There was a day not long ago that the only REAL players in the compact sedan segment were Honda, Toyota and Mazda. Not any more.
Now when I say Chevrolet you may have visions of Vega, Citation or maybe even Cobalt. Forget all that. The Chevy Cruze brings a whole new game to the compact scene in the form of a very competitive sedan that I would put up against any of the aforementioned competitors and win.
There is only so much you can do with a 4-door box and Chevy has molded it into an attractive package that could easily be called Malibu’s little brother. Now, I use the word “little” loosely because today’s compact is anything but little, especially on the inside, and this is where the Cruze really shines.
The first thing that pops out is the cleaver way the interior design team negated the expanse of the hard plastic dash with a swatch of attractive cloth material that integrates part of the upper door panels into the dash, covering the area directly in front of the passenger. Not only is it sharp looking, but adds a bit of refinement in this segment.
I’m a big proponent of cloth seats. Why not leather? Too hot. Why no sunroof? Too hot. Chevy does a great job with its cloth seats, leaving out the flowery prints, instead, putting the interest in fabric design. Nice touch.
Sedan buyers always open the trunk lid and we did too since this is where luggage and Christmas presents will soon reside. Surprisingly, there is 15.5 cubic feet of space here, which is as much as some crossovers behind the third row seat
The instrument cluster in our Eco includes a changeable display between the speedometer and tach that reports every variable in fuel consumption. I found myself using the button to change the display as much as I did the radio. Funny how these fuel conscious cars have that affect on you.
At the top of the center stack is a 7-inch display screen that includes the optional navigation system with MyLink. Easy to use and understand. Volkswagen, take note.
Under the hood of our Cruze Eco is a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that delivers 138 horsepower, the same as the standard 1.8-liter, but with more torque and better fuel economy, 26 MPG-city and 39-highway when coupled to the six-speed automatic transmission. I actually got 42 on a trip to Dallas and back.
Another nice surprise offered by the Cruze is its ride and handling. I was expecting the typical rent-car mush, but found myself wanting to take corners faster than you’d normally manhandle an American compact.
Now the best part, pricing. There are currently 5 trim levels available. The base LS model starts at $17,130. Our Eco tester begins at $20,875. Options, including the bargain basement-priced navigation at $795, bumped the sticker to $24,470.
While shopping, you’ll also want to check out the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Mazda 3.
I really liked the Chevy Cruze Eco and am giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars