By on December 20, 2016

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Premier, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

“Smooth, silent, and heavy.” That’s what I said when I drove a first-generation Cruze with 55,000 miles on the digital odometer. Another thing I said: “Ready for prime time.” Daewoo’s, excuse me, GM Korea‘s first take on a compact-class world car was, to misuse a phrase from an Eighties Updike novel, “a thick, sweet plaything” that broke all Korean-car stereotypes by being substantially heavier, quieter, and more solid-feeling than any of its competitors.

It was an intelligent, thoughtful decision on General Motors’ part, assuming it was a decision and not simply a side effect of the General’s notorious inability to understand compact-car engineering. And it ensured the Cruze continues to have a reasonable reputation in the used market as a safe choice, marrying some of the J-car’s cockroach durability with vaguely modern over-the-road dynamics.

But there was a price to be paid, and that price was fuel economy. The Cruze was always a heavy drinker, exceeding four-cylinder Camrys and Accords in its fondness for the pumps. Something had to be done, and something was done. The new Cruze is “up to 250 pounds lighter” according to GM’s press releases.

I’m here to tell you that the SlimFast program worked. The Cruze now gets class-competitive fuel economy. Which leads to the question: If that’s what you gain when you “get the lead out”, so to speak, what do you lose?

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Premier, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

As rented by me, this Cruze “Premier” has an MSRP of $24,350. Not to worry; there’s already about a grand’s worth of cash on the hood well before the calendar actually turns to 2017. For this rather daunting amount of money, you get quite a bit of content. Keyless entry, stitched dashboard, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay telematics, alloy wheels, leather seats with power operation on the driver side, remote start, heated steering wheel, and a “Watts link suspension,” which was known as “Z-Beam” in the first-gen car. You cannot accuse GM of being stingy with this car. And if you’re willing to pair a manual transmission with the 1.4-liter turbo instead of a six-speed automatic, you can save $6,000 on a stripper version that probably shares most of the Premier’s core virtues.

What you don’t get: any sort of compelling looks. The Cruze is a folded, spindled, and mutilated take on the Impala and Malibu’s seal-sleek fastback silhouette, with virtually all of the panache drained right through GM Korea’s aesthetic colander. What styling there is appears to be halfhearted. Example: From inside the car, it looks like our own Sajeev Mehta’s bete noire, “DLO fail,” has been averted, because there’s a front quarter-window. Yet when you step out of the car, you’ll see there’s still a black plastic triangle between the A-pillar and said quarter-window. It’s ridiculous. There’s also far too much aimless flaming of the surfaces, a compulsive pinching and twisting of everything from the double-layer hood to the rear quarter-panels.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Premier, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Most ridiculous of all: the “Premier” badge, which sits crooked, generic, and alone on the right side of the decklid. It looks like nothing so much as an aftermarket badge for one of the $699 dealer upcharge trim packages that sub-par dealers aim at sub-prime customers. (Camry “American Edition”, anyone?) Yet for all of the Cruze’s unlovely details, it’s still better-looking than its predecessor, which fairly screamed Korean taxi and had the sort of confused, thick-jawed countenance in its first few years that’s associated with mild mental handicap in human beings. And is there a truly attractive car left in the compact game? I can’t think of one. A 1994 Corolla looks like a Ferrari 250 GTO compared to what’s on sale now.

The story is much better once you’re behind the wheel. From here, the Cruze appears to be worth every penny. The chrome looks real, the stitching is convincing, and every touchable surface bears the hallmarks of careful, deliberate attention. Only that hideous GM aqua lighting, known to my readers as The Color That Looks Cheap, spoils the atmosphere. The doors close with a reasonable thunk. The push-button starter matches that of a Civic for quality and feel. Visibility is acceptable in all directions, and the rearview camera is better than what the “imports” have. Let’s go for a drive.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Premier, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

I’m embarrassed to admit this was my maiden tour of Android Auto, mostly because I haven’t bothered to try it in any other car. I plugged my new Galaxy S7 Edge into the USB port and within a few moments I had my navigation on screen and full command of the phone functions. If it works this well everywhere it’s implemented, it’s going to be a success. It’s certainly very good here. Less good: the sound quality of the stereo, which is only acceptable. In rather clever fashion, GM has copied the back-of-steering-wheel function buttons familiar from many Chrysler products, only in the Cruze they’re in the form of what feels very much like a double shifter paddle on both of the top spokes. They control volume on the right and source/station on the left. Actual manumatic shifting, if you ever want it, is handled via a plus/minus rocker switch on the top of the shift knob.

My test route, which took me from Florida’s RSW airport down to Naples and back via the so-called Tamiami Trail, didn’t exactly offer me a varied diet of tarmac and twisties, which makes the Cruze’s newfound interior rattle and hum all the more worrisome. This is now a loud car inside, at least on par with Honda, which usually offers the least effective insulation in any given class. If you went blindfolded from the old Cruze to this one, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d gone down a class, or maybe gotten in a predecessor vehicle. Wind noise isn’t a factor — the tortured ovoid styling is effective here — but road noise is a terror. It’s enough to affect conversation between front-seat occupants. If you want to know where the 250-pound savings came from, I’d suggest that it came in the form of vastly reduced sound isolation.

On the flip side of the coin, the Cruze is now a genuinely sprightly car that never feels at a loss in traffic. The sole exception is this: In certain circumstances, mostly brought on by extremely light throttle from a stoplight, the transmission is so eager to upshift that the car can feel dangerously slow and unresponsive when you finally do get around to pressing the pedal. You have to go all the way to the kickdown to reset the process — an unpleasant, lurchy procedure that makes a joke of the “Premier” badge and the dashboard stitching.

General Motors remains very fond of its despicable “auto stop” system, and it’s particularly bad in the Cruze. Shorn of its thick subcutaneous Dynamat, the car responds to each restart of the engine with a full-body shudder, not unlike the unselfconscious orgasmic release demonstrated by what the French used to call “women of a certain age.” It’s positively unsettling, doubly so if you’re trying to merge into heavy traffic from a stop. (As always, the key is to relax the brake very slowly, causing the engine to start, then pushing it back down.) Whatever absolutely inconsequential improvement in economy results from this mechanically unsympathetic misery cannot be worth it.

Nor is it required. The Cruze is quite fuel-frugal, easily besting 38 miles per gallon for a 110-mile trip both by self-reported and filling-to-click estimations. It’s faster than the old car, cheaper to run, and just as spacious. If the gravitas of the old car has been utterly and completely discarded, well, had anyone really asked for it in the first place? I cannot make an honest argument for a $24,350 Cruze; you’d be better off with an Accord LX unless you absolutely need a heated steering wheel. But after the various GM discounts, it makes more sense. As a low-equipment manual car, it probably makes most sense of all.

When the first Cruze came out, I thought it was a legitimate competitor to Civic and Corolla. I still feel that way. My money in this segment would be in a Focus or perhaps the new Civic hatch, but I wouldn’t fault anybody who drove those cars and still picked the Cruze. It’s absolutely good enough in pretty much every sense of the word. Returning Cruze customers will wonder where their peace and quiet went, but they’ll have the consolation of better fuel economy and performance. No longer smooth, silent, or heavy, the Cruze remains ready for prime time.

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85 Comments on “2017 Chevrolet Cruze Sedan Premier Rental Review – SlimFast Compact...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    “the Cruze continues to have a reasonable reputation in the used market as a safe choice, marrying some of the J-car’s cockroach durability with vaguely modern over-the-road dynamics.”

    Ha ha – you owe our esteemed commenter GEOZINGER a beer, for he copyrighted “cockroach of the road©” and you infringed on that!

    As far as the car is concerned, my choice would have to be the hatchback. I haven’t driven one yet, but after checking one out at my local Chevy store, I was very impressed.

    Your take on the styling, however, is simply subjective. I find the general appearance just fine, especially compared the the previous version, even the black plastic triangle looks much nicer. Overall, I disagree with your assessment on the ambient lighting, among other things. To each to their own taste.

    BTW, I HATE the stop/start, too.

    ©Geozinger

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I don’t think the J-Cars were especially durable.

      I suppose inasmuch as they ran very badly for a very long time you could call them that.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        The gen II on up OHV Chevy 2.0/2.2 motors bar the occasional head gasket issues were long lasting motors that we routinely see with 200 plus K miles on them and still running strong.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Rust finally killed mine after 17 years and 265,000 miles. 2.2 OHV, 4T40 trans.

        It ran OK, but it was starting to have electrical issues. I think because there was so much rust, it couldn’t get a good ground any longer.

        I was afraid to touch the damned thing, fearing tetanus…

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Thanks for the shout out, Zackman. I should be swimming in beer these days!

      At this car’s release, I was a little disappointed that it joined the flamed-surfaced-to-death crowd. I know it’s a Chevy, but the design language screams Hyundai at me.

      My Malibu Maxx had the audio controls on the back of the steering wheel, but it was pretty loaded, too. Maybe it’s only offered on the highest trims?

      My daughter’s Malibu has the start/stop system and like noted in the review, if you work it correctly, it works fine. Her Malibu’s system was never intrusive, but I think the system is easy to confuse.

      Glad to see that Chevy put out another solid car.

    • 0 avatar
      captainnrs

      I’ve never quite understood why GM felt the need to not place an on/off button for the stop/start in anything but Cadillacs. Every other automaker that uses a system of this sort, and certainly the Fords and Volvos I’ve been in with a stop/start system, at least give you the option to turn it off.

