NewCarTestDrive

2018 Chevrolet Cruze

Chevrolet Cruze is an affordable high-mileage compact car. It’s easy-going, quiet, comfortable and composed. You’ll find more choices in a Chevrolet showroom than any competitor’s: Cruze comes as a sedan or hatchback, with automatic or manual, gas or diesel.

Both the 2018 Cruz hatch and the sedan are now available with the 1.6-liter turbodiesel engine.

The hatch was new for 2017, after a redesign of the Cruze for 2016. Also new for 2018 is one color, Satin Steel Grey Metallic.

Standard engine in the front-wheel-drive Cruze is a 1.4-liter turbocharged four making 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, which comes with a six-speed automatic or manual. It’s EPA-rated at 29/40/33 miles per gallon City/Highway/Combined with the automatic.

The optional 1.6-liter turbodiesel makes less horsepower (137 hp) but way more torque, at 240 lb-ft. It comes with a more sophisticated transmission, as well: a nine-speed automatic.

The turbodiesel mileage competes with the Toyota Prius. The Cruze sedan automatic is rated at 31/47/37, while the manual scores 30/52/37 mpg; that 52 highway could only be explained by a very tall sixth gear in the transmission. That gives the Cruze diesel sedan with the 6-speed manual a 712-mile potential range.

Cruze RS is a sporty appearance package, with special front and rear fascia, spoiler, and 18-inch wheels but no suspension or power changes.

The Cruze earns but four stars from the NHTSA in crash testing, while advanced safety features such as automatic emergency braking aren’t available. But many safety features are available, such as blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, forward collision alert, and automatic headlights. Furthermore, Cruz earned the top Good scores from the insurance industry the two crash tests it performed: side impact and moderate front overlap, which is the difficult test that many cars can’t score a Good on. And the Cruze comes standard with 10 airbags and a rearview camera.

The Cruze is made in Lordstown, Ohio. There was a flap in 2016 when candidate Trump made a misleading statement about Cruzes being built in Mexico. The North American Cruze is made in Lordstown, Ohio.

Model Lineup

The Chevy Cruze is available in L, LS, LT, and Premier models.

Cruze L sedan ($16,975) is the base model with manual transmission, cloth upholstery, and 15-inch steel wheels with plastic hubcaps, 7.0-inch touchscreen with infotainment including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 60/40 split folding rear seat, and don’t forget the 10 airbags and rearview camera. Cruze LS ($18,525) adds air conditioning and offers an automatic transmission.

Cruze LT sedan ($20,845) and Cruze LT Hatch ($21,240) add a six-speaker sound system with available satellite radio, steering wheel controls, 16-inch wheels, foglamps, and a space-saver spare tire rather than a tire repair kit.

Cruze Premier sedan ($23,475) and Hatch ($23,945) are loaded with leather, heated steering wheel and rear seats, upgraded rear suspension, and 17-inch wheels.

Packages upgrade infotainment and sound, as well as safety features.

Exterior

Hatch and sedan versions of the Cruze have the same wheelbase, but the Hatch is eight inches shorter overall, all of the loss coming behind the rear doors. The roof curves back to a spoiler over the back glass in the fifth-door hatch that’s a bit small, but opens to a roomy cargo area.

The Cruze sedan is toned and crisp, longer and wider than most compacts, with a wedge shape that leads to a short rear deck. It has the same grille as the Chevy Volt, Malibu, and Impala.

Interior

The cabin is modern without being too digital. It’s similar to the high-tech Volt, with relatively simple instrumentation in a pod, outlined in chrome, and intuitive controls. The layout is clean and sharp. In the center of the dash there’s a standard 7.0-inch or 8.0-inch touchscreen. The higher models feature two-tone trim. The front seats are comfortable, with better bolstering in the leather seats than in the fabric upholstery.

For a compact car, the Cruze sedan is very spacious, its stats matching many midsize cars. It holds four adults as advertised, with more leg and hip room in the rear seat than rivals, namely the Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra.

The trunk is a large 13.7 cubic feet.

The Hatch has 23.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat, not as much as the Honda Civic or Ford Focus hatchbacks. Even though it’s a compact, the Cruze hatch is slightly smaller than the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic hatchback. It’s all in vertical room, a penalty of the Cruze’s curvy roofing. However, with the rear seat folded, the Hatch holds a competitive 47 cubic feet of cargo.

Driving Impressions

According to Chevrolet, the Cruze sedan can accelerate from zero to sixty in less than eight seconds, which is adequate. The engine is fairly smooth, but there is a hesitation in the acceleration when you floor it, probably from the automatic transmission. If you had the manual transmission you’d have to shift down; but the shift action will be smooth and the clutch light and easy. We actually got seat time in a bare-bones L model, and it makes good efficient transportation.

Having lost 250 pounds in that redesign two years ago, the Cruze is now responsive, nimble, and fun to drive. The chassis is planted. The rack-mounted electric power steering isn’t too light at low speeds, and nicely weighted at high speed. It’s no sport sedan, but the Cruze handles better and with more confidence than some of its Japanese and Korean rivals. And a Cruze with the RS or Redline package, with a more sophisticated rear suspension having a Z-link design, brings poise to the cornering.

Still, there’s no denying that Mazda and Hyundai offer more sport than the Cruze.

The Cruze is quiet and comfortable on the highway, with excellent stability. The comfortable ride is one of the best in a compact car, even with the big 18-inch wheels; we’d go so far to say it rides like a little luxury car.

The standard rear suspension is torsion beam, but the Premier gets an improved setup for crisper cornering. The Cruze also comes with four-wheel disc brakes, using long-wearing Duralife rotors.

The 1.6-liter turbodiesel engine is a gem, for the most part. It was added last year for the sedan, and in 2018 becomes available with the hatchback; it comes with either the nine-speed automatic or six-speed manual. It fills a void left by Volkswagen who ran from the market after their diesel emissions fiasco. With only 137 horsepower it’s no cheetah, but that 240 pound-feet of torque compensates by making it a jackrabbit. The engine is nearly silent and the broad torque band endows it with easy acceleration. And the 9-speed automatic shifts with little hesitation.

Shorter overall by eight inches, the hatch fits into small parking spaces easier than does the sedan.

We’ve tested a number of different version of the Cruze, and the one we like is the most expensive: Premier Hatchback with the RS package. It handles the best, while being smooth and compliant.

Final Word

Chevy Cruze is a solid contender in the crowded compact class, especially the Hatch, which has a stylish shape and looks hot with the RS package. The 1.4-liter turbo could use more power. The interior holds four adults comfortably, while the Hatch with its rear seat folded offers good cargo space. Cruze LS is a good value.

Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.