This compact sedan is offered in LS, LT, Eco, and top LTZ versions. The LT is available in two trim levels, 1LT and the more deluxe 2LT, which has four-wheel disc brakes, sportier suspension tuning, heated front seats, and a power driver seat. The LTZ adds to that automatic climate control, leather seats, remote engine start, and a rear-obstacle detection system. The Eco slots between the LTs, but has a number of drivetrain and aerodynamic enhancements aimed at improved fuel economy. Optional on LT and LTZ is the sporty RS package with a rear spoiler and other unique exterior trim.
Cruze is front-wheel drive, and has a 4-cylinder engine. The LS has a 138-horsepower 1.8 liter; LT, Eco, and LTZ have a 1.4-liter turbocharged unit with the same horsepower but a somewhat higher torque rating. Standard on LS and LT models is a 6-speed manual transmission. A 6-speed automatic is optional on LS, LT, and Eco models, standard on LTZ.
Either of Cruze’s engines feel competent, providing adequate power in city and highway driving. The turbocharged engine’s higher torque rating makes it feel noticeably more powerful. The automatic transmission generally delivers decisive, appropriately timed shifts, but the manual transmission’s shifter is somewhat vague, with occasional hangups that inhibit smooth gear changes.
Averaged 27.6 mpg with an automatic-transmission LS in a mix of city and highway driving. In similar conditions, an LT with automatic transmission yielded 24.3 mpg. We haven’t had an opportunity to measure fuel economy with an Eco, but expect it to average several mpg better than other turbocharged Cruze models. Chevrolet specifies regular-grade gasoline for all Cruze models.
Cruze’s handling inspires confidence, with 2LT and LTZ versions feeling a bit sportier. On all models, body motions are well controlled in all but very hard cornering. The steering has satisfying precision, smoothness, and weighting. Stopping power is good with either of Cruze’s two available brake systems, but pedal feel is slightly better on models with four-wheel disc brakes.
All Cruze models absorb small bumps and minor road imperfections fairly well. However, large bumps and very rough surfaces can cause some unpleasant jolts in the cabin, particularly on models with low-profile tires.
In front, Cruze feels more spacious than many compacts; there’s plenty of head room even for tall drivers, and leg room is generous. In the rear seats, space is more average for cars of this class, with leg room a bit cramped, especially if the front seats are set rearward for tall occupants. But the cabin is nonetheless fairly serene, with road and wind noise controlled well, and engine noise intruding only during hard acceleration.
Interior Design and Quality
Cruze’s interior seems more upscale than many cars in this price range. The materials have a quality look and feel to them, and the design is pleasingly contemporary. Leather upholstery on the LTZ adds to the sense of sophistication. The dashboard is well integrated and thoughtfully designed for easy operation. Gauges and switches are clearly marked and intuitive to use.
Cargo and Storage
Overall carrying space is good, with a relatively generous trunk and a split rear seat that folds almost flat to provide plenty of room for bulky objects. In the cabin, there’s a nice array of pockets, cupholders, and storage compartments.
Even in a class filled with compelling rivals, Cruze stands out as a strong value. This stylish sedan offers an impressive array of virtues, including a satisfying driving feel, comfortable interior, and solid overall refinement. Competitive prices and generous standard features complete the value equation, making Cruze a must-see for compact-car shoppers.