When we first saw the Cruze, our reaction was not one we’re proud of… We thought it looked silly and our opinion took a turn for the worse when we saw it promoted on CBS’s Hawaii 5.0. Sometimes you just have to get your hands on the car to find out if it lives up to the reputation you created in your head.
P.S. We were so wrong about this car… (Gulp)
The interior was amazing. For a small economy sedan we felt like we were in a car worth at least $10,000 more. Then again we were comparing it to the Maxima interior, which we still maintain is over-priced.
The seats were cloth. In fact, you can only have cloth seats; there is no leather option on the Eco model. The LTZ and 2LT models have leather options, but the cloth seats were comfortable on a really warm day.
The AC unit on this Cruze was FANtastic (Get it! fan… These are the jokes, people…). It was 96F on the morning of our test drive day. The AC unit kept the interior comfortably cool and we even had to turn it down a little because we were getting chilly. The best part was with the AC on full the Cruze’s drive train was still peppy and upbeat, like a Smurf on a sugar rush.
The media center was easy to use. There wasn’t a plethora of buttons, just enough to get the job done and a display that wasn’t cramped and hard to navigate. Someone from the dealership had even preset the local radio stations to the favorite’s buttons already (It’s the little things that matter.).
The plastics on the interior did not feel as cheap as most we’ve run into lately. The gear shift is fluid and firm, while the turn signals were a too firm for our taste. The window switches are brilliant. All four of them are auto down with the driver’s being auto down/up!
The steering wheel was tilt and telescopic. Overall driver comfort was 8 out of 10. We would have gone higher here, but we needed just a little more lumbar support. Leg room was plentiful in the front seats, but almost non-existent behind Chris while he was driving. Someone without legs would have fit comfortably behind him, but not many others would.
There was some road noise due to the low profile tires. It wasn’t terrible, but we did notice it. If you’re jamming (Yes, we’re old, we know no one “jams” anymore) to your iWhatever you won’t hear the road noise at all.
The Cruze comes in eight colors, but only six are available for the LS (cheapest) model. The LS comes with the largest engine (1.8L), but does not get the turbo that the Eco and LTZ models do.
The overall look of the Cruze has grown on us. When we first saw it advertised on Hawaii 5.0, we thought it looked a little like an overweight teenager, one that might someday slim down and fill out to eventually become a Malibu.
The front end is better looking than we initially thought and the back end looks that way to make the trunk bigger. It isn’t as smashed in the back as we thought either. Overall this car looks better than the Corolla and Elantra (ugly step sisters of the Cruze) combined.
The safety ratings on the Cruze are 5 stars on frontal, side, and rollover for every passenger in the car. With the new stricter ratings, this is very comforting to know that everyone is protected to the best of the government’s standards.
Now the truly shocking part of this car! The Cruze Eco comes equipped with a 1.4L turbo-charged four cylinder engine turning out 138 horsepower. This is deceptively quick. The car itself feels fast and light. The steering could be a little tighter, but this is an economy model.
We drove this little car hard; wrapping a tachometer that redlines at 6 and ¼ to 5,000 rpms repeatedly. Most of the torque could be found between 3,000 and 5,000 rpms. This car is designed to get great mileage and it will.
Even when we were jumping away from traffic lights or down-shifting to really pull us through some tight corners this car was averaging great fuel economy. It the short time we had our Cruze we averaged 27.2mpg. We were driving this Cruze like it could be a pace car for Formula 1. We probably were not reaching the speeds needed to make that analogy work, but it felt like we were.
The only place we were a little disappointed was sixth gear. Sixth gear is colored green on the gear shift. It’s there for the purpose of saving mpgs and that purpose alone. There is very little acceleration in sixth. The car will lose a couple of mph if you are going up a slight incline with the cruise control on. This cruise control was very easy to use and the digital display between the tach and speedo made it easy to know what you set it at.
The turbo caused the Cruze to sound great. It made us reminiscent of the Mini’s guttural chug. Not quite that deep, but definitely didn’t sound like an economy car that could average 42mpg on the highway. That isn’t a typo! 42mpg out of a turbo-charged Chevy! Who knew?!?! We didn’t and we’re assuming most of America hasn’t figured it out yet either. Heck, Europe should put in an order for this car! It’s spacious without being over the top. It has plentiful trunk space and can get your groceries home before the ice cream melts.
Lastly, we almost found ourselves stranded in this car and it wasn’t the car’s fault. We pulled out onto a peninsula at the local lake. The park around the lake has some great twisty roads. We hadn’t been out on this particular road yet… We should have figured out how to reverse the car before we went out on a road surrounded by water on three sides. The gear shift was compressed repeatedly, we slammed the tranny (hehe) into 1st often hoping to go backwards, and even put it in neutral and rolled backward at least 4 feet. The trick is a circular ring on the gear shift that is pulled up and allows the stick to find reverse. If you don’t pull the ring, then you always find 1st.
There were some moments of pep talk. “We are smarter than this car. We are smarter than this car.” As soon as we figured it out, we felt less smart. It’s nice to be humbled by a machine. While it humbles you, at least it doesn’t judge you.
We’ve already suggested this car to a couple of friends who were starting car searches. This Cruze surprised us again and again. The interior, the ride, the performance, and the mileage; were all great aspects of this car, but the mileage was unreal. If you drive a lot of highway miles, this car is getting close to Prius numbers, but five to seven grand less in price. Sometimes it’s really nice to be surprised…