      • 0 avatar
        Publius

        I also recently rented a 2G Cruze, and was pretty impressed for a small car. I found the stop/start mostly unobtrusive, and superior to BMW’s. And Apple Play connected very easily. I expected a lemon and got a good-performing, okay-handling car easily able to keep up on the fast Norcal freeways.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    If the Cruze is folded, spindled, and mutilated, what does that make the new Civic?

    I’ve rented a Focus several times and the base engine is gutless and the interior is pretty bad. Too many cheap buttons, surfaces, textures, etc.

    I would wager that the Cruze is more reliable than the Focus too.

    • 0 avatar
      Silent Ricochet

      I own a 2013 Focus but have been in a 2015 Focus. The interior didn’t improve much, and the 2015 was an upper trim. The radio was better than my punishingly ugly and tiny SE trim radio with 10000 buttons. As for the engine, if you’re referring to the base model 2.0 liter, I don’t think it’s terrible. You definitely need to wind it out to at least 4000 rpm before it starts moving. The Cruze with the 1.4T really shines in this department.

      My buddy just picked up a 2013 Cruze LT and the dash was a bit more upscale looking. The plastics and surfaces that you come in contact with often, I would argue, were on par with my Focus. I got to ride in a loaner 2016 Cruze recently and the interior is definitely better than both.

      I like how both cars look. The Aston Martin look of the newer Focus is undoubtedly slick and I like the more aggressive styling of the new Cruze as well.

      As far as reliability goes, I would trust the Focus more, PowerShift transmission and all. My focus has been rock solid for the passed 20,000 (nearly 50k on the odo). The family of a good friend of mine owns three Cruzes (with both the 1.8L and 1.4T) and they have spent a fair amount of time being towed to the dealership for mechanical issues. This is just my experience, though.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The Focus is disqualified by its transmission unless you want a manual. The PowerShift is the worst transmission on the market now that Smart has discontinued its single-clutch.

      • 0 avatar
        Silent Ricochet

        I definitely agree on it being one of the worst transmissions on the market, although I’ve never really had a problem with mine. Some stuttering in parking lots was annoying but a tune took care of that. Unfortunately I think a lot of drivers let their PowerShift equipped cars crawl in traffic jams, which definitely ruins them.

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          The Focus is small for the class (both on the cu ft 90 compared to the Civic at 95) but aso in reality – limited backseat room.
          The interior also befits a 6 year old car – standards have moved on.

      • 0 avatar
        thunderjet

        I’m kind of glad I bought a left over new 2011 Focus instead of a 2012. It’s got the 4 speed auto and it’s been trouble free. In fact over 56K miles all I’ve had to do besides oil changes is replace a set of front brake pads and get a new set of tires.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          ? Have you changed the slushboxes oil and filter yet ? .
          .
          -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          spookiness

          I have a 2010 SES I bought used a few years ago. I’m of mixed mind about it. Some things about it are very cheap (hard plastic, horrible styling, old platform) but some are sort of nice (pleather, sync, moonroof,loaded amenities for its time). I like the driving position, which others complain about. The suspension is a bit firm, yet it doesn’t handle all that great. It has been reliable to me, and at 90k seems to be holding up well, yet the suspension bits are getting very rattley. I want to like the new Focus but I just don’t.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Here’s the money shot in this review : “It’s absolutely good enough in pretty much every sense of the word. “.
    .
    For many this is the single most important thing .
    .
    I wonder if one can add thin carpeting to increase the road noise ? .
    .
    A very good review Jack ~ Generous Motors Corp. may not like it but anyone seriously looking at these cars will .
    .
    I wonder if it’ll look better in a lighter color too, looks crappy to me here .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar
    make_light

    When I first saw this debut, I thought it looked horrible. Then as I saw them in person, it grew on me. To my eyes, the new Elantra is the best looking compact, despite having that chopped off trunk/wedge look that has afflicted most of the class.
    I’m surprised at the comments about noise, as that contradicts most other reviews I’ve seen. Could it be that the rental versions are a bit sparser?

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      “And is there a truly attractive car left in the compact game? I can’t think of one.”

      I would say Mazda3 is best looking.

      Here is my look index

      Mazda3
      Elantra
      Sentra Nismo
      Jetta
      Focus
      Cruze
      Civic hatch (aggressive)
      Corolla
      Forte
      Lancer

      But check this out. 2010 Mazda3 – pioneer in bulging fenders. Then Elantra is practically a full copy of that car. Then Civic and now Cruze.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I actually found the old Cruze to be hands down the best looking compact of that generation. It looked more grown up and substantial, especially from the rear 3/4 view. Now it just looks like something completely generic Kia/Hyundai/new Focus. Likewise that weighty-ness and NVH smothering was truly a standout feature of the car. I really thought the 6spd ECO I test drove was “Germanic” in how it solidly “thumped” over bad roads. Said 6spd ECO also got fantastic fuel economy. I also got a rental gen 1 LT 1.4/auto, it struggled to break 30mpg on a route that a 1.4 TSI Jetta got a little over 40mpg on.

