By on March 2, 2012

We live in a conservative country. No, I’m not talking about the politics. Or our style of dress for that matter. I’m talking about our taste in cars.

This is a land where Camcords have reigned supreme with the occasional Taurus thrown into the mix. We like simple lines. Drop dead reliability. Plus a heaping load of quietude when it comes to highway and in-town driving.

The Cruze comes from a long line of ‘good enough’ cars. The Cobalt, pretender to the market leaders of a few years ago, was usually good enough for rental fleets and those who valued the deal over the car. The late 90′s to mid 2000′s Malibu was likewise a rental fleet special which only enjoyed a healthy retail following during the Clinton era.

As for the Cruze? Well that’s a different story. It is a market leader and probably is more responsible for GM’s recent image enhancements than any other vehicle in their lineup. Which brings me to a simple thought. Why?

The Walkaround: Cruzes pretty much blend with the scenery. This crystal red LT model is no different. The front fascia has a slight passing resemblance to the Malibu, while the rest of the car carries on with an orderly and conservative design.

There are no deep passionate sweeps of metal that evoke a race car’s heritage (or a Mercedes CLS). No protruding bangle butt end or tail lights that seem like they come from a midsized car parts bin. Instead of shooting for the fences of ‘like it or leave it’ Chevy instead chose the line of moderation. It was a very smart move because when you open the door and have a seat you see…

The Surroundings: the most upscale surroundings you can find in this price range ($23,416 MSRP).

The leather seats are thick and double stitched. The resting points for arms and elbows are well padded, and the dashboard has a feel and finish that is more evocative of a 3-series than the competitors such as the Corolla and Civic.

When you sit in the driver’s seat and look around, it’s almost a revelation to find that GM has finally bowed down to the dieties of German design and made the Cruze a true world car with a near-luxury European foundation.

Unlike the Toyonda recipe for cost containment, or the Elantra which now offers an interior that is stylish but has the  material quality of an arcade game, all the major touch points of the Cruze have the richness of a $30k car. The steering wheel is covered in thick stitched leather.

The center rest and door panels have just enough padding to be comfortable for long drives. Plus all the buttons are firm and precise without being chintzy. An epic issue in the compact car market these days.

If there is one issue with the interior, it’s the firmness of the seats. Some folks may simply find it too hard for long drives. A long test drive in the driver’s seat is an absolute must before buying the Cruze.

 

The MPG’s: Most folks who buy compacts have commuting and ‘to and fro’ transportation as their primary concern. So since fuel economy is a prime issue in this era of high gas prices, let’s hit the MPG numbers first.

Over 600 miles the average MPG came in at 38.2. That’s not a typo.

This included a nice 80 to 85 mph sprint for an hour through metro-Atlanta along with a lot of long and winding one lane roads where the speed limit was 40 to 50 mph.  At 85 mph the Cruze still registered 33 mpg and in town I was never far away from the high 20′s. You can take the 24 city / 36 highway numbers and improve on them dramatically for one critical reason.

 

This is the reason. Flick the trip computer knob towards you one time, and you get instant MPG. Flip once in the other direction and you  get average MPG. Flick one more time and you get a perfect readout of avg mpg, miles to empty, and of course mile per hour.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal? It is when you’re constantly on the road keeping up with traffic. Little tools like this can make all the difference in enduring a boring commute. I also mention it because a slew of other models (from the Elantra to the Volt) still don’t offer an instant MPG reading or a trip computer that provides more than the basics. It’s one of the reasons why I only averaged 34 mpg with an Elantra versus 38+ for the Cruze. Food for thought.

 

The Ride: The Cruze offers European handling with American comfort. Like Jettas of days gone by, the Cruze offers an immediacy in it’s handling that is sorely lacking in competitors such as the Corolla and Civic.  It’s not quite up to the level of what ‘could’ be considered that of a BMW. But it’s a surprising ingredient and probably the first compact Chevy that truly embraces the ideas of directness and road feel.

On the highway the Cruze is comfortable and surprisingly spacious. Almost like a midsized car.  You don’t get the encapsulated feeling that you do in an Elantra or Focus. The dashboard and other features are also thankfully devoid of what I call the insectozoid school of design. Buttons and vents are conventional. The entertainment system is simple to operate, and you get the genral idea that someone finally sweated all the little engineering details that typically fall through during the ‘cost containment’ phase.

The Cruze has all the feel of an upscale sedan.

The Criticism: So where does the Cruze fall short? Surprisingly for a GM car, it’s the numbers. Consumers who try to spec out their rides may end up passing the Cruze by. Only 138 horsepower. Only 148 pounds of torque. A 3200 pound curb weight. Plus the 24 city / 36 fuel economy rating sounds almost dour compared with the 29 city / 40 highway of the Elantra, the 28/39 rating of the Honda Civic, or the 28/38 for the Focus.

So why get a Cruze?

Overall:  If you spend a lot of time on the highway, or commuting,  and want a vehicle with healthy low rev’s along with  an upscale interior, the Cruze deserves your consideration.

The Cruze is also as much  of a competitor to larger vehicles with conventional styling than it is to the adventerous, tight  and youthful designs from Hyundai and Ford. I may get criticized by the Best & Brightest for this. But the Cruze seems more of a conservative vehicle with a midsize presence. Current owners of older midsized cars will likely find that the Cruze offers similar space as their current rides. While offering a more upscale feel and better handling than a Camry or Accord.

