certainly one of the Cruze's strong points. With the available turbocharged gasoline engine, the Cruze boasts combined city and highway fuel economy in the low 30 mpg range. Furthermore, the Cruze also offers an available diesel-powered engine, something very rare in this segment. Only one other carmaker in this class, Volkswagen, offers this type of engine, and in the Cruze, the diesel boasts both relatively quick acceleration and high fuel mileage of 33 mpg combined.

Downsides to the Cruze are few and minor in nature. Larger and taller individuals will notice that the seating, both front and rear, is not as spacious as the accommodations in key rivals. And if you get the automatic transmission with either of the gas engines, you'll find it reluctant to downshift unless you really step on it -- a side effect of Chevy's efforts to program it to optimize fuel economy.

Compared with the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (the diesel variant), the 2015 Cruze Diesel has a smaller backseat space and a higher price tag. But to be fair, the Chevy comes with a few more standard features, essentially closing the pricing gap. Beyond the diesels, the budget sedan class is packed with strong entries. With its spacious, high-quality interior and likable road manners, the 2015 Honda Civic is a great proposition. The 2015 Kia Forte provides solid performance and plenty of standard and available upscale features. There's also the 2015 Ford Focus, which looks and feels more sophisticated than most of its rivals, as well as the similarly refined 2015 Mazda 3, which offers the sportiest handling in this class.

Although the Edmunds.com "B" rated 2015 Chevrolet Cruze doesn't dominate in this group, it is on equal footing with most of its competitors and certainly worth a look if you're shopping for a well-rounded and fuel-efficient compact sedan.




Trim levels & features

The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze is a small sedan offered in six trim levels: L, LS, LT, LTZ, Eco and Diesel.

Standard equipment on the Cruze L and LS includes 16-inch steel wheels, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, height-adjustable front seats, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, full power accessories, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar (with this year's 4G LTE and WiFi hotspot capability) and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, USB port and an auxiliary audio jack. The LS also adds satellite radio.

The LT is made up of the 1LT and 2LT equipment-level subsets. Compared with the LS, the 1LT upgrades to the 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, 16-inch alloy wheels and cruise control.

The Technology package available at the 1LT level gets you a rearview camera and the Chevrolet MyLink interface, which bundles a 7-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, voice control and smartphone integration. An available Driver Convenience package includes heated mirrors, a six-way power driver seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The Cruze Eco is equipped like the 1LT, but has the MyLink interface as standard. It also benefits from aerodynamic improvements (including a rear spoiler) and has lightweight 17-inch alloy wheels, low-rolling-resistance tires and a smaller fuel tank (manual transmission version only). The Eco Driver Convenience package adds the heated mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a rearview camera.

Move up to the 2LT to get all of the 1LT's standard equipment, plus the power driver seat and MyLink touchscreen interface. It also comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, leather upholstery, heated front seats and dual illuminated visor mirrors.

At the top of the Cruze range is the LTZ, which comes with all of the 2LT's content, as well as all of the items in the Technology and Driver Convenience packages. It also features 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control and premium interior trim.

The Cruze Diesel comes with all of the 2LT model's standard equipment, plus the Eco model's aerodynamic enhancements and low-rolling-resistance tires. It has lightweight 17-inch wheels, too, but they're a different design.

The Enhanced Safety package is available for all but the L and LS model and includes rear park assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts. A navigation system, a Pioneer nine-speaker premium sound system and a sunroof are also available on most trim levels. The RS appearance package is available on the LT and LTZ models and features restyled front and rear fascias, sporty side moldings, a rear spoiler, foglights and an upgraded instrument panel.



Performance & mpg

All 2015 Chevrolet Cruzes are front-wheel drive. The Cruze L and LS are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. The LT, LTZ and Eco are fitted with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that generates 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. The Cruze Diesel has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel rated at 151 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the L, LS, LT and Eco. A six-speed automatic is optional on the LS, LT and Eco and standard for the LTZ and diesel.