    As far as cock-roachness goes, I think the 1.4L turbo mill more or less preclude their longevity in the ghettos and trailer parks of America. The base 1.8L NA motor will probably do okay, but nothing like the old 2.2L OHV mills.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I would agree that the old Cruze was a pretty attractive car. The headlamps were a bit fussy and GM got a little silly with lighting towards the end, but otherwise it was a well-shaped car.

      This new one is kind of blobby and squinting. The hatchback looks a little bit better, but still not great. Still, it’s better than the total-personality-removal they gave the Sonic and Spark.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Agree with both of you about the previous Cruze. It’s a simple, handsome design that stands out in an era of overwrought styling. My only criticisms are:
        – the C-pillar DLO fail, although somehow it always seemed minor to me compared to the ones on the ’11-14 Chrysler 200 or the current Toyota Camry. (The Camry’s is particularly offensive because Toyota added it as the centerpiece of the XV50’s facelift.)
        – the side skirts on the RS editions are a bit much, although that car’s front and rear fascias strike me as a neither-better-nor-worse alternative to the standard.
        – the ’15 facelift worsened the look of the car. “LEDs! Everybody’s doing it!” Ugh.
        But none of those three things is a deal-breaker, and the basic design remains quite nice.

        I’ll also opine that the enthusiast press’s reports of the Cruze’s thirstiness are vastly, vastly overstated. I had one Cruze rental that was thirsty, and that I assume was because it was brand new (2 miles on the odometer at the start of my rental) and had a “tight” engine. I had no trouble beating the EPA estimates (26/36) in my three or four other Cruze rentals. If you caned them and stayed in the turbo all the time, then I guess they must get disappointing mileage. Smoothly driven, though, they’re economical.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I actually found myself looking at what 6spd 1LT gen 1s are going for (avoiding ECO for loss of ground clearance and IRS suspension), and you can scoop up a clean sub-25k mile unit for about $11k. Not a screaming deal per se, but I think it’s a very solid and comfortable car for the money. I had actually sold my ’12 Civic commuter mostly out of boredom and to free up some cash this summer, but I think a sub-text was it was wearing on me a bit as a commuter. The General Altimax RT43 tires I put on it made it even noisier than it already was, even at 40mph (but massively improved wet grip compared to OE tires). It was really comfortable in terms of seat ergonomics and was even kind of fun to wring out a bit owing to its low weight and slick shifter, but half an hour each way to and from work on the highway with that road noise and somewhat ‘crashy’ sensation over large expansion joints dampened by enthusiasm for that car as a whole. Something like this Cruze may have been a better fit.

          • 0 avatar
            Sceptic

            Had similar experience with General tires. G-MAX 03 I think. Excellent wet/dry grip. Grew extremely noisy at around 15K miles. Still wearing quite well. This is on a Mercedes that eats rear tires due to suspension design. Generals are essentially budget Continentals after all. Any one has recommendations/opinions on tires?

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ gtemnykh – Actually, none of the 1st-gen Cruze’s has a true independent rear suspension. They all have a twist beam, which I guess counts as “semi-independent.” One of my Cruze rentals came during a particularly boring work trip, and I read up on this. The permutations of wheel and suspension offerings for the first-gen Cruze are dizzying. As best I know they are as follows:

            LS – softer springs, 16″ steelies, twist beam with Z-link in 2011, Z-link dropped from ’12 on

            1LT – softer springs, 16″ alloys, twist beam with Z-link in 2011-12, Z-link dropped from ’13 on

            1LT with RS package – firmer springs, 16″ alloys, twist beam with Z-link

            2LT – firmer springs, 17″ alloys, twist beam with Z-link

            LTZ – firmer springs, 18″ alloys, twist beam with Z-link

            Eco – firmer springs, 17″ alloys (lightweight and diff’t from those on the 2LT), lightened version of the rear suspension, no Z-link

            That’s crazy variation, especially when you factor in that that the firm/soft difference is pretty small. Based on having driven an early 1LT, a late 1LT, and a 2LT, I’d peg a 1LT with the RS package as the Goldilocks offering. The firmer springs and Z-link do impart a slightly greater sense of control, but the 17″ wheels are a downgrade (harsher over expansion joints). If I owned an LT2 or LTZ, I’d swap in wheels from a parted out 1LT.

            For an area with really bad roads, the LS or 1LT suspension set-up probably is best, even with the missing Z-link in the later years. The later 1LT I drove wasn’t sloppy; it was just slightly less controlled relative to some of its siblings.

