By on March 28, 2010

After several years of hype, Chevrolet is releasing images pictures of its US-market Cruze compact in advance of the New York International Auto Show. The Cruze has been on sale around the world for nearly a year now, though the US launch delay has actually been a blessing in disguise, thanks to early transmission problems and a recall for fuel supply pipes. Now that Chevy’s next small thing has had its teething pains, the Daewoo-developed compact is being shown in a dizzying array of trims and packages for the US market. Chevy hopes that the Eco trim level will bring some much-needed enviro-cred to the brand, by offering a 40 MPG (freeway) version powered by a turbocharged 1.4 liter engine. To match that long-established mileage goal, Chevy had to make a number of modifications to the Cruze, including

  • A lower front grille air shutter that closes at higher speeds to improve aerodynamics and opens at lower speeds to optimize engine-cooling airflow
  • The upper grille has more “closeouts” to improve aerodynamics
  • A lower front air dam extension, extensive use of underbody panels and a rear spoiler enhance aerodynamics
  • A lowered ride height improves aerodynamics
  • Unique 17-inch lightweight aluminum wheels
  • Ultra-low rolling resistance 17-inch Goodyear tires.

Not available until the fourth quarter of this year, the Cruze Eco will accelerate to 60 MPH in about ten seconds with a manual transmission and about 9 seconds with the automatic option. No word on the cost of the package.

Non-Eco-model Cruzes will be trimmed as LS, LT and LTZ models, which start with a base 1.8 liter NA engine (136 hp, 123 lb-ft), which Martin Schwoerer’s German-spec Cruze review calls “an old-school engine that has somehow found its way into a new car, and it ruins the experience.” LT and LTZ models join the Eco in being powered by the 1.4 Turbo engine, which offers a mere 2 hp upgrade from the 1.8, but includes a much-improved torque rating (138 hp, 148 lb.-ft).

There have been rumors of an SS-trimmed Cruze (possibly in coupe form), but as GM’s Mark Reuss has put it, The General is “not trying to peanut-butter SS for everything.” That’s what the RS package is for. The appearance package will be available on LT and LTZ models, and is described in GM’s presser thusly:

Complementing Cruze’s sporty proportions is an optional RS appearance package for the LT and LTZ trim levels, which bolsters the car’s styling with unique fascias, rocker moldings, rear spoiler and fog lamps. An uplevel instrument cluster is also part of the package and includes chrome accent rings in place of the standard silver finish, as well as opaque cluster bezels that allow the cluster’s ice blue backlighting to shine through – providing a sporty nighttime appearance.

“For customers who want even more personality and presence in their vehicle, the RS appearance package builds on the already bold face and coupe-like proportions of the Cruze,” said Michael Simcoe, executive director, North American Exterior Design.

Which means you’ll have to wait for the SS version to get that famous red-stitched interior… or an engine that makes over 140 hp.

Will the Cruze reverse GM’s perennial compact-segment curse? It certainly looks to be a far better car than the Cobalt it replaces, and a 40 MPG Eco version could become GM’s first legitimately competitive green car (depending on its final price point). The open questions? Will the public appreciate the Cruze’s styling more than GM’s developers do? Will the base 1.8 engine perpetuate the impression that GM cheaps out on small cars (even when the better 1.4 has been federally subsidized)? Will Ed Whitacre’s volume obsession make a fleet queen out of the Cruze? Are those global launch-hurting defects all worked out? Will consumers willingly let go of their memories of Cobalts, Cavaliers and Vegas and look to Chevy for small cars? Anything’s possible, and if Chevrolet is going to pull itself out of its bankruptcy hole, it had better hope that it gets the answers to these questions right.

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50 Comments on “The Many Faces Of The Chevy Cruze...”

  • avatar

    Bland and boring styling. I see Chrysler Sebring in the greenhouse.

    The new Focus just rendered this car an also ran that will have massive cash taped to the hood to move it.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    At last a fitting heir to the Cavalier throne.

