Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 4, 2016
I find it incredibly hard these days to find a bad car on the non-used market. Technology and materials have become so advanced and so integrated with the world that even the most novel features have made their way into the most economical and affordable of automobiles. Bluetooth streaming, 4G LTE connectivity, and heated steering wheels were things engineers only dreamed of ten years ago. Now they’ve made their way right into the heart of the auto segment, which brings us to the new Chevrolet Cruze.
Little do people know that the Cruze is actually Chevrolet’s best selling car around the globe, topping out at 3.5 million units sold since its introduction eight years ago in 2008. To put that into perspective, it took Mazda a whopping 25 years to sell just one million units of their MX-5 Miata.
The Cruze has always been up against some stiff competition, including the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and the Mazda3. We’ve given much praise to the new Civic and Elantra many times before, but the Chevrolet Cruze was never a car that blew our minds. It was always a car that ticked the boxes but never delivered anything outside the box, until now.
For 2016, Chevrolet has revamped their golden child and introduced a sleeker, more aerodynamic design, a more efficient engine, a lighter frame, and a plethora of new tech features, and we’ve been left with a great lasting impression.
From the outside, design inspiration from the Volt is glaringly obvious, from the front at least with its stacked grills and sweeping LED headlights. The new Cruze is longer, leaner, and more mature looking – I like it a lot actually, as it seems to follow the trend set by the Malibu we tested a few months back.
The Cruze falls on the conservative side of the design spectrum too, so if you’re one to think that the wacky Honda Civic has too many curves and edges, this laid back architecture might be your cup of tea.
For the sake of beauty, the roofline has been cut short by 25 mm, reducing rear seat headroom, but in return the Cruze stretches out 68 mm longer, benefiting rear legroom. The new Cruze has also been given a diet, resulting in an overall 113 kg reduction in weight thanks to a lighter body structure, use of high strength steels, and a leaner turbocharged engine.
For aesthetic purposes, you can also spec out your Cruze with a new RS Package (as seen on our tester) that adds a unique front grill, front and rear fascia, fog lamps, a front splitter, rocker panels, a rear spoiler, and 18-inch wheels for that auxiliary “sporty” look.
To our surprise, the cabin is uncommonly quiet – almost Buick-like. You can barely hear the whirr of the engine, and wind noise is appropriately muted. Certainly they’ve learned a thing or two about insulation from their luxury branded cousins.
The seats are cosseting with proper support from the back to the shoulder. The steering wheel is slim, attractive, and leather wrapped on Premier models – the steering wheel is heated too, a feature not found in the Honda Civic. There are actual hard buttons and dials on the center stack too, and none of that slippery slider nonsense found in this generation of Hondas.
Loads of storage options litter the cabin, with even a dedicated phone slot with fans in it to keep your device cool in the summer. The trunk is quite cavernous for this segment as well, with 60/40 folding rear seats that extends the stockpile potential even further.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the new Cruze is not sporty. It doesn’t look sporty, nor does it drive sporty either. The new turbocharged inline-four (gone is the naturally aspirated 1.8-litre four), though smooth, chugs along without drama. Slam the pedal and you wait, and you wait, until the petite 1.4-litre finally wakes up and delivers 153 hp and 177 lb-ft through a six-speed automatic. The Cruze is obviously in no rush to get anywhere, it just wants to (wait for it…) Cruze.
The turbo-four is a no fuss powerplant that has guts and is easy to keep up with traffic, but it still prefers a leisure pace rather than aggressive right foot. Whether it’s to the grocery store, to the dinner hotspot, or even on a cross-country roadtrip, the Cruze is relaxed and comfortable on any stretch of tarmac. We even took it through a farm to go apple picking, and headed up north to catch the sunset along Lake Simcoe. The Cruze never felt more at home.
Oh, and did I mention that the Cruze comes with start/stop technology (neither the Civic nor Elantra has this), a feature that shuts down the engine when the car comes to a full stop, thus saving fuel at stoplights. A manual is also available for D.I.Y. gearshifting, and luckily there’s none of that CVT nonsense. A diesel variant is also slated to roll off the line in early 2017 for those that want some extra low-end kick from their powerplant.
The steering is light and void of feedback (we were spoiled by the Civic’s tight handling and wheel-to-driver communication), but I find that perfectly acceptable in this segment. The suspension is compliant but sprung way too softly. The springs handle small potholes just fine at low speeds, almost like its mid-size Malibu brother, but larger undulations at higher speeds give this chassis quite a nervous workout.
The Premier model offers a unique rear “Z-link” suspension setup that aims to offer a more balanced ride with less roll and improved handling, but without a back-to-back comparison with torsion beam-equipped L, LT, and LS models, I cannot report about its effectiveness.
The Cruze takes pride in its in-car technology, which is interesting to say because though most of the tech is aimed towards those who grew up knowing what ICQ and MSN were, the learning curve is low enough for anyone of any age to master.
Dials are smartly placed throughout the cabin, and you can even control volume and audio tracks via little toggles on the back of the steering wheel where paddle shifters would normally sit.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also make a welcome appearance, which are features that use the car’s 7-inch infotainment screen to integrate your phone’s functions and features, such as Apple Maps, Text Messaging, and Music. Siri can also be summoned with a quick push of a button on the steering wheel, fully integrating the smartphone connectivity experience.
The Cruze also offers 4G LTE connectivity, which you can tether onto your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. It comes in handy when your phone is reaching its data limit, or if your rear passengers need to look up something up on their laptop – gone are the days of finding a coffee shop to leech off free Wi-Fi. There’s also wireless phone charging for those constantly on the go.
Those worried about the safety of their teenage drivers shall not worry. The Cruze comes equipped with many safety features to keep your prized investments in check. Lane keep assist works surprisingly well in the Cruze, and does a great job of keeping the car in its intended lane. The camera captures the lane markers quickly even in the dark, and never misses its mark when I “purposefully” guided it into the neighbouring lane to test its reaction. Other neat gizmos include a rear view camera, lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert, and forward collision alert.
You have to admit, the Cruze is impressively and fully integrated. You actually feel like one with the car, so kudos to Chevrolet for creating such a connected cockpit with appropriate bells and whistles.
The Cruze is an impressively integrated vehicle. It is miles better than its predecessor, and offers enough improvements to warrant a closer look. If I were to spec one out though, I would forgo the RS Package – I see no point in the Cruze looking sporty because the driving dynamics just don’t hold up. Best to embrace its apologetic and inoffensive looks and instead, spend your money on the Premier trim – the revamped interior, 17-inch wheels, keyless entry and remote start features are well worth the upgrade.
The Cruze is an honest economy sedan that doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. For those who want a conservative and unassuming five-seater that favours comfort over sport, and is spacious and loaded with enough tech to warrant busting out the manual book, the Cruze is a solid performer that might just tickle your fancy.
型号 Model: 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Premier
顏色 Paint Type: Summit White
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $23,895
試車售價 Price as Tested: $28,485
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,700
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,666 / 1,795 / 1,458
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,331
引擎 Engine: 1.4L turbocharged DOHC inline-four
最大馬力 Horsepower: 153 hp @ 5,600 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 2,000 - 4,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 7.8 / 5.9 / 6.9
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.5
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P225/40R18