            Did I mention I *don’t* actually own a Cruze? I’m just a sad, OCD, multi-time Cruze renter. :-)

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Sceptic mine were the same way, quiet at first, but then within 10k miles got noticeably noiser. This was made even more evident by the Civic’s poor wheel arch insulation. My fiance’s Camry that we put the same model RT43 on, while perhaps a bit louder than stock, is perfectly tolerable/fine.

            I’m going to be buying new 15 inch all seasons for my ES300 come spring, and am likewise at a crossroads. Thinking about ponying up for higher-dollar “grand touring” grade Bridgestones or Michelins.

            Featherston right you are! Seeing the arms of the Z-link setup made me confuse them for the lower control arms on a multi-link setup. And believe me, OCD is my middle name, I really appreciate the breakdown.

          • 0 avatar
            Eyeflyistheeye

            I once had a brand-new 2015 Civic from Zipcar. I disliked how I had to deal with large car ergonomics and floatiness combined with traditional Honda virtues of high road noise and crashy suspension.

            The 2016 is superb though, except for looks.

    • 0 avatar
      Pinzgauer

      Totally agree on the “germanic thumping” of the suspension. I went from a 2012 Beetle to a 2013 Sonic and I am amazed by the feel of the Sonic in that its just as tight as the VW was in that regard.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Agreed…but am partial to the 2013 LT parked in my garage. I think the new model is TOO generic, but then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I almost get the new Elantra and Cruze confused…

  • avatar
    friedclams

    Compact cars look pretty blah these days. I actually like the current Mitsubishi Lancer for its angularity (disclosure: I own one), but this year’s facelift made the front clip look really dumb. I agree with make_light that the Elantra looks OK.

    The Civic is a total train wreck. Lines! Shapes! Curves!

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Rental reviews (especially by Jack) are among my favorite 2 things on TTAC, and even more of a compelling read if it’s a vehicle from a manufacturer that either a) outright blacklisted Jack, or b) has given him a hard time in the past.

    They are akin to what liberation & freedom of the autopress should be in an era where pimply-faced or hipster neck-beard, pierced Jalopnik types and Depends-wearing 60-something old-print media autojourosaurists mingle at the breakfast bar or brunch room of the hotel that a given manufacturer paid for (in addition to other declared and undeclared perks and swag) in order to “get” reviews of their vehicles published in the most favorable light possible.

    I realize that some think I am too kind to Jack, or somehow expend effusive praise on him, but consider that he helped keep alive the truly independent-minded rental review method (probably born of necessity, which makes it even better in my eyes/mind), regardless of all his contributions (No Fixed Abode, with some epic masterpieces such as Porsche’s – and Hublot’s and culture-writ-large’s – Watery Big Bang, or expose on the OG Lexus LS400, or how it’s expensive to be poor, or how Porsche learned to turn tricks to gain more profits and market share, or how to properly design and market Cadillacs, etc.), and he deserves thanks just for this.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    This weekend I came across a newish GM sedan in traffic. “Ah, tiny stoplights, pinched quarters, that must be the new Cruze.” Then I got a little closer, and realized “oh, that must be the Malibu.”

    It was a freakin’ Impala.

    GM’s half-assed, lookalike styling isn’t doing any of those cars any favors.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I hate look-alikes. I phrase Toyota and Honda for not falling into this hole. They cars look pretty different. Mazda does pretty good job to differentiate even though base “design language” is the same. But Chevy…

      Impala to me looks like a catfish upfront and unfinished product in the back. Its like designers simply quit when they couldn’t create anything good.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I have never mixed up a current Impala for a Cruze. Give me a break. If anything everybody I know keeps mixing up Corolla’s for Camry’s and Camry’s for Avalon’s. And then you have the hideous new Civic which looks like a previous generation Crosstour whick looks like a current Civic hatch.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        @ponchoman49

        I was about to say that you are wrong but you are more right than wrong http://blogmedia.dealerfire.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/436/2016/01/2016-Toyota-Camry-vs-2016-Toyota-Avalon-vs-2016-Toyota-Corolla.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged Miata Man

        @ponchoman49, I wouldn’t have thought I could have mistaken them either, but there it is. Blame the vast expanse of sheetmetal flanked by near-identical taillights on all three cars (that are disproportionately tiny on the ‘Bu and Impala.)

  • avatar
    RetroGrouch

    Focus ST and done. You can get a leftover base model 2016 for a hair under $20k right now.

    • 0 avatar
      mikehgl

      Thats what I just did, 2016 ST but bumped the base model up to the ST2 package. Still saved about $5000 off sticker. Kona blue, rado gray “snowflake” rims. I took a chance with the Recaro seats and have found them most comfortable. The only drawback so far is the harsh ride in Michigan winter weather. But the drivetrain more than makes up for it.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Strangely enough, my impression of the first and second generations is pretty much flipped – that the older car felt more energetic than the newer one. Although, this is probably due to the transmission tuning – the second gen I drove was primarily in a higher traffic area, so it was a lot of gentle throttle (and rapid upshifting) until I was finally ready to put my foot in it, and the car decided it wasn’t having it anymore. The old Cruze, if not exactly quick, at least never felt that lethargic (admittedly, it was also driven in gentler traffic, so I don’t know if to blame the transmission, or the locale). Still, I’d at least be curious to try out one with the manual now, for the sake of the Cruze hatch.

    On the other hand, the new Cruze I drove had a non-leather wheel, with the excessively pebbled plastic, which seems tailor-made to punish you for not buying the loaded model.

  • avatar

    So, it’s cushy pleasant ride quality was also a defining aspect last gen. I don’t see any mention of that. How does it ride?

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      An aside but here’s a real “sleeper” in regards to how well they ride for something that looks like a total penalty box: 07-12 Nissan Sentra. French platform sharing/suspension tuning is very evident.

  • avatar
    Coolcar2

    I rented the last gen and came away thinking it was a pretty nice ride for the class. Solid feeling, nicely appointed interior and decent looks on the outside. It did have a gutless engine but that could have been impart due to the weight. The new one has lost some of it’s unique styling, now falling into the “me too” look common in this segment. I agree it looks very similar to the Hyundai Elantra. I think for this class you can do much worse and those that choose it will be content. I agree that the blue interior lighting comes across as cheap but that is all subjective.

  • avatar
    rcx141

    Hired one of these in Maui and drove it to Hana. Expected it to suck, but was very pleasantly surprised!

  • avatar
    make_light

    Just looking at the first pic again- that front air dam is SO LOW. That must scrape on just about any driveway dip. So impractical. And I imagine that for many casual buyers, it’s one of those “don’t notice until a week after ownership” problems.

  • avatar
    NN

    This is the 2014 Honda Civic by GM. Same look with a Chevy badge on it. Only a 2014 Honda Civic will cost less, be more reliable, drive better, and have better resale value.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m a lifelong GM fan, former owner of a 2010 Malibu. I bought that car because it was legitimately better than the competition at the time.

    GM really needs to ask themselves how this car is better than the competition. Until they can clearly define that in ways that a consumer actually cares about, then this will be a rental/fleet mobile.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      “GM really needs to ask themselves how this car is better than the competition. Until they can clearly define that in ways that a consumer actually cares about, then this will be a rental/fleet mobile.”

      And this differs from the last 25 years how, exactly?

      GM has changed somewhat over the years as a purchase proposition, IMO. Used to be they were sloppily assembled with visibly slapdash quality and painfully cheaped-out interiors. Now they’ve dramatically stepped up the fit/finish and interior materials, and can be a pleasing car until you’ve owned them a few years and the components that make up the car start to fail as their “One World” sourcing (aka “Give it to us as cheaply as the Chinese or we’ll buy it from them”) rears its ugly head over the miles.

      Really, now they’re a lot like buying a Nissan. Which is to say, their principal appeal is price, and if you plan to keep it a long time you’re better off with a used Toyota or Honda.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I don’t find the styling to be unattractive but I agree that most compacts, especially the new Civic are pretty painful to look at. If anything it looks like a regurgitated 2014 Crosstour. Regarding tire noise I’m wondering if your car had the optional 18″ rubber which would account for increased road noise. Most every other source says the new Cruze is the quietest compact in the field, especially compared to the Civic and 3.

    Not mentioned in this review is the current Cruzes new found increase in rear seat room, especially for legs and knees. The 1.4T also gains a healthy amount of torque, now at 177 LBS. FT. or nearly 30 more than the old model’s 1.4T. Combine that with a near 250 LB weight reduction and that translates to well under 8 second 0-60 times with the automatic or over a second quicker than before and more efficient in the process. Pretty impressive.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I had almost the same exact car as the one pictured as a loaner recently from the west Austin Autonation. It was black as well and was covered in about 3 inches of dust. I wrote “STAY BACK, IT’S A LOANER” on the rear window in the dust and drove the shit out of it for a week while I waited for parts to arrive from down under for my SS.

    I realized that the temp tag was expired when I returned it. At the end of our week together, I was glad to be getting back into my car but I had gotten used to that little pea shooter. Not necessarily enough to own one, but it was serviceable for a week.

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    I had this exact same car on rental (black, 5K miles on the clock, National rental in O’Hare ahoy!) two weeks ago on a company trip. I picked it up specifically because the other options in the row didn’t have USB ports (despite being Chrysler products, and I can’t remember the last Chrysler product I had that didn’t have one). It was a perfectly competent vehicle. The thing that grumbled me the most was the engine performance. It needed a lot more gas than I expected, even though it had adequate power. Jack’s feel of “light throttle off a stoplight” is what I felt.

