It wasn't long ago when we viewed Chevrolet's compact sedan offerings as significantly inferior to rival sedans from Asian automakers. That changed somewhat when the Cruze replaced the Cobalt in 2011, which in turn took the mantle from the loathsome Cavalier in 2005. But the 2017 Cruze offers the best reason yet to strongly consider Chevy's compact offering alongside the heavy-hitting rivals from Asia (and one compelling domestic rival).
The original Cruze represented a monumental improvement over Chevy's previous small cars, but the new Cruze — fully redesigned last year — truly brings the fight to the rest of the compact class. Front and center is a heavy emphasis on technology. Each Cruze comes with a touchscreen radio, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a rearview camera and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality. Advanced safety features — including rear parking sensors, lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring — are also available. But the Cruze isn't just about shiny new gadgets. It also boasts a world-class cabin that feels more luxurious than most other compact cars and a ride that is both sporty and comfortable. Put a late-model Cavalier up against the Cruze, and you'd be stunned to learn they were produced by the same company.
At the same time, though, there are some great small sedans and hatchbacks out right now. The Honda Civic, which was also redesigned last year, is one of the best small cars on the market, especially when powered by its potent 1.5-liter turbocharged engine. The Mazda 3 and Ford Focus are compelling alternatives if you want something with an extra dose of driving spirit. We're also fond of the Kia Forte for its extensive collection of features and reasonable price. But the Cruze's sportiness, style and high-tech accoutrements give it the edge over many rivals in this extremely competitive class.
All 2017 Chevrolet Cruze models come with stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, full-length side curtain airbags, front knee airbags, and front and rear side-impact airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle assistance. Every 2017 Cruze comes with Chevrolet's Teen Driver watchdog feature, which can be used to set certain parameters for secondary drivers such as teens or valets.
Optional safety equipment is limited to the LT and Premier, consisting of the Driver Confidence I and II packages detailed above (see Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options section).
In Edmunds performance braking, a Cruze Premier with the RS package came to a stop from 60 mph in 110 feet, an exceptional stopping distance for a compact sedan with all-season tires.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze is a compact sedan or hatchback. The sedan is available in L, LS, LT, LT Diesel and Premier trim levels, while the hatch comes in LT and Premier only.
Standard equipment on the Cruze L includes 15-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, remote locking/unlocking, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, Bluetooth connectivity, a four-speaker audio system with a USB port, OnStar (with 4G LTE connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspot), a rearview camera, and a MyLink infotainment system with a 7-inch central touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone app integration.
However, the L is only available to dealers through custom ordering. Much more common is the LS, which is similarly equipped but adds a front center armrest and carpeted floor mats. It can also be equipped with the automatic transmission and a range of dealer-installed options.
The LT steps up to 16-inch alloy wheels, upgraded headlights with LED running lights, heated mirrors, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted phone and audio controls, a rear center armrest with cupholders, and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio. Hatchback models also get a cargo cover and rear spoiler. A charge-only USB port is added to models equipped with the automatic transmission, while manual-equipped models have a front armrest with a sliding feature.
For the LT, the optional Convenience package adds keyless ignition and entry, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat and remote engine start (with the automatic transmission).
The LT Diesel is available in sedan body style only (it is expected to be added to the hatchback's roster next year) and adds the contents of the Convenience package minus remote start. The available Leather package adds a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery and a height-adjustable front passenger seat.
The Cruze Premier gets everything above plus 17-inch wheels, an upgraded rear suspension, chrome exterior accents, ambient interior lighting and illuminated vanity mirrors.
Both the LT and Premier offer an RS Appearance package (foglights, a rear spoiler, a sport body kit and 18-inch wheels for Premier models) and a Sun and Sound package that includes a sunroof, a color driver information center, ambient interior lighting, a larger 8-inch center touchscreen display and a nine-speaker Bose audio system. A navigation system is additionally available for this package on the Premier.
The LT and Premier are also eligible for the Driver Confidence package, which consists of rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The Driver Confidence II package, offered only on the Premier, adds automatic high-beam headlight control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning and intervention.
