The Chevrolet Cruze does not have history on its side. The Chevrolet division of General Motors has historically done "big" well: big trucks, big family sedans and big V8 muscle cars. When it comes to small cars, though, the General hasn't been so good, with the lamentable Cavalier and Cobalt being the two most recent examples. But that's changed with the compact Chevrolet Cruze sedan, an honest first-class upgrade that meets its world-class competition head-on.
The Cruze's handling is sharp and precise, and its fuel economy is potentially quite high. There's even a diesel version that should give Volkswagen Jetta fans something to think about. With a variety of truly impressive competitors available these days, we wouldn't exactly call the Cruze a class leader, but its well-rounded nature shows that Chevrolet can now do "small" as well as "big."
Current Chevrolet Cruze
The Chevrolet Cruze is a five-passenger compact sedan offered in LS, LT, LTZ, Eco and Diesel trims. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine generating 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque motivates the Cruze LS, while the LT, LTZ and Eco models upgrade to a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine with 138 hp and 148 lb-ft. The diesel features a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder rated at 151 hp and a formidable 264 lb-ft. The LTZ and Diesel come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission; the other trims have a six-speed manual, with a six-speed automatic as an option.
Regardless of trim, the Cruze is well equipped, as even the base LS gets air-conditioning, full power accessories, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system. Like many modern compact cars, the Cruze can be equipped with a variety of comfort and convenience features previously reserved for luxury cars. These include blind-spot monitoring, leather upholstery, heated seats, a power driver seat, a rearview camera and a 7-inch touchscreen with smartphone integration. Just because you're buying a small car doesn't mean you can't have all the bells and whistles.
In reviews of the Chevrolet Cruze, we've praised its athletic handling, even on standard-suspension cars. The available sport-tuned suspension predictably provides a firmer ride, but it compensates with downright sporty responses on winding roads. Less appealing is the regular automatic transmission; it's reluctant to downshift at times and not particularly smooth. Happily, the torque-rich Diesel gets a different six-speed automatic that's more responsive -- this is one of our favorite Cruze models due to its excellent fuel economy and spirited acceleration.
Taking center stage inside is a dual-cowl dash layout seen on some other Chevrolets, combining with two-tone color options to create a stylish environment. However, the Cruze uses some plastic trim that seems cheaper and harder than that of its competitors. The Cruze's front seats are a bit narrow, which might be an issue for some drivers, but they offer plenty of adjustment and are both supportive and comfortable. A low cushion for the backseat diminishes comfort for longer-limbed riders, whose thighs will have minimal support. Actual legroom is average for the segment, but the trunk is surprisingly large.
Used Chevrolet Cruze Models
The current, first-generation Chevrolet Cruze was an all-new model for 2011. A few new features arrived for 2013, including a rearview camera and Bluetooth streaming audio. The Diesel model didn't debut until the 2014 model year.