Michael Karesh already does an exceptional job with comparing prices and features. So my advice is to read his take on that. Then drive the Cruze so long as what I’ve described in this review fits your definition of ‘the next car’.

 NOTE: Chevy provided a free tank of gas, insurance, and use of the Cruze for a full week.

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102 Comments on “600 Miles In A Chevy Cruze LT...”


  • avatar
    supersleuth

    As I mentioned in another thread, I have a long, boring commute (60 miles each way) on nondescript highways, and this car is a bullseye for somebody like me. It’ll be a few years before I’m back in the market, and if it has proved reliable during that time I’ll take a long hard look at it. (Only the several comments I’ve read, in addition to this review, that talk about hard seats give me pause. But I tend to like firm padding as long as it’s reasonably thick.) Make mine an Eco with the stick.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve reviewed cars whose seats felt uncomfortably hard to me, but I really like those in the Cruze. In my opinion they’re firm but not hard.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Michael (or Steve – or anyone):

        How much leg, head and shoulder room is there in the rear of the Cruze vs. an Equinox?

        (Just out of curiosity, I looked in the rear seat of a 2012 Focus Sedan in Costco’s parking lot today, and the rear seat looked very small in terms of leg room.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I drive a 85 mile or so round trip commute and am surprised by the mileage of this car. My Altima Hybrid returns almost 34 mpg in 50% stop and go and 50% highway speeds. I don’t drive for mileage at all as I dip frequently into the pedal. Driven conservatively might deliver, what 36/38 mpg? This Cruze delivers pretty damn good mileage. And yes, it is odd that a GM car performs better than the numbers suggest. If anybody knew how to cook the books it was GM. A refreshing change…

    • 0 avatar
      Vance Torino

      Sounds Great! Practicality is a virtue!

      When can I get my world-class, nicely styled Cruze wagon, again?

      (In other news, the first GM product in MY ENTIRE LIFE (~35 years) I’d be interested in buying…)

      Well, NO SOUP FOR YOU!

      Nice to meet you, Prius C…

      • 0 avatar
        MusicMachine

        A Cruze wagon w/ a stick for me. When GM makes a 6 seater Wagovan off this chassis then we know they’ve really “crossed over”.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        You can’t, which is why a Prius C, Focus or even Elantra if you want to save some cash are going to be the car to go to. After owning a Focus SEL hatch, I can’t go back to a non-hatch/wagon if I’m buying a car and not a small crossover.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Where I live, which is the heart of GM, Ford, ChryMoCo territory, OTD pricing on a new Malibu is NO MORE than $500 above that of a similarly equipped Cruze.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        @DeadWeight

        And the reason being the Cruze is much more car for the money. It’s the same reason I went looking at Fusions and wound up with a Focus – better, new technology, better NVH, better interior and better price.

  • avatar
    replica

    The trip computers with real-time MPG do actually make commuting slightly entertaining. I enjoy trying to keep my Mazda2 at a certain number and enjoy seeing its predictions change radically with slight throttle changes.

    It’s my extreme bias, but the whole time I read the review, I kept repeating in my head “$23k for a Cavalier.” I realize my stupidity here, but I don’t think I can take my head out of the sand. I’m aware this car has nothing in common with previous generations, but damn. “It’s a $23k Cavalier.” The bland exterior styling, that sickly green interior lighting that doesn’t match the rest of the dash. I always have to do a doubletake on plainly equipped and painted Chevys for the green “E” Enterprise logo on the trunk. Seats look quite comfy though.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      The Cruze has as much Cavalier DNA as an Ipad has Newton DNA.

      They are two completely different vehicles from two completely different eras. Not to mention the Cruze is a modern compact (with near midsized dimensions) while the Cavalier is a 1990′s subcompact.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Not the greatest comparison, what with the Cruze being pretty good and the Cavalier, well…

        The Newton could at least lay claim to “Ahead of it’s time”.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        I agree and fully admitted the silliness of my bias. Perhaps GM should find a way to break down that mid 90′s stereotype by using a different color paint more frequently or make the styling a departure from that dark, dark era. It’s my guess that quite a few people won’t even look into a Cruze due to similar bias, which is unfortunate.

        That MPG is quite good. Beats my tiny Mazda.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        They already did this, the Cruze looks nothing like a mid 90s GM.

        It looks like a mid 00s Hyundai.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        The evolution of blandness is deceiving.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob Finfrock

      It’s worse than that. It’s a $23,000 Daewoo with a bowtie slapped on the grille. It’s also a vehicle that has suffered a significant number of quality control glitches, which is embarrassing given it’s been in production in other parts of the world for over three years now.

      Comparatively rich interior appointments and semi-impressive MPG figures do not a dependable and worthy subject for 60 months of payments make.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Much as I don’t agree with you normally, I’ll agree with you here.

        It’s a nice car, but people in this space aren’t buying the nicest car, they’re buying the car that will cost them the least. And the Corolla, while not being particularly nice, is not egregiously awful** and is bulletproof-reliable.