    “Only that hideous GM aqua lighting, known to my readers as The Color That Looks Cheap, spoils the atmosphere.”

    This is why Pontiac existed, so you could get your gauges and dash lighting in Road Rage Red. Chrysler ditched the aqua green lighting ages ago, GM is the last holdout and it needs to go.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It’s a pity GM isn’t making a new Orlando (or at least, not in North America) to go with the new Cruze.

    I always liked the Orlando: same nice materials, same nice ride, a little slower, but also much roomier and easier to see out of.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    I’m a bit shocked at the noise increase comments. Every other review I’ve seen mentioned a big improvement (reduction) in NVH compared to the previous version, which was already better than most compacts.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The NVH reduction is part of the press release, but it was not reflected in my experience.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Never have so few words said so much about the current state of ‘professional’ car reviews. If brevity is the soul of wit, Jack wins here.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          “Never have so few words said so much about the current state of ‘professional’ car reviews. If brevity is the soul of wit, Jack wins here.”
          .
          Just so ~
          .
          What makes this review enjoyable is it’s straight up and doesn’t pull any punches .
          .
          I read it and thought ‘ Jack doesn’t like this car but it sounds like what older middle class blue collar types are looking for and it’s decent to drive too ‘ .
          .
          I imagine GM was hunting a specific target and hit it well here .
          .
          Those who by default don’t like Sedans Esp. four doors, GM simply didn’t care what they think when designing this one .
          .
          -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        dougjp

        Absolutely no question about your findings, which I believe vs. what others have said. I haven’t driven a new one yet because, why bother, the motor isn’t close to what I want to replace my Verano Turbo with.

        I was hoping they would put the 2.0 turbo in there and have a performance/near luxury compact/ reasonably priced option to replace the heavier turbo Verano, now that my car has been cancelled. Seemed like an obvious move for GM, but no.

        Alas the NVH-fail cancels that vapourware idea. Keep waiting for something else…

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Mic Drop.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    It has my interest only due to the diesel hatchback manual transmission version coming at some point, maybe even with an option RS package. Won’t know for sure until I drive one though.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    I never thought I’d consider a car with engine stop-start, but if driving one is even remotely as satisfying as bringing a middle-aged woman to climax, then sign me up.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    -deep sigh- Once again, GM makes a sedan that is not, repeat NOT, tops in its class. This thing won’t be crossed shopped against Civics, Corollas, or Focuses. Or perhaps some can count to four and will take the cash on the hood and buy one of these. GM really just needs to stop making four door sedans. Oh, the SS is a unicorn; written and spoke about greatly, rarely seen in the wild. Corvettes, Camaros, crew cab Silverados, and and plethora of SUVs? Yes, please! GM four door sedans? I’d rather step in things that need scraped off my shoe.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Honestly I think GM is doing it right here. No single car, no matter how good is going to undo in people’s minds the years of crap they produced in this segment. I applaud them as they have shied away from all of their typical “hey look, this model is the one that is as good as a Honda/Toyota”.

      They are simply building a good car and putting it out there and when it is time for a new model, they do the same. It will take several generations but this is how you fix the so called perception gap.

      Now if only such an approach could be applied at Cadillac.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Count me in as another who favors the look of the old Cruze compared to this refreshed update. The old LTZ trim level really added a lot to the looks of this car. With the incentives adding up on the new ones the used prices are going to be going down. Picking up a low mileage, clean 2 year old Cruze LTZ for really cheap would not be a bad deal.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I drove the old generation with the 1.8 and a manual and felt that the transmission gave my Forte a run for its money as far as worst transmission ever.

      That being said I generally liked the Forte’s looks better. I guess there’s something about decent angles that go well together. The Cruze had a front that I almost liked, aside from the random eyebrow extension, but the tail lights always reminded me of droopy backsides where the rounded portion on the bottom was the bit that could use a few squats.

      The new one does nothing for me. There’s a reason I got a new Mazda3 over the other options. I already had two current gen Focuses (13 SE and 14 ST) and the Civic is plug ugly. The only Toyota that I would be caught dead in, based entirely on looks, is the FRS, but their sales schmucks didn’t want to talk to me. My friend’s 11 Jetta scared me off from that brand though the looks are in my wheelhouse.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    I rode in a cruze, the seating position was super weird. Felt truck like and uncomfortable at the same time. Also, I hate blue interior lights, all interior lights should be red or orange for night driving. Blue lights are a huge faux pas and GM should fire whoever made that decision and hire someone who knows what they are doing.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’m surprised shaving 250 pounds made that much of a difference in performance. That’s the equivalent of carrying couple adolescent kids, which generally doesn’t cause a car’s mpg to crater. Seems like GM could put some of that insulation back without hamstringing the car.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      There may be some relation between engine and load. There could be critical point where engine needs more gas to move more load. May be, with 250lb more, engine crossed a point where it needed considerably more fuel

