2015 Chevrolet Cruze
Overview: Chevrolet’s venerable Cruze. introduced for 2011, is a solid-yet-aging player in the compact-sedan segment, and it will see its first significant redesign when the new 2016 model goes on sale later this year. Despite not faring too well in its C/D comparison-test appearances, the current Cruze is a handsome all-around package, albeit one with a relatively tight back seat, and is noteworthy for being one of the few compact cars available with a diesel engine. That 2.0TD is the model we drove for this review, and it tops the range, which also includes naturally aspirated and turbocharged gasoline four-cylinders. Cruze prices begin at $16,995, but the 2.0TD starts at $26,485 and comes with a high level of standard equipment. With a sunroof, an upgraded audio system, various driver aids, and other amenities, our test car reached an as-tested price of $29,430. A six-speed manual transmission is available in some models, such as the fuel-sipping Eco variant, but most versions—including the diesel—feature a six-speed automatic. Overall performance is average for the segment and relatively equal among the various powertrains, the 151-hp diesel’s extra grunt being balanced out by several hundred pounds of additional mass. The gas engines are no slouches when it comes to fuel economy—the Cruze Eco is rated as high as 28 mpg in the city and 42 on the highway, with its 1.4-liter turbo four and manual gearbox. But the diesel is even better at 27/46 mpg and averaged an impressive 44 mpg in our real-world testing in 2013—too bad its NVH qualities never let you forget you’re driving a diesel.
What’s New: The Cruze’s most obvious change for 2015 is a new split-grille snout that brings with it a greater familial resemblance to the larger Chevrolet Malibu and Impala sedans. We won’t call it beautiful, but the look is classier than before. Most trim levels also get new LED daytime running lights. Inside, the Cruze has been modestly updated with new cup holders as well as door-lock buttons relocated to the doors. A pixilated, low-res info screen still sits between the gauges, but the center stack is available with a sharp, touch-screen display that now includes GM’s 4G LTE wireless connection with a Wi-Fi hotspot, plus Apple’s Siri Eyes Free integration, text-message alerts, and access to Chevy’s AppShop.
What We Like: The 2015 Cruze’s new face definitely lends a touch more sophistication, and the updated interior, particularly in higher trim levels with leather and the big touch screen, makes the most of the compact’s plebeian roots. Ride quality is long-haul comfortable thanks to a relatively soft suspension setup that also manages decent levels of grip when cornering. The diesel’s 700-mile highway fuel range is pretty impressive, with that model’s other highlight being its 280 lb-ft of torque; together, they make for effortless and worry-free highway cruising. The availability of a manual transmission in gasoline-powered models means there’s at least some extra fun that can be stirred into the Chevy.
What We Don’t Like: Although the new 2016 Cruze is sure to be more advanced, the current car is showing its age and feels a class below some of its newer competitors, such as the 10Best-winning Mazda 3. The Chevy’s cabin looks bland, with plenty of hard, cheap plastics and flat, unsupportive seats. Its rear seat is particularly tight. Dynamically, the car’s light, uncommunicative steering almost entirely removes the driver from what little action the Cruze’s chassis provides. While our 2.0TD diesel test car’s efficiency is compelling, 29 grand is a lot for a mediocre small car.