        ** Corollas have never really been good cars. Reliable? Yes. Efficient? Sure. Cheap to keep? Certainly. Luxurious or capable? Nope.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        About the Cruze vs. Corolla in terms of quality – good point, even if the “Daewoo” part is not completely true. In Michael Karesh’s 2012 Yaris SE review, I argued that people buy Toyotas (especially Corollas and Yari) because they KNOW what they’re getting. And what they are getting might not be the most technologically advanced, comfortable, or stylish car, but rather a tried-and-true car that is sure to get them to work every day for many years.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        “Corollas have never really been good cars. Reliable? Yes. Efficient? Sure. Cheap to keep? Certainly. Luxurious or capable? Nope.”

        I thought the E90s were trimmed out nicely for the class, and you could still get the 4A-GE in the coupe.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Yes I was wondering about reliability, it cannot be ignored when you compare it with stalwarts Civic and Corolla and even the much improved Elantra, I find it hard to swallow that a company like GM,suddenly in one model can bring reliability to the level of those that have been there already for years and years.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        The Daewoo complaint is disputed by some (I don`t know enough to comment on it) but even if true, what counts is, is it a good car and is it worth the money. Newsflash for you – most manufacturers (like Honda and VW) do not sell their good “quality” European cars over here as mainstream models and the US has until recently had to put up with lower quality compact and midsize cars (for example the Euro Passat vs the US Passat or the US Accord vs the European Accord aka Acura TSX).

        I completely agree that reliability will need to be proven and that will take a long time (>10 years). They have started on along journey to reclaim credibility, but this seems a good start.

        You really do begrudge giving any credit – “semi-impressive MPG figures” the figures quoted seem pretty class competitive if not class leading. Especially when compared against EPA figures.

        At least the few issues such as seats, powertrain are relatively easy to fix if they are so minded. Unlike with the Focus where the tight rear seat is a problem that can only really be solved by a redesign which isn`t coming for 6-8 years.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        @ Volt 230

        So Hyundai is now in the same category as Honda and Toyota in terms of reliability? They have some interesting designs and the cars look great on paper, but I think they still have to prove long-term reliability, if for no other reason than they haven’t had reliable cars on the road for long enough. I think Hyundai’s own marketing department agrees with me, otherwise they wouldn’t offer the long warranties. Hyundai has certainly turned themselves into a strong contender, but I think their bandwagon is a bit out of control at the moment. Maybe it’s the underdog effect.

        As for GM, was the Cobalt really that unreliable, or just a mediocre car for a variety of other reasons? American cars are also typically cheaper to repair. Something worth considering in total cost of ownership when the difference in reliability can be as little as half a dozen repair trips per 100 cars per year.

      • 0 avatar

        Some sources are still reporting a subpar reliability score for the Cruze because their survey was conducted nearly a year ago. Judging from responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, the Cruze’s reliability improved dramatically about that time, and for the past few quarters has been clearly better than average.

        The next hurdle will be in two years. The 2008-2009 Lambda crossovers (for which we have large sample sizes) have had a good first three years, then a dramatic uptick in problems after the warranty ends. If the Cruze similarly takes a turn for the worse, it’ll show up first here:

        http://www.truedelta.com/Chevrolet-Cruze/reliability-1008

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        Does the “it’s a Daewoo” epithet really have any traction outside of a very narrow group of Toyhonda badge worshipers who would never buy anything else anyway? It’s become something of a mantra amongst them, but judging by the sales figures, few others are listening.

        Perhaps the Cruze doesn’t fit what you’re looking for in a small car, but I have to say the breathtaking arrogance you displayed in dismissing it as unworthy of purchase by anybody really just echoes the bleating I’ve heard from a lot of the JDM apologists. In a way, it’s not any different from the rabid Saab defenders that used to stray on here occasionally.

      • 0 avatar
        Pleiades

        Bingo, we have a winner! Daewoo Lacetti Premiere, seen on S. Korean roads since late 2008. Designed by Daewoo…but it seems that GM’s changing of the name “Daewoo” to “GM Korea” as of late still has the masses fooled. A bit of digging will reveal that half of the US GM car lineup has Korean roots (Cruze, Spark, Sonic, Malibu)…

        …this is not a criticism, just some food for thought.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Can someone explain why the Cruze’s Daewoo origins is an implied negative? Everyone is jumping on the Hyundai bandwagon, so why is the fact that the Cruze is originally a Daewoo seen as a demerit?

        And pleiades – if you didn’t mean that as a criticism, it wouldn’t be food for thought. The only reason to mention it is to imply criticism, otherwise it’s a non-issue.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Simple answer: Hyundai got new management at the end of the ’90s which made a firm and public commitment to improving the quality and reliability of their cars, and made similar efforts over at Kia beginning in the mid-2000s. Daewoo, on the other hand, had been bailed out by GM and Suzuki, then left to molder about. Before the Cruze, Daewoo’s efforts in the US market were such bottom-feeders as the Chevy Aveo and the Suzuki Forenza which lived down to the ’90s Korean junk stereotype.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Holy sheet!

        I am not ashamed to admit that I didn’t know the Cruze was based on the Daewoo Lancetti.

        I do seem to recall that the current Top Gear “reasonably priced car” they put a star in is the Daewoo Lancetti, but didn’t think of it whenever I saw the Cruze here in the States recently.