  • avatar

    Bland and boring it is but it does have a quality look to it. Hope it follows through.

    • 0 avatar

      I t has a seriously quality look about it. I saw one at the Chicago auto show, and it definitely looks a class up from where it sits in the marketplace.

      I think it’s a couple small notches above bland and boring – the slightly hollowed fender sections up front, and the nicely executed Bangle-butt out back loft it well beyond Corolla or the Koreans (though reportedly the next Elantra (urp) is kinda dynamic looking. Ewww . . . .)

  • avatar

    # A lower front grille air shutter that closes at higher speeds to improve aerodynamics and opens at lower speeds to optimize engine-cooling airflow
    # The upper grille has more “closeouts” to improve aerodynamics

    It seems to me you would want more airflow to the engine, not less, especially the faster you go. It seems like most folks would be better off purchasing a Honda Fit.

    • 0 avatar

      @newcars:You do realize that most modern cars (at least the last 25 years or so) get most of the cooling air from underneath the front bumper, yes? The upper grille(s) just create drag after a certain speed.

      @rmwill: Until either one of the cars is on sale, no one has ANY idea how well they will sell. Ideally, I’d like to see both cars sell well. Can you imagine how much less fuel we would all use?

    • 0 avatar

      Less airflow is a good thing, for the most part. This feature is starting to become more common (I believe the EU-market Civic closes it’s grille at high speeds, too).

      Most cars are designed with excess cooling capacity – most grille openings are meant for driving at GVWR in stop-and-go conditions in the desert in July. Expressway driving is not demanding — at sensible speeds, engine RPMs aren’t especially high, and the constant output doesn’t generate as much heat as stop-and-go (where there is less available airflow, as well). The volume of air flowing over a car’s grille at 70mph is huge.

  • avatar

    The statements clearly say that airflow will be reduced at higher speeds. Also, if there is not enough air flowing over the radiator, it does not matter how much cooling capacity a car has. I have had cars in which the radiator fan does not work and the car overheats when sitting at idle. When I speed up, the coolant temp drops immediately, regardless of the fan not functioning. If airflow had been restricted, the car I was driving would have continued to overheat.

  • avatar

    The RS looks very nice. I wonder what the price of a decently optioned model will be. The big turn off for me is “Daewoo developed”. Maybe they have improved but I still think pile of crap when I hear that name.

    Dude…your getting a Daewoo!

  • avatar
    George B

    I think the Cruze looks ok in a market segment where being not horribly ugly is good enough. Does it look worse than the Corolla, Civic, or Focus?

    Last time around GM tried to get away with the 1.8 liter engine in the Saturn Astra with very bad results even compared to the Chevy Cobalt with the 2.2 liter engine. 2.2 liters of old school engine beats 1.8 liters of old school engine.

    I wonder what GM could do if they allocated the Lordstown labor cost penalty to higher quality parts instead. GM’s half-hearted efforts in small cars remind me of this Cleveland Tourism video. To be fair to NE Ohio, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the surrounding countryside is a nice area to visit.

    • 0 avatar

      More speculation about a car that has not been released. Lordstown is one of GM’s more efficient production plants, and with the changeover for the Cruze, will become it’s newest flexible production facility. Most of the stereotypes about Lordstown should be left in the 1970’s where they belong.

      FWIW, the domestic Cruze is using the same running gear as ones sold in other parts of the world. We’ll have to judge the car when it’s released.

      And, to be fair to NE Ohio, you should mention that the YouTube clip in your link is a parody of many overly-caffeinated city, state or regional Chamber of Commerce videos that have been produced over the years. And not only is the Cuyahoga National Park nice the Metroparks that surround the city are equally pleasant. But we’re not here to discuss nature parks.

      Let’s see what the car is like when it gets here.

  • avatar

    I think it’s a good looking car, but a bit boring looking. It needs to stand out from cars like the Corolla a little more than that, though. It definately seems to be a higher quality vehicle than the outgoing Cobalt, but that doesn’t take much effort. Only thing is, WILL the Eco model actually get 40 mpg? GM rates the new Equinox at 32 mpg, but from what i’ve read, no one can seem to get that in the real world. Hope the Cruze isn’t the same.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be the same as the Equinox. Most people haven’t the slightest idea how to calculate their gas mileage in the first place and GM was just following test protocol when they got the 40mpg rating in the Cruze. They get to trumpet a 5mpg improvement over the Corolla and Civic and swipe some sales. There is no negative to sandbagging the EPA numbers…. because if you bitch on a forum, there will be some hypermiler w/ ideal driving conditions that does get the rating that will convince you that the driver is the reason you can’t hit the EPA numbers.

      And really, the Cruze should be able to do 40mpg in a strictly highway setting. In my highway driving, my GTI can see 40mpg quite frequently*. I don’t see why this Cobalt (Cruze, rather) w/ tall gearing and an asthmatic engine couldn’t do the same.

      Honestly, all these small sedans will get 40mpg in highway driving. Not like it matters, though. The difference between 37mpg and 40mpg is negligible when it comes to how it affects your wallet. Buy the better car and ignore the EPA rating.

      * My daily driving is IDEAL highway driving. 55mph, 1 stop sign, just enough mileage to get the engine warmed up.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it easily stands out from the Corolla. It’s a much better looking car than the Cobalt, which suffered from too much leftover Cavalier genes.

      As for the Eco’s aerodynamic tweaks… is it too hard to apply these across the board? I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to make *every* variation of the Cruze as efficient as possible.

  • avatar

    Turbo 4 with a 6 spd manual. It works for me.

  • avatar

    Let’s see now—First there was the Corvair, followed by the Vega (Remember the slogan: A New Star is Born?), then there was the Chevette, next up was the Cavalier, followed by the Cobalt—and let’s not forget the Saturn SL1, SL2 etc.—and lastly—the Cruze!
    So—after a 40-year period of hatching poorly-designed/executed small cars, will GM finally ‘get it right?’.

    • 0 avatar

      Whaddya say we actually wait until the car hits the showroom floor, and some of us get to drive it? Oh yeah, this is TTAC. “Damned until you absolutely prove otherwise.”

    • 0 avatar

      Syke, “damned until you absolutely prove otherwise” is rather prudent policy when it comes to all matters Government Motors.

      How many times did the former GM overpromise, and then shockingly under-deliver? Yeah, maybe the Cruze (meaning Daewoo) will prove the exception to that… but American consumers have every right to be skeptical, particularly as we are all unwitting owners of the company.

      At this point, I’d ask for independent confirmation if Whitless proclaimed the sky is blue.

  • avatar

    The new Focus will blow it off the road in terms of design.

  • avatar

    My late unlamented Cobalt LS with the 150 hp 2.2 and a 5 speed manual would get 35 mpg (the actual EPA highway rating, IIRC) with a/c at a steady 70 mph on a flat level highway with no traffic, and 43 mpg at a steady 60 mph. I don’t see how the Cruze’s 40 mpg highway numbers are any great improvement, especially with a motor that’s one third smaller and more efficient because of the turbocharger.

  • avatar

    I hate the introduction of these Ultra-Low rolling resistance tires on these “green” cars. You loose so much grip. They are hard, and forget about any traction in snow. If the only goal of these tires is “low rolling resistance” why not go with bicycle tires. In a quest for better cafe numbers, engineers are forgetting that we still need our tires to have traction.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s not keen on the ULR Tires. I’m going to have to watch out when one of these is around me in the rain.

    • 0 avatar

      Tire can make a big real-world difference though – I happened to make the very same 350 mile round trip trip a few days before and a few days after changing from my winter tires (Yokohama to summer tires (OEM Pirelli P6 – low but not ultra-low rolling resistance). Identical weather and traffic conditions. I got better than 2mpg better with the Pirellis, 31 vs. 29mpg. Which is around the average drop I have seen all winter. ’08 Saab 9-3 SportCombi, 6spd stick.

      My only complaint with the Pirellis is that they are loud on course pavement. The grip is perfectly fine. I refuse to use all-season tires in the winter on general principals, so the snow performance is irrelevant.

      As for the Cruse, seems like a decent effort. But as usual, no hatch or wagon version for the US. Small sedans are so utterly useless. For me, anything smaller than an S-class needs to have FIVE doors.

    • 0 avatar

      No hatch version? Cross this one off my list…

  • avatar

    I really hope they come with another engine choice for this car. After having spent a month driving the Holden Cruze in Australia, I can honestly say the 1.8L engine option is that bad. Paired with a 6 speed auto, it always felt like it was struggling. Around town, it wasn’t too bad, but any sort of freeway driving with even the slightest incline resulted in a lot of noise and very little acceleration. The Hyundai i30 that I had prior, with similar horsepower, but more torque, seemed to handle freeway driving much better. In Australia, they offer a 2.0L turbo-diesel for their “Eco” option and it seems to be a pretty good engine. Most people seem to be averaging around 45mpg, and acceleration is better than either the 1.8L or 1.4L turbo petrol engines.

    As far as looks and build quality, it’s much better than any other previous GM offerings in this price segment. My car had a silver exterior and black interior. I always got a lot of compliments on how the car looked. The inside was put together well – however, I was surprised at a couple of things. There was no dead-pedal footrest, and the rear-view mirror vibrated terribly at idle or low speeds. Otherwise, it’s a huge step up from the Cobalt’s interior.

  • avatar


    Speculation is a good thing. Really, we don’t need to speculate on the Cruze that much. The history at GM says a lot on its own.

    • 0 avatar

      Especially since that history STILL includes remnants of the old management regime…

    • 0 avatar

      @newcars: Using your logic, I’d like to know what’s your opinion of Hyundai? Based on their history, there would be a lot of dreck headed our way, correct?

    • 0 avatar

      No. First off, Hyundai has improved a lot. If you were to give someone the choice of a Hyundai Elantra or Chevy Aveo, I would bet that most people here, especially those that have experienced the Aveo first hand, would choose the Elantra. In addition, It’s no secret how bad GM small cars have been over the past 4o years as compared to the competition. This is why the Imports (Honda/Toyota/Nissan) did so well when they first came out, and continue to do well. Compare a Honda Fit with a Chevy Cobalt. I have no faith in GM, because their history is self explanatory. GM always says: Soon we will have a small car that will be as nice as (insert car here) and yet, its the same old thing, over and over. Eventually, people like me stop listening to the bullshit and move on. Finally, when their are so many choices to be had, what sets the Cruze apart from the competition? Give me a good, solid reason why I should choose to cruise with the Cruze.

    • 0 avatar


      my other post is awaiting moderation, so this one will probably show up first. Since I rant, here is my point that will hopefully make more sense: GM has a history of small car failures, I expect the more of the same. Hyundai has a history of improvement, I expect more of the same. That is the condensed version! In case my other post disappears, I have not heard a good reason as to why I might consider a lesser quality GM vehicle when there are so many alternatives.

    • 0 avatar

      @newcars: You appear to have an axe to grind against GM. If it’s from purchasing a product that has gone bad, I can totally understand your feelings, as I have been in the same boat. I personally could not give you a good reason to buy a GM car over any other car, but it’s not due to the lackluster history of the previous cars. I can’t change the way you think. Although, to be fair, I couldn’t give you a good reason to buy ANY car over any other car. If you or I were of a mind to argue, any suggestion could be argued into irrelevance.

      Additionally, I’m not here shilling for them, either. It seems ludicrous to assume that this product will be bad, bland or unreliable due to the badge on the grille. Until you see the actual product, how would anyone know?

      Hyundai has a history of improvement, most notably in the last several years, but statistically, all cars now do too. That’s my reason for introducing them into the conversation. But most folks seem to ignore that fact, as if no domestic manufacturer could ever get better.

    • 0 avatar

      No axe to grind, I actually only owned one GM product, an old Suburban that never gave me an issue. I know domestic manufacturers, such as GM can improve. However, when it comes to GM small cars, they have had more than 30 years to create a vehicle that is comparable to say, a Honda. Based on their history, I think, but cannot prove, that the Cruze will be more of the same. I hope I am wrong! Finally, you said that you can’t give me any reason to buy one car over another, and we could argue into irrelevance. However, many people switched to Toyota/Honda from GM (for example) because these two manufacturers produced better vehicles, on a variety of levels. Today, a Honda Fit is better in every way against say, a Chevy Aveo or Cobalt. Again, since this is the case, why would I wait to purchase a Chevy Cruze that ‘might’ be on par with the imports when I can buy, as my usual example, a Honda Fit that is better than any GM small car now?

  • avatar

    And herein lies the problem with talking about a car for too long before it was released. Initially Chevrolet promised that the 1.4 liter turbo motor would get 40 MPG. Now that we’re getting closer to the release date and the truth comes out; you have to buy a special tweaked version to get the number? I defend GM here as much as possible but this is just plain disappointing.

  • avatar

    “Not available until the fourth quarter of this year, the Cruze Eco will accelerate to 60 MPH in about ten seconds with a manual transmission and about 9 seconds with the automatic option.”

    Should those numbers be reversed? I think that’s the first slowish car I’ve heard about that is faster with the auto than the manual!

  • avatar

    i suppose auto has quicker gear changes if calibrated correctly

    still… 3,000lbs… 200hp, 150lb/ft… dunno

    sounds ok if it’s manual but it’s still no fireball

  • avatar

    GM’s technology and efficiency has surpassed Toyota and Honda since when?

    I will stick to a Civic, if I were to buy a car in this segment.

  • avatar

    i would probably agree that GM are more daring that Toyota/Honda in as far as innovating engine technology?

    do the Japanese have a lot of turbo/twin charged/direct injection technology IN THIS PRICE SEGMENT?

  • avatar

    I remember genuine excitement back when the Cobalt was imminent — and the trade mags gushing over it. Finally, a truly class-competitive leap over the Cavalier.

    And then it went on sale… more of the same.

    I predict much the same malaise for the Cruze — oh, Gov’t Motors will probably sell enough of them, but no one will be enthused by their purchasing decision.

  • avatar
    Beta Blocker

    ern35: “…. So—after a 40-year period of hatching poorly-designed/executed small cars, will GM finally ‘get it right?’.”

    Isn’t GM still in business after these 40 years? So they must have done something right — somewhere, somehow, eh?

  • avatar

    I think it looks good, and a heckuva lot better than the current Corolla. I hope Chevy sells a couple million of them.

  • avatar

    The Cruze is a much bigger threat to the Volt than to products from Ford, Chrysler, or the imports.

    Sitting side-by-side in the showroom, who’s going to choose the Volt over a Cruze? This will be a case study in product line cannibalism.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t imagine anyone would cross shop the Volt vs. the Cruze. Although similar in size and using same basic architecture, the cars are entirely different in equipment, mission and pricing. Especially pricing.

      How many people do you think cross shop the Camry hybrid vs. the Prius? Or maybe Corolla vs. Prius? Although that’s not a really good comparison, but the cars are somewhat closer in external dimensions.

      I see far more of the Priuses than I ever have the Camry hybrids. I think the Volt will be a ‘statement’ car, like the Prius. I don’t think the Volt and the Cruze will compete with one another.

  • avatar

    Hooray, more rental cars!

    Impala, Rent-abu, Cobalt, Aveo and now Cruze. Whoopie.

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