Getting mentioned in the compact-car segment is no easy feat, but the Chevrolet Cruze is doing its best. Squeezed into a class that contains almost two dozen cars, including two recipients of our 2018 10Best Cars award (the Honda Civic Sport and the Volkswagen Golf), the Cruze stands out by providing a comfortable ride, a surprisingly large trunk, and several high-tech, luxury-adjacent features. Despite those recommendations, the Cruze's powertrains fall short while those of several competitors excel. The entry-level model feels underpowered and lacks verve, while a pricey diesel engine delivers excellent fuel economy but uninspiring acceleration—not a winning combination when gas prices are low. It's easy to find a satisfactory car in the Cruze's diverse lineup, but true excellence must be sought elsewhere.
What's New for 2019?
Although a more aggressive front grille and revised front and rear bumpers are the most obvious changes for 2019, the Cruze also receives updated taillamps, a new interior color, new wheel designs, and new infotainment software. Selecting the RS package now includes window surrounds, emblems, and wheels that are all painted black.
Chevrolet Cruze Pricing and Which One to Buy
- L: $18,870
- LS: $19,995
- LT: $22,595
- Premier: $24,395
The Cruze LT offers a compelling set of features at an even more compelling price. The standard six-speed manual transmission drains any pleasure from the driving experience, so the six-speed automatic is well worth the extra cash. We'd opt for the extra-cost hatchback as a strategy to make this small car as practical as possible. Standard features in the Cruze LT hatchback include cruise control, aluminum wheels, and a six-speaker stereo with SiriusXM satellite radio. If it's in the budget, consider the Convenience package, which adds keyless entry, push-button and remote start, heated front seats, and an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Likes: Brisk acceleration with gasoline-powered four-cylinder, available diesel powertrain, smooth ride.
Dislikes: Terribly disappointing manual transmission, uninspired handling, diesel engine is noisy at idle.
The Cruze's base powertrain is a lively 153-hp turbocharged four-cylinder paired with a six-speed manual transmission. Usually, we prefer manual transmissions, but not in this case. In our experience, the manual's no pleasure, due to an overly light clutch pedal and long, inaccurate shifter throws. Outfitted with the optional six-speed automatic, however, the Cruze is eager to accelerate. The Cruze's available diesel is a turbocharged four-cylinder that's paired to a nine-speed automatic. This diesel engine is louder and rougher than its gasoline-powered counterpart, but when cruising at highway speeds, it's quiet enough to pass for a gasoline engine.
The Cruze feels substantial on the road, larger and more stable than its dimensions would suggest. Its steering is pleasantly hefty and the car tracks straight down the road and responds willingly to inputs. The Cruze's soft suspension causes it to feel imprecise when driven aggressively in corners, but the payoff is a smooth ride over bumps and potholes.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
When fuel efficiency and not performance is the order of the day, the Cruze shines brighter. Its powertrains are among the most efficient in an already thrifty class, and the diesel powertrain outshines them all—even some hybrids. The gas-powered Cruze sedan with the six-speed automatic delivered 36 mpg in our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test, falling short of its EPA rating of 39 mpg. We also ran a diesel-powered Cruze through the same test, and it delivered an EPA-beating 52 mpg, far outstripping the most efficient gasoline-powered compact sedans we've tested.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Intuitive infotainment system, roomy for passengers, easy-folding rear seat.
Dislikes: Few standard features, even cruise control is optional.
The Cruze sedan and hatchback have nearly identical interior head- and legroom measurements. In the back seat, Cruze hatchback passengers benefit from the high, flat roof, with an extra half-inch of headroom compared with sedan occupants. Depending on the trim level, the Cruze's cabin can be optioned to a surprisingly upscale level for such a compact car, but many Cruze customers will be priced out of these desirable extras. The cloth seats found in the base models are comfortable, but buyers will have to opt up to the Premier trim before they can get a power-adjustable driver's seat as standard. The Premier's optional heated steering wheel and bun-warming rear seats are a treat in this segment; the fact that cruise control isn't standard dulls the sheen.
Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system is excellent, and the Cruze gives buyers access to technology such as 4G LTE connectivity. Featured on a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen with a row of redundant buttons for key functions along the bottom of the screen, MyLink is a simple system that most users will easily understand. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard and allow users to source directions from a smartphone, among other functions.
In both the sedan and the hatchback, the Cruze's rear seats fold easily via a lever mounted on the top of each outboard rear seat. Many of the cars in this segment have a two-step seat-folding process that must be initiated by first using levers located in the trunk or cargo area, and then require you to walk around the car to pull down the seat. Chevrolet deserves credit for implementing this obvious, operator-friendly solution. With its rear seats folded, we managed to fit 15 carry-on suitcases in the hatchback model.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Cruze performed well in its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's crash tests but it hasn't been fully evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Most driver-assistance features are optional or not available at all on the Cruze. Automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and forward-collision warning are available but only on the top Premier trim level as a part of the Driver Confidence II package. Key safety features include:
- Available automated emergency braking
- Available lane-keeping assist
- Available forward-collision warning
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Chevrolet offers warranties that match up closely with those of other manufacturers in this segment. The bow-tie brand provides one free maintenance service within the first year of ownership.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit
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