The Driver Confidence, Sun and Sound package, offered only on the LT Diesel with the automatic transmission, combines the contents of the Sun and Sound package with the Driver Confidence package. The Premier-exclusive Enhanced Convenience package throws in an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, heated rear outboard seats, wireless personal device charging and a 110-volt, household-style power outlet.
The front-wheel-drive 2017 Chevrolet Cruze comes standard with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the L, LS and LT trims. A six-speed automatic is optional for the LS and LT, while the Premier gets it as standard equipment. The automatic transmission also comes bundled with an automatic engine stop-start feature to save fuel when the car isn't moving.
In Edmunds testing, a Cruze Premier sedan with the automatic transmission and RS package accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds, about 1 second slower than most compact sedans. An LT with a manual transmission fared better with an 8.8-second run from zero to 60. For comparison, the Ford Focus sedan with the 2.0-liter engine does the zero-to-60-mph run in 8.3 seconds, while the hot-rod turbocharged Honda Civic needs just 6.7 seconds.
According to the EPA, the Cruze sedan should return 32 mpg combined (28 city/39 highway) with the manual, 34 mpg combined (30 city/40 highway) with the automatic and 33 mpg combined (29 city/39 highway) in automatic-only Premier trim. Hatchback versions are expected to achieve 1 to 2 mpg less across the board.
Overall, these fuel economy numbers are very good for a small sedan or hatchback. However, in a Premier sedan, we averaged just 31.8 mpg on our highway-heavy, 115-mile test loop. On the same loop, a 2016 Honda Civic with the turbocharged 1.5-liter engine beat its EPA combined estimate by 1.8 mpg, and a 2015 Ford Focus with the 2.0-liter engine beat its combined rating by a whopping 11 mpg.
If a low monthly fuel bill is what you're after, consider the new turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder diesel engine. It develops 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, earning an EPA rating of 37 mpg combined (30 city/52 highway) with the six-speed manual and 37 mpg combined (31 city/47 highway) with a new nine-speed automatic.
Although the power output of the turbocharged 1.4-liter is healthy for the class, real-life acceleration is little disappointing. In a full-on drag race, for instance, the Cruze is only a half-second quicker to 60 mph than a Toyota Prius. For more relaxed driving situations, however, the engine downshifts smoothly and quickly to give you the boost you need. We haven't yet tested a diesel engine to see if it moves the bar forward on the performance front, but we will update this section when we do.
An engine stop-start feature comes with all models equipped with an automatic transmission. Although the system in the Cruze is one of the least intrusive examples of this technology, we wish there was a way to disable it. You feel a slight shove as the engine turns off, and the time delay between your foot releasing the brake pedal and engine startup is noticeable.
The Cruze offers a compliant ride that ranges from cushy to lively (depending on how large the wheels are), but even with the RS package's 18-inch alloys, the car never feels jarring. The Cruze is also an adept handler, inspiring confidence as you travel around tight turns. It doesn't have the unflappability of the Mazda 3, but in general you'll have more fun driving a Cruze than other small cars when the road gets twisty.
Unlike compact Chevrolets of the past, the Cruze's interior is stylish and composed of high-quality materials. The curving character line that runs diagonally through the dashboard is an unusually artistic touch for this segment, as is the cloth or leatherette upholstery that covers it. These details, along with a large backseat, make the Cruze's interior fully competitive in terms of both appearance and construction.
Standard across the board is the attractive MyLink infotainment system, which employs either the standard 7-inch touchscreen or the optional 8-inch version (LT and Premier only). That means even the least expensive Cruze is outfitted with a high-tech interface that boasts clear graphics and a pretty intuitive menu structure. The standard inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ensures that every Cruze buyer can enjoy a fully integrated smartphone experience.
Chevy says that the Cruze sedan's trunk can hold 14.8 cubic feet of cargo (13.9 in Cruze LT and Premier trims), which is a bit roomier than average for this class. Cargo space is greatly expanded on the hatchback, which holds 18.5 cubic feet behind the second row and 47.2 cubes with those seats folded down.
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.