        I googled that car, and the Cruze is identical. I’m speaking of a literal copy, from exterior to (especially) interior.

        I like the conservative looks (I find Hyundai’s new offerings to be funky and off-putting, such as the Veloster and even the Sonata, to a lesser extent), and it sounds like it has a respectable ride quality and NVH attributes, but yes, the reliability issue is a great unknown quality.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob Finfrock

        “Can someone explain why the Cruze’s Daewoo origins is an implied negative? Everyone is jumping on the Hyundai bandwagon, so why is the fact that the Cruze is originally a Daewoo seen as a demerit?”

        Daewoo has long been the redheaded stepchild of Korean automakers. (Wow, talk about a mixed metaphor there.) Hyundai is by far more accomplished, and much more highly regarded. I’ve made this comparison before, but it bears repeating:

        Hyundai = Toyota (at least for Korea)

        Daewoo = Chrysler

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        After this weeks Consumer Reports reliability disaster, where it appeared Detroit automakers were falling over themselves to score a last place finish, it will be many many years before the consumer will ever purchase a Detroit product based on reliability. The highest scoring brand was Ford, and that was a 10 place finish. I can assure you buyers are headed for their favorite Japanese dealer to load up on Corollas and Civics after reading the Consumer Reports result in their local papers. The LA Times ran a big splashy article boasting the results.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Well, had I been paying attention, I would have not been surprised that this is pretty much all Korean (whether it should or shouldn’t matter), as Jack Baruth did a highly detailed review of this car and all the details, including where it’s designed, built and where its different components are sourced from, way back in July of 2010:

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/review-2011-chevrolet-cruze/

        Jimmyy- Regarding your comment about the apparent reliability tanking of domestic-badged vehicles in the latest issue of Consumer Reports, that is very, VERY bad news, because whether one does or doesn’t put stock in CR’s ratings, many, many millions of people do (and especially the kind who are in the market for cars in this segment).

        And Consumer Reports specifically dinged the Cruze:

        http://www.wfmj.com/story/15881905/consumer-reports-question-chevy-cruzes-reliability

        The Chevrolet Cruze continues to be one of the nation’s top selling cars but Consumer Reports is giving it mixed reviews.

        A Consumer Reports spokesman said, “The Cruze is a relatively refined car to drive, but the reliability is something GM needs to work on to make sure how the car performs in a competitive marketplace.”

        The magazine noted that the Cruze is only a year old.

        Consumer Reports ranked the 1.4 litre and 1.8 litre engine models as the last two of 12 small cars rated, citing owner reports of squeaks, rattles, electrical issues, and other minor problems.

      • 0 avatar
        TheHammer

        thanks for the unbiased valuable input

    • 0 avatar
      jtaylor25655

      good post.

  • avatar
    Marko

    My family had one of these (though the LS model) for a rental a few months ago. I didn’t get to drive it – in fact, I didn’t even sit in the front seat, but it had a “high quality” feeling that previous GM compacts have sorely lacked. The ride was quiet and smooth.

    However, the rear seat probably wouldn’t be a great place for a six-footer sitting behind another six-footer. My parents also commented on the firmness of the front seats (though they’re used to luxury cars), but they never called the seats “uncomfortable”. I’d guess they’d be a lot more comfortable than Corolla seats on a long drive, since they appear more supportive. Speaking of which, I’m 6’0″, but I can’t stand Corolla or base Camry seats for any more than a half hour because of the short cushion.

    Edit: I actually have sat in the front seat of a Cruze for a short time, and found it decently supportive for me.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Definitely one of the current segment leaders. I tried one of these some weeks ago and its interior and refinement are beyond question. The auto gearbox needs some tuning as it hunts a little too much for my taste but to me there seemed very little wrong with the car – except maybe the price tag. The Cruze shines in the higher trim editions but if all you have is $18K then the Elantra still beats the Cruze 1.8 entry level model.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Shopping outside the comparison box which the marketers laid out for you, an Altima or Sonata is both cheaper and nicer than either.

      Of course a 3200 lb, $20,000 car shatters compact expectations.

      • 0 avatar
        stryker1

        Have you shopped around recently? Well equipped focuses, elantras, etc… all surpass the $20k line. Compact is the new midsize, and subcompact (fit/fiesta/accent) is the new compact.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        More confusing, the “old” compact is the size of a new “sub-compact.” I’ve got no problem going “smaller” even though it’s what I’m used to from 10 years ago. Sort of like how you can’t get a small soda at most places, it’s a medium but the amount is the same.

      • 0 avatar
        otaku

        “Well equipped focuses, elantras, etc… all surpass the $20k line.”

        Not really sure how well-equipped I can consider this Cruze if it’s powered by the base 1.8L engine. Unless I’m mistaken, a base model Focus costs less, weighs less, and uses a more powerful 2.0L with around 160hp/146lb ft of torque. Near as I can tell, that equates to a better power-to weight ratio while still returning comparable fuel economy figures.

      • 0 avatar
        TheHammer

        This is where perception must change. the Cruze is far superior to both Altima and Sonata. I would suggest a ride in all 3 to confirm.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        I have driven all three.

        The Cruze is down 50 horsepower and feels like more than that with its awful, constantly lugging transmission programming. The wide center console makes the footwell tight. Its backseat remains firmly in the compact class.

        If it were cheaper, or it got better mileage, or it were small car fun to drive, or parking spaces were exactly 15 feet long, those would be fair tradeoffs.

        It’s none of those things.

  • avatar

    My first recollection of an instantaneous mpg meter was on my brother’s best friend’s father’s ’63 Pontiac Grand Prix.

    I use a scan gauge.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I had a stand-in for one on my beater ’65 Impala SS, a manifold vacuum gauge. It was fun when I first learned what it was, but I eventually could feel my wallet getting lighter every time the needle swung right. I learned to keep my lead foot off of the floor if I wanted to have anything left for beer.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    I don’t think it’s because we’re conservative buyers as much as dealers are conservative sellers.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    How will all the posters who say TTAC is tilted against GM react to this review?

  • avatar
    stryker1

    “If there is one issue with the interior, it’s the firmness of the seats. Some folks may simply find it too hard for long drives. A long test drive in the driver’s seat is an absolute must before buying the Cruze.”

    This is the worst thing about an otherwise very good little car. Definitely test the seats for as long as you can stand them.

    I would also add that a 138 hp rating sounds surprising to me, since it felt like a bit more than that while I was driving it. The Cruze certainly seems to be one of those cases where the product is more than the sum of its parts (or stats).

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Most people, in routine driving, never hit peak HP anyway and should be more concerned about the RPMs of the torque range. With the 1.4T, it starts very low and stays pretty flat. That is why it doesn’t feel like it only has 138hp.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      @Stryker
      The cloth seats on the Elantra are like sitting on a chunk of granite, so the Cruze is not behind there.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      My coworker has a 1.4T RS model and it drives very well. The engine pulls nicely at the bottom end, and as a passenger I’ve found it to be pretty comfortable for short hauls.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “It is a market leader and probably is more responsible for GM’s recent image enhancements than any other vehicle in their lineup. Which brings me to a simple thought. Why?”

    Cars of this type are aspirational vehicles in most of the rest of the world, and for once GM chose to sell them here instead of some cheap slot-filler intended to rot behind rows of Silverados and Tahoes.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Sweet. Very sweet. When it comes time to replace my 2004 Impala, I’ll have to consider this size, whether a Cruze or not, as I’m unfortunately no longer a young man, and I want/need(?) a reasonably comfortable car for my long commute, even tho’ I drive our MX5 on occasion.

    Nice review and not a sign of GM hate in sight!

    Well done.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Honestly, you’d probably prefer either the Sonic or Orlando. I’ve recently gotten some seat time in all three, and the easier in/out in the two dorkier boxes is worth it.

      (and I am still kind of young…)

      • 0 avatar
        Patrickj

        The Cruze has plenty of front legroom, but agree that the front door is too short and not easy for the tall and 50+ to get in or out of.

        The Jetta is the winner, followed by the Elantra (pending long-ride testing of the leather seat).

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Sadly, the Orlando has a rather chintzy interior, more befitting the Cobalt (granted, there’s nothing wrong with that, just nothing really right either). Also, not available south of the border.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @Zackman- My folks have a base Cruze. They love it, and regularly achieve 40 MPG on the highway. It is on the small side for my taste, but is still comfortable, once I get in! I expected to be disappointed in the performance with the 1.8L, but it is actually more than adequate, in no small part thanks to the 6 speed trans.

  • avatar
    alan996

    The seats and the boomers counting their dividends and interest returns. I am four years ahead of the oldest boomers and age does catch up with you. Besides reaction time the eyes and back goes next.

    A sticker option line for lower belt line/more side glass cannot be an option but a seat option could be and we (us old guys) would pay for it, softer seats a little less side bolster and greater standard adjustment range would make me seriously consider the car. Offering such items based on demographics alone would seem to make sense to me.

  • avatar
    otaku

    Man, I don’t know if I would willing to shell out over $23 grand for this. I still have a lot of doubts about the value equation of this car. This was only the base 1.8L engine, right? I think the Cruze could probably afford to go on a bit of a diet for improved performance and fuel economy. At around 3200 lbs, I think I might consider a base model midsize sedan like the Fusion instead.

  • avatar
    usfdons

    @ Mr. Lang

    If you indeed had a 2LT Cruze, it would have had the 1.4 Turbo, not the base 1.8 (which is only available in the LS). It too has 138 HP but has a more grunty 148 ft/lbs of torque. Gas mileage is also higher at 26 city and 38 highway according to the EPA (glad to see the newer lower gearing for the 2012 model year is working).

  • avatar
    puppyknuckles

    Just wondering, did you calculate the mileage at the pump or are this numbers what the computer said? I’ve noticed in my car those can be two different things.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Both. They were within a quarter MPG of each other.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Yet Consumer Reports claimed they obtained the same mileage with both the 1.4 turbo and 1.8 non-turbo, at 28 mpg in mixed driving.

        I’m not doubting your reported mileage, Steven, but I am noticing ever more cars being ever more far off the mark, even under the supposed better, more accurate and realistic EPA fuel economy testing, between what the window sticker says and what people and some consumer sources are reporting.

        Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, and even the VW Passat TDI; I’ve seen an enormous amount of complaints in forums whereby people swear they’re getting nowhere near the manufactured/EPA fuel economy figures (although, to be objective, I’m seeing some claims whereby people state they’re doing better).

