Count me among those whose initial reaction to the unveiling of the latest Chevrolet Cruze at The Fillmore Detroit was a resounding “Hmm … Civic?” It’s not exactly a carbon-copy ripoff of Honda’s top-selling design, but the Cruze eschews four-door plainness for a similar swoopy, coupe-like profile. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
While the Cruze has been an unequivocal success for General Motors since its 2008 debut, it’s never really gone head-to-head with segment leaders like Civic and Hyundai’s Elantra.
The original Cruze was a decent car, an honest — if unexciting — compact offering great value and fuel efficiency. It was exactly what General Motors needed in a time of great financial uncertainty, its first big launch after declaring bankruptcy.
GM has moved more than four million of these compact sedans in 75 markets worldwide, but it’s grown dated in comparison to its fresher competitors. In this bread-and-butter segment, no one can afford to be complacent.
Completely redesigned for 2016, the Cruze no longer looks as though it’s destined for the Budget rental lot.
That new rakish roofline does compromise interior headroom by a total of 2.5 centimetres, but by way of consolation, there’s 6.8 cm more wheelbase, providing an extra five centimetres of rear knee room.
The cabin’s design is clean and uncluttered, but materials do reflect its status as an economy car.
While most touch points are clad in soft-touch materials, there’s still an abundance of hard plastics surrounding the centre console and panel gaps are inconsistent.
Even the steering wheel, which is otherwise fat and well shaped, is clad with cheap plastics, although upper trim levels do offer leather wrap. Otherwise, it’s a perfectly acceptable environment with comfortable two-tone cloth seats.
A base L Manual Cruze can be had for only $15,995, and that’s with Chevrolet MyLink (seven-inch colour touch screen, Bluetooth, AM/FM, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), but there’s no air conditioning. For that, you’ve got to move up to the $18,845 LS Manual — which has no automatic transmission.
The two middle trims, the LS and LT, are available with either six-speed manual or six-speed auto and the range-topping Cruze Premier is available only with auto.
The previous model’s multiple engine lineup gives way to a single choice for 2016: a 1.4-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder producing 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.
There are plans for a diesel at some point and a five-door Cruze Hatchback arrives this fall.
Our tester this week is the Cruze LT, which GM says represents 65 per cent of all models sold.
It’s important to note that this model is $500 less than the previous model, while gaining 16-inch wheels, heated front seats, start/stop technology and Apple CarPlay.
My tester came with the optional preferred equipment group — True North Edition — adding $3,590 to the $21,295 starting price for this trim.
This package adds a host of tech features to the LT, including blind-spot alert, lane-change alert and rear cross-traffic alert, plus MyLink Radio eight-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay.