This Is A Rental Chevrolet Cruze With 55,000 Miles On The Clock

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
this is a rental chevrolet cruze with 55 000 miles on the clock

Across the vast and majestic gulf of time and space, the jimmies rustled softly when I had the nerve to review a rented FIAT 500L with four thousand miles under its affordable alloy wheels.

“OMG,” I was told, “after that monstrous amount of vicious rental abuse, which probably included everything from ‘sparking’ to ‘mudding’, there is no way any car would be anything but a floor-pissing mess.”

Imagine my terror, therefore, when I arrived at Louisville’s airport three days ago and saw this:

With nearly fourteen times the mileage of that poor abused FIAT, surely this Cruze would be a complete fright show, right?

A few years ago, I attended the Cruze preview and wrote this:

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is a good car, although at least part of its goodness comes from the fact that it isn’t really that small. It’s well-positioned against the Civic and Corolla. I believe that it beats both of those cars in significant, measurable ways. This is what it is: a good car, a bold car, a car for which no purchaser need make an excuse or feel any concern. This is what it might be: great. That’s for the buyer to decide. This is what it is not: American.

How right was I? Only the most dedicated of GM PR people and Source Interlink publications continue to maintain the facade that the Cruze is anything other than a warmed-over Daewoo. Nor it is a small car: it weighs within seventy pounds of a Honda Accord and feels more solid than its fellow Ohio-assembled sedan on the roll. The question that I had at the time was how well the materials and assembly would hold up.

So here’s a gallery of detail photos I took. Remember, this car has fifty-five thousand miles of uncaring rental abuse on it:

What do you see? I’ll you you what I see: materials that last. From the cloth on the airbag cover to the touch points where the steering-wheel leather wraps around the spoke, this car is just flat holding up. The seats have no cracks: I can’t say that about the pampered 46,000-mile examples on my Porsche Boxster Anniversary Edition, which has been Lexoled and garaged its entire life. The cloth, vinyl, and leather are staying colorfast. The shiny plastic hasn’t faded, cracked, or indulged itself in that weird sparkly delamination that a lot of modern aluminum-alike plastic seems to get after a few years.

How did it drive? Well, my initial judgment might have been clouded by the fact that I was getting out of a 1981 Impala, but the next day I drove the newest and most premium-aspirational midsizer on the market and when I returned to the Cruze my opinion hadn’t changed. It drives like a new car. I’m pretty sure the tires were replaced at some point, since the tread was deep and even across the surface of all four, but there weren’t any wrench marks on the suspension under the vehicle so I’m guessing it’s never even been properly aligned.

Smooth, silent, and heavy, just like you always get with a Cruze. Half a lifetime’s worth of hard riding hadn’t changed its fundamental qualities. I never heard a rattle and I never heard a squeak. As always, the gutless normally-aspirated four had to reach for fifth and fourth on even moderate hills in Kentucky and there was a concomitant thrashing from deep beneath the Daewoo-sculpted bonnet, but the transmission was sure and strong in the shifts, never slipping or lurching or betraying any signs of abuse.

As I drove the big little Chevy from Lousiville to Montgomery, AL and back, the usual virtues and faults declared themselves. The audio and Bluetooth system in the 2012 LT model left a lot to be desired. The seats aren’t really that comfortable, even if they are hard-wearing. And a few traffic incidents that called for heavy braking reminded me that I’ve never liked the way this car stops. But it remains a competent highway companion. The difference in noise and fatigue between the Cruze and a Civic, Focus, or Elantra is significant. No wonder the Buick people thought this would make a great Buick; it’s a great Buick even when it wears a Chevrolet emblem.

At the end of the trip, I checked the self-reported economy:

That’s just a bit better than what I’d expect from my V-6 Accord on a route like this, but the hills really hurt this car on economy because it’s underpowered. What the Cruze needs is sort of a P-51 Mustang thing. That plane needed the Merlin engine to shine; this sedan would truly shine with the Honda 2.4 under the hood. Economy, performance, and enjoyment would all soar.

I have to admit it: when I saw what I’d drawn from the rental fleet, I was excited because I’ve been waiting to see how the Cruze would do with some mileage on it. Would it fall apart, J-car style, or would it retain its construction and quality? It’s reassuring to see that the latter is the case.

At that launch event nearly four years ago, I heard Scott Burgess “interviewing” a few of the GM engineers. “Why don’t you guys take more credit for what you do on these cars?” he asked. At the time, I chuckled loud and long because anybody could see the the contributions of the American team were pretty much limited to the bumpers and the placement of bowtie emblems. But after a few years, I’m inclined to wind that cynicism back a bit. The American team did have responsibility for supplier selection and assembly design here in Ohio. The design may have come from their Korean small-car overlords, but at some point in the process somebody had to look at everything from the piston rings to the shift lever and give it the imperial thumbs up or down.

When they had to, our guys delivered. Years and miles after that delivery and its own delivery, some of them no doubt beneath the whip of the callous or deliberately hateful, the Cruze keeps on keeping on. Would I recommend one as a used car now? Absolutely. Get the ignition fixed; the rest of it’s ready for prime time.

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  • Turvo Turvo on Jul 04, 2014

    We just got back from New England where we had a rental LT model, this one with 11k on the clock. I was actually quite impressed after having been saddled with GM rental garbage many a time. But the steering, oh the steering. It took awhile to get used to the lightness of it and the constant coarse corrections were maddening. The MYLINK gets a big ol' thumbs down as well although the sound quality was decent. The car was solid and seemed very well made though, not old GM like at all. Decent interior materials and fit and finish inside and out was a revelation. Oh and the AC kicked ass on Tuesday when it reached triple digits and what seemed like 90% humidity. ( In New Hampshire no less!) Would I own one though? Probably not, it was a bit underpowered and gutless and there was the steering. I prefer my wife's 2013 Optima across the board. Still there was not one time where I shook my head like I usually do with a GM rental and wonder what they were thinking, so there's that. Good job guys.

  • CecilSaxon CecilSaxon on Jul 06, 2014

    After reading all the comments here I am suddenly wondering how the car would hold up if it accidentally ran over a fox or something. Probably not as well as a Jeep Wrangler, but I assume it would do the job just fine.

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Jul 06, 2014

      Well, considering this fox drives a Jeep Wrangler, you might have a problem running over me.

  • Lou_BC "They are the worst kind of partisan - the kind that loves their team more than they want to know the truth."Ummm...yeah....Kinda like birtherism, 2020 election stolen, vast voter fraud, he can have top secret documents at Mar-lago, he's a savvy business man, and hundreds more.
  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.