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    FINALLY FINALLY… I actually think Steven has hit the nail on the head. This car, to me, shows that GM really learned to be more authentic. This is an honestly good car, that really needs no apologies.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I’ve always found harder seats more comfortable for long distance cruising/commuting, which seems to be what this car is designed for.

    Seats are a very subjective thing though. It should go without saying that you should spend as much time as possible in the seats of any car on your radar.

    Not sure if the costs involved make sense for a dealership, but it would be nice if dealers had some kind of a rental program where customers could rent the car for a day or two and pile on some miles. You can find cars like a Cruze of Focus at rental agencies, but not all cars are easy to find in rental fleets. Dealership test drives are typically insufficient to learn much of anything about a car, especially seat comfort.

    • 0 avatar

      “Seats are a very subjective thing though. It should go without saying that you should spend as much time as possible in the seats of any car on your radar.”

      I say the same pretty much every time someone asks me for advice. Seats are the hardest thing to evaluate during a test drive, and probably the #1 reason people end up dissatisfied with their car.

      The manufacturer I receive the most seat complaints for: Honda, and by such a margin that I’m not sure what #2 would be.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        #2 would have to be Mercedes-Benz.

      • 0 avatar

        Probably not MB. Not because MB seats are comfortable, but because they become more comfortable (such things being relative) rather than less as the miles accumulate.

        Dissatisfaction happens when the seat feels okay initially, and so passes the test drive, then awful after an hour or two.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        I believe it. Typically I can live with most car seats, at least until the lack of thigh support catches up with me on long road trips. But my parents have a late-model CR-V and the seats are absolutely wretched. Very flat and firm, minimal padding and headrests that lean way too far forward. Twenty minutes in that thing is completely unbearable. They bought it with the idea that it would be their new travel vehicle, but it’s so uncomfortable that Dad’s aging Camry has been pressed back into primary family car duty.

        A short ride in a friend’s 2011 Civic was more or less the same story. I used to be a Honda fanboy, but I really can’t apologize for how lousy their cars have gotten at this point. The rot had clearly already set in with my 7th-gen Civic a decade ago, but I still never would have imagined they would have fallen this far and with no sign of reversal.

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        That’s actually encouraging for me. I like the seat in my Fit just fine, so I would probably be more than OK with the one in the Cruze.

  • avatar
    SV

    In this class I prefer the Focus and Mazda3, but the Cruze is a very good car, certainly the best effort by GM in this segment since…well…ever, I think.

    People accustomed to midsize cars may not be too pleased with interior space, though. I compared all the major C-segment rivals at the auto show and found the Cruze’s rear seat to be about on par with the Ford and Mazda in legroom, and behind the Jetta, Elantra and Civic. The Chevy’s front seat also isn’t as pliable as the Focus’ or 3′s (there’s a metal bar right where my knees hit) so if anything, it feels more cramped. Well finished though.

  • avatar
    PeteRR

    “The Edsel was an automobile manufactured by the Ford Motor Company during the 1958, 1959, and 1960 model years. The Edsel never gained popularity with contemporary American car buyers and sold poorly. Consequently, the Ford Motor Company lost millions of dollars on the Edsel’s development, manufacture, and marketing. The name “Edsel” has since become synonymous with failure.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edsel

    Substitute Volt for Edsel, Government Motors for Ford Motor Company, and billions for millions to get the full effect.

  • avatar

    Seeing that the improvements mentioned seem quite similar to what Bob Lutz talked about in his book, I wonder if the old guy might have actually had something there … post Lutz GM vehicles seem a lot better than the old guard’s.

    D

    • 0 avatar
      Zombo

      I’m surprised TTAC didn’t mention Bob Lutz being on Bill Maher’s Real Time last night . Some of the things he said – car companies couldn’t turn to the banks to get bailed out because they were broke too , big SUVs are making a comeback because he feels even 4 dollars a gallon for gas is cheap (maybe for him) and people are getting used to it , he thinks global warming is a crock now even more than ever , and surprisingly enough he went to a liberal college at Berkeley . Watch it yourselves in the link below in parts 9 and 10 .

      http://realtimecomedy.blogspot.com/

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    This is the car and this is the market segment that GM needs to be working on to gain a greater market share. They have the vehicle to do it, but as per usual they treat anything less than an Impala or a Suburban as entry level and not worth the trouble of competing with Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. Instead they’re wasting capitol on the Volt when they could be improving the content of this model and selling more units.

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      I agree – it seems to be a very solid car, which GM doesn’t throw enough marketing dollars behind.

      I suppose from their POV they are selling a lot of them as it is, so it’s probably a quiet profit engine for the company. Who needs the hype, when the metal is moving well enough.

  • avatar
    lw

    I like it. As long as it’s profitable per unit for GM I think it’s a winner.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Interesting review Steve.

    I’ve seen this car in the flesh as someone at work has a red one and it looks much larger than most C segment cars, but then what goes for a C segment is on the large side these days. I drive a 2003 Mazda Protege5 and it looks small in comparison, even though it’s 171″ or so long. Part of it is it looks low and long for its size but get in and it feels very roomy, at least up front as I’ve not sat in the back, but the rear doors look a bit longer than the front ones though.

    As to the Cruze, it’s a nice enough looking car with a slight sporty touch to it and it sounds like it might have some kind of driving dynamics, even if just in the steering, which seems to me to be better than what is typically found in most bread and butter sedans these days.

    I test drove a rental Cobalt for a week back in 2006 and while a decent enough car, it wasn’t a great car but what impressed me most about it was the ride wasn’t wallowy, it had comfortable buckets, a console, ditching the old American family sedan paradigm but the interior finishes left a lot to be desired. The car was all of 6 months old and the painted silver finish around the window switches on the front door anyway were already well scratched, even down to the base black plastic substrate. But that was ALL that car had going for it and yes, it WAS refrigerator white with tan interior, which didn’t help it’s blandness one bit. it had automatic lights, mid level CD player (sounded decent but not anything to write home about either) and had keyless entry and intermittent wipers and alloys.

    Nice to hear Chevy worked to try and improve this car to be competitive but have to agree, it’s just another ho-hum family sedan that blends in to its surroundings so much I don’t notice it much ON the roads while out and about.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    credit where credit is due, the Cruze is one of GM’s success stories… it started out poorly in 2009 with the old 1.8 n/a four and with questionable build quality but i think 3 yrs down the track with the new 1.4 turbo and apparently 2 new body styles it has become a very respectable car

    it has a motor that the koreans and ford can’t touch as yet (although ford’s euro 1.6 ecoboost will reset the balance)

    sure its not the last word in all areas but i think it has enough strengths to make it a sensible buy in this class

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    On a trip to the west coast I got to spend quite a bit of time with a Cruze LTZ and it did leave me fairly impressed. The turbo motor felt faster than it actually made the car (objectively the Cruze is not a fast car by any stretch even with the turbo) and the ecu/transmission controller definitely did a good job of hiding turbo lag. Nice interior and I think the best praise was that several west coasters I met for the first time said they “thought it was a Civic or something” and not a Chevy (I think anybody who’s sat in the old Cobalt interior would agree here-you wouldn’t think they were from the same car company if the cars didn’t share a badge). I didn’t think the car was perfect though, they did a pretty good job hiding cost cutting-popping the hood showed that they had put in a considerable amount of sound proofing but it also showed that they had skimped out on a hood latch that wouldn’t get flaming hot from all the heat the turbo motor was putting out (the bare metal latch sits right over the radiator and exhaust manifold and I mildly burned my hands popping the hood). The worst part was that someone at GM had clearly realized that heat was an issue in this area because the (also rather cheap looking) hood prop rod had two tiny cheapo pieces of plastic shoved on for you to grab it by so you wouldn’t burn the crap out of your hands. My guess is that GM just hopes anybody buying a Cruze will leave the hood popping to someone else-I’d suggest making sure that the glove box really has gloves if you ever plan on doing anything yourself.

    Other than that my only real criticism is that the steering is absurdly numb and devoid of feeling (and I daily drive a Camry), and the trunk opening could be a little bigger. Still-it was an 8.5/10 which is pretty damned good since the Cobalt would have been something like a 3/10.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Heat soak is going to be a problem with this motor (the 1.4 liter turbo). I’d bet money on it.

      But that’s not the biggest problem in a motor this small.

      Especially in hot climates or in summer conditions, owners of the 1.4 will be finding out not just about heat soak, but whether Chevy spent the money under the hood and in all the right places to ensure that what is invariably going to be a very hot running motor doesn’t do damage unto itself in short order.

      GM opted to use an ALUMINUM block rather than cast iron for the 1.4 liter. I do not understand this, given the additional heat to contend with (yes the turbo is small, but so is the displacement, so it’s not relatively small), and that the weight savings can’t be that significant by doing so.

      There’s a very good reason why Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Mazda and Nissan have all stayed clear of turbos on all except Subaru’s STI (and Mazda’s ‘Speed’ series), given the small displacement of most of their offerings, and reputation for reliability (even if their cars have been decontented and stale as of late).

      Honda, as much I do not care for what’s become of Acura’s products lately, took many, many steps to ward off the pernicious affects of the extra heat that’s inevitably going to be generated by the turbo in its RDX, which uses a much larger motor than the 1.4 liter found in the Cruze.

      Doing this correctly IS NOT cheap from a manufacturing or material cost perspective – see the following:

      http://www.honda.com/newsandviews/article.aspx?id=6180-en

  • avatar
    jtk

    I’m putting this on my test drive list. Firm seats sound great to me… I have a 2001 Buick currently and besides the built in squish, the foam is starting to go bad too, meaning you really settle down into the seat. I hate that the most of anything on the car.

    Has any weak point in the engine been discovered yet? For example, my 3800 uses a plastic intake manifold and uses gaskets that are eaten away by the Dexcool (all unrepaired on mine, fwiw). Is GM still doing stuff like that?

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    Hello Mr Lang,
    Thank you for presenting a fair and objective review of a GM product on TTAC. I was prepared to be upset upon opening the web-page.

    Last fall I rented a Cruze for the wife to take from Detroit to the east coast. (That was because I was waiting for a part for our Audi 5000 Avant) She loved the Cruze!
    I feel the Audi 5000 is a high benchmark for comparison since it is a capable and comfortable traveling car. The old Audi inspires highway confidence.