  • avatar
    epc

    See that big clear piece of plastic lens in the outboard taillamps? One would have thought that was the blinker. You’d be wrong. There’s no bulb underneath the lens. The red taillamp / brake lamp doubles as the blinker. Yeah, after all the effort that went into styling to make the car looks upscale, GM then decided to save 2 bulbs / bulb holders / wires by eliminating the amber blinker. By saving pennies, GM has managed to make the rear end of the car look cheap.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    The old Cruze might have exceeded four cylinder Camrys and Accords for fondness of the pumps, but it also had better NVH. This review is disappointing news; it sounds like they ruined the car. The quiet ride was one thing it did better than anyone else in the class, and most of the the class above as well. Now it’s another unremarkable compact.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Jack, not much smarm. I am disappoint.

  • avatar
    Ben

    You can run Android auto on any car that has Bluetooth via your phone, provided you have a newer Android phone.

    Download the Android Auto app from the play store, and then within the app set it to automatically launch when it connects to your car’s Bluetooth. This way I now get into my non-Android Auto equipped car and run Android Auto on my phone’s screen which makes for an easy experience whilst driving.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Most ridiculous of all: the “Premier” badge, which sits crooked, generic, and alone on the right side of the decklid. It looks like nothing so much as an aftermarket badge for one of the $699 dealer upcharge trim packages that sub-par dealers aim at sub-prime customers. (Camry “American Edition”, anyone?)

    Yes yes yes a thousand times yes. What the heck was wrong with LTZ anyway? Your cars and trucks have actual names, what’s wrong with having the trim package be alphabet soup?

    Just because Hyundai wants to slap “Limited” on every top trim model. You aren’t doing yourselves any favors Chevy – the badge quite literally looks like it is from a different vehicle.

  • avatar
    islander800

    “It’s absolutely good enough in pretty much every sense of the word.”

    Really? This is how GM plans to conquer a market niche with the Cruze?

  • avatar
    mechaman

    There must be a goodly amount on the hood on the Cruze, because I see them all over Chicago metro streets – it’s like passing a dealership lot some days. I’m meh on the styling, it looks trimmer in this edition, but almost everyone is chasing the insectoid look these days. Beats a Corolla in looks anyway ..

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I had a ’17 Cruze LT as a loaner while my ’16 Cruze was in the shop overnight for a suspension noise. I drive my Cruze little, so the loaner and it were very close on miles (3500 for loaner and 4900 for my car). Both cars were LT trim, but not sure if the ’17 was a 1LT or 2LT.

    My observations:

    – The new car feels much roomier. I haven’t checked to see if dimensions have changed, but the feeling of roominess is improved. The new car has less of the “bunker” feel, rather Honda-esque actually.

    – Interior has improved in look and touch mostly. The odd fabric on the passenger side IP remains and has grown on me in the ’16 and is still there on the ’17.

    -Seat comfort is better, but a Volvo this isn’t.

    – Jack mentioned that he feels NVH has gotten worse in the new car. I feel it’s actually a little better. Perhaps not better, but of a different quality?

    The 1.4T now has DI and 13 more horses. It smoothed out what I feel was a rather unrefined engine and the extra oomph is appreciated, if not impressive. The 1.4T in my ’16 is rather raspy and coarse, like a less refined VW 2.5 5 cylinder. Good thing the torque peaks at 1900 rpm or something because this motor above 4000 rpm is not enjoyable.

    The new car still isn’t a joy to run hard, but much of the rasp and harshness has been removed. Still, a Honda or Mazda four this isn’t.

    -I do feel the new car has more road noise than my ’16. Or maybe the refining of the 1.4 has made the road noise more prevalent. The ’16 is pretty quiet, decent highway car if the seats were better.

    -Handling feels more confident, steering feel is improved. Still not fun, but more precise.

    My ’16 has front disc/rear drum brakes. The new car has four wheel discs, at least on the LT I drove. I’ve never liked the response of the brakes in my ’16. Well, when I first stopped the ’17, I nearly put my face into the steering wheel! The brakes are very touchy, but not that much stronger it seems. Somewhere, GM, is a happy medium.

    So, the evolution of the Cruze continues. My car has been fairly trouble-free, but I’ve only put 5k on it in a year. It does have a suspension noise that they have to sort out and now it has a buzz in the dash it didn’t have before. But the ’17 had a buzz too!

    Someone on TTAC has maybe said it, possibly referring to the new Malibu instead. GM has built a competent small car in the Cruze and no one cares because it’s not a cross-over.

    I probably wouldn’t get the Cruze again, but I don’t hate it. I’d still would have rather had the Sonic, but the lease deal wasn’t available on the Sonic.

  • avatar

    If I want a real Korean car I will just go to my local Hyundai dealer. Nothing beats the real thing.


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