In Edmunds testing, a Cruze with the turbo 1.4-liter engine and automatic transmission accelerated from zero to 60 in 9.2 seconds, a slightly slower than average time for this class. The Cruze Diesel ran the sprint in 8.6 seconds, the same as the VW Jetta TDI automatic.

The EPA's fuel economy estimates for the Cruze L/LS are 27 mpg combined (22 city/35 highway) with the automatic transmission and 29 mpg combined (25/36) with the manual. Cruzes equipped with the turbocharged 1.4-liter engine (LT and LTZ) get an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined estimate (26/38) with either transmission. The Cruze Diesel rates 33 mpg combined (27/46). Those are good numbers, though the Jetta TDI does even better with its 36 mpg combined EPA rating. In addition, the Cruze Eco is just about as frugal, with a laudable 33 mpg combined (28/42) rating with the manual transmission, but dropping a bit to 31 combined with the automatic.

Safety

All 2015 Chevrolet Cruze models come with stability control, antilock brakes, full-length side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and front and rear side-impact airbags as standard. A front-disc/rear-drum brake setup is standard on all models except the 2LT, LTZ and Diesel, which are upgraded to four-wheel disc brakes. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen-vehicle assistance.

A rearview camera, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic alert system are optional for all Cruzes except the L and LS.

In government crash testing, the Cruze earned a top five-star rating for overall safety performance, with five stars for total frontal-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the Cruze received a top score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact test but a second-worst "Marginal" score in the small-overlap frontal-offset test. In the remaining side-impact roof-strength and seat/head restraint (whiplash protection) tests, the Cruze earned a "Good" rating.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Cruze LTZ stopped from 60 mph in 120 feet, a slightly better than average distance for this class of car. Even with their less grippy, fuel-economy-friendly tires, the Cruze Diesel and Eco models stopped in about the same distance.

Driving

The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze deftly combines responsive handling with a comfortable, compliant ride. The sport suspension on the 2LT, LTZ and diesel models is firmer but still provides an agreeable ride.

The turbocharged 1.4-liter gas engine is pretty average in terms of outright acceleration, but it's peppier around town than the 1.8-liter, thanks to its increased torque. The automatic transmission it's paired to isn't as responsive, however. Programmed for maximum fuel economy, it's reluctant to downshift for quick acceleration and passing unless you really boot the gas pedal.

The more potent Chevy Cruze Diesel model is an intriguing choice and a win-win proposition, as it offers both good fuel economy and satisfyingly brisk acceleration by compact-sedan standards. There's a brief pause when you hit the gas pedal from a standstill, but then the sedan gathers speed quickly. The Cruze Diesel uses a different six-speed automatic transmission from other Cruzes, and we've found it more responsive in highway passing situations. You'll notice the diesel's characteristic clatter, particularly when the engine is cold, but it's not intrusive.

Interior

The Cruze's cabin has a classy two-tone color scheme and looks more upscale than many of its competitors. That said, there are still a lot of hard plastic surfaces, and they're particularly noticeable in the pricey Cruze Diesel. Given the long-distance driving-range potential of the diesel, more padding on the armrests would be welcome. We're also ambivalent about the available MyLink touchscreen interface. We like its simple and straightforward menus, useful voice command functionality and smartphone app capabilities, but the occasional slow or missed responses to inputs can be frustrating.

Larger drivers will probably find the Cruze's front seats a bit narrow, but they're supportive and comfortable, and they offer plenty of adjustment. A low bottom cushion for the backseat diminishes comfort for longer-limbed riders, as it doesn't give enough thigh support. The Cruze's rear seat legroom is only average for the segment; you'll find more space in the Civic and Jetta. Considerably above average, however, is the Cruze's large trunk, which measures an impressive 15.0 cubic feet on all but the diesel, whose capacity is a still ample 13.3 cubic feet.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.