    I got some seat time locally in the Cruze when she brought it back. I was also impressed with the Cruze based on all the cars I have rented on business trips.

    As I stated before, if the Cruze wagon was available I would have voted with my checkbook.

  • avatar
    webgun60

    I just bought a 2012 LTZ with the RS package for my son to take to college in the fall. With just 138 hp it is surprisingly quick on take off. Great handling, brakes, it feels like I am driving a bigger, heavier car – very smooth and solid. The only other car I considered was a Civic. The LTZ comes standard with remote start, heated seats, bluetooth, Pioneer stereo. Honda charges extra for everything. The Cruze costs less when you compare vehicles with the same options and has a better powertrain warranty. The Cruze Eco is rated at 42 highway (standard transmission, same 138 hp turbo engine) if you want max gas mileage. Now if they only built a 200+ hp SS model with a 6 speed stick .

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Incredible. I can’t get over all the posters who have nothing but good things to say about this car. On the east and west coast, this car is not a player. In fact, most Detroit cars are not players on the east and west coast. Yet, you Detroiters all slap another on the back for a job well done.

    The real story this week in Detroit should be the Consumer Report disaster. GM, Ford, and Chrysler all nearly tied for last place. I wonder how many people saw this, and have reconsidered their purchase of a Detroit product. And TTAC decides not to run an article on the story of the week. Do I smell a bias? I smell trouble in Detroit.

    • 0 avatar
      Trend-Shifter

      Incredible that you cannot comment on why the Cruze does not compare to model “x” because of “x”. I take it you have not even driven one yet you know it is subpar.

      I smell a load of bias.

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        Trend-Shifter, I see the bigger problem than some plastic feel on the door panel or the number of gears in the transmission. The Consumer Reports reliability is a much bigger problem. Consumers will take less gears and cheaper plastic if they know the vehicle will display total reliability over hundreds of thousands of miles with resale. Based on Consumer Reports, that is not what Detroit is delivering. If I was on the top of GM, Ford, or Chrysler, I would be rolling heads out the door. That is what most companies do when something like this happens. Focusing on the fine points of the car is a waste of time. Fire the clowns responsible for this mess, and the replacements will make sure this never happens again. Question for you? How many sales to you think the Cruze will give up because of Consumer Reports? Can you find a bigger problem?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I remember going to South Carolina from Missouri and seeing a ton of Cruz’s, I’d actually prefer a blander front end to match the Audi-roof and a more normal stance (not that dog bending down look that everything has).

    The gas mileage is good, but the hp and weight figures greatly remind me of my 1984 V6 Mustang that I used to have. Hopefully the Cruz has a better gearbox to move itself (the Mustang wasn’t slow, but not exactly a speed demon either).

    10 or 20 years from now I’ll be shocked if these Cruz’s don’t end up like Taurus’s and Neons.

    I just hope that no more steering wheels pop-off into peoples hands.

  • avatar
    dave-the-rave

    Isn’t that the very definition of “taking the wheel?”

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I certainly love mine, purchased last May. The Eco is the one to get, 200 lbs less and just as quiet at cruise speeds. My adult daughter calls it the “mini Malbu” but I think it’s a lot more fun to drive.

    As for CR, those folks are the LAST ones in the automotive universe I’d pay any attention to. How many of their writers even have a drivers license?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Has anybody driven the manual transmission? Is it any good?

    • 0 avatar
      zuph

      I test drove a 6-Speed Cruze Eco. Clutch and Shifter definitely put the emphasis on “Easy to drive.” There’s nothing wrong with it, but it isn’t exceptional in anyway.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Cars like the Cruze and Focus are “world models” and built to meet the requirements of the more finicky European buyer, hence the higher price tag.

    It would be more fair to compare say, the upcoming Elantra GT (rather than the Elantra sedan) to the Cruze and Focus when it comes to interior quality since the GT is also built to suit European tastes.

  • avatar
    RB

    The instant readout mpg could be one of the most useful tools to improve fuel economy. You can see that trundling along in stop and go traffic will get you mileage in the teens or worse, and the instant feed back lets you identify wasteful behavior. Every car should have one.

  • avatar
    nikita

    With the real time bar graph mpg meter, its very easy for me to beat the EPA estimate in my 2010 Fit. After putting a scan gauge in the Tundra, I can do better on the highway with my foot than it ever did using cruise control.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    At 3200lb, this car is obese. The Sonic, at 2800lbs is already heavier than pretty much any other car in its segment.. What a shame- the 1.4T sound like it’s a competent and efficient engine.

    • 0 avatar
      otaku

      I was thinking the same thing. With this kind of curb weight, you’re not very far from the midsize sedan weight class. How much do the Civic and Elantra weigh? Around 2700 or 2800 lbs? I’m pretty sure even the Focus sedan is well under the 3000 lb range.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    I rented a Cruze RS and it was worlds ahead of Cobalts and Cavaliers rented in the past.

    As for CR’s ‘Detroit disaster’, it’s from complaints about complex entertainment systems that are not ‘intuitive’. There’s no transmissions dying or people stranded. People want ‘stuff’ in their cars, then whine that they can’t press an ‘easy’ button, for cars to ‘drive themself’!


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