Tuesday, 22 April 2014

REVIEW - Chevrolet Cruze LT

For those of you less familiar with the Chevrolet model line-up, I shall let you in on a little secret. Being part of the General Motors group they have models based on similar platforms. And this car here- the Cruze- is based on the Vauxhall Astra. So I guess the big question is “what’s the point?” Why would you go out and buy a Chevrolet when you could just go and buy an Astra? Well I grabbed the former for a week, to see what it was all about.

Looks – 4/10

When the Cruze was delivered, I barely noticed. I seldom come across cars that on the outside look so nondescript. It’s not even that it’s an ugly car; because that would give it some form of identity. I just found the Cruze extremely bland. Finished in a plain silver, the big yellow Chevrolet badge was about all that stood out. I think the biggest let down by far was the poxy 16-inch alloy wheels which were just lost in the arches. The rear end of the hatchback is just large, and boring. Genuinely, the station wagon version looks better from the back. The door handles are very Vauxhall, and I think that’s all there is to say. I hardly found myself glancing in shop windows to catch the reflection as I drove past.

And that’s good, because once you step inside you can actually forget the exterior a bit. The interior design is much nicer, and the cabin is a pleasant place to be. There’s a nice chunky steering wheel and gear knob, and a nice finish throughout. There’s some silver trim on the centre console, and I would have liked to see some of this on the door trims, which are a bit dark and gloomy. Having said that, I do like the dashboard having the same trim as the seats. It offers more texture and is something I’ve never come across before. The switchgear is also nicely set out and nice to the touch, and the interior feels well put together. The blue illumination on the dials was rather easy on the eye as well.

Handling/Performance – 7/10

The engine in my Cruze test car is one that is found in the Vauxhall parts store as well. It’s a 1.7-litre diesel engine and is available with 110PS or 130PS. Thankfully I had the 130PS- which, bizarrely, is the cheaper of the two- which offers up 300Nm of torque. Hitting the front wheels through a 6-speed manual, the Cruze was pleasant to drive. The 0-62mph dash takes 9.8seconds, and the top speed is 124mph, but it soon becomes apparent that in-gear acceleration is where the strength of this engine lies. Anywhere between 2,000-3,000rpm and the Cruze pulls well. It gets a bit noisy and less urgent if you go much above 3,000rpm, and with the 6-speed box it was easy to drive on the torque.

I was most surprised at how the Cruze handled. For the week I had it, my commute was a cross-country trek which involved undulating roads, bumpy tracks and cattle grids. The Cruze soaked up all the bumps and felt rather sure-footed on all roads. Part of that is down to the small wheels which meant there was a lot of tyre to absorb the bumps. The steering was direct enough and working the 6-speed box was rewarding, to the point that the Cruze felt nippy over the country roads. On the motorway the ride was comfortable, and with cruise control the diesel was happy to chug along at motorway speeds with ease.

Economy – 9/10

Another positive with the 1.7-litre engine is the rate at which it sips diesel from the fuel tank. It has stop/start technology and boasts CO2 emissions of 117g/km which put the Cruze in VED band C. Road tax will cost you a mere £30, and is even free for the first year. On the combined cycle you can expect a return of 62.7mpg which isn’t half bad either. I think the only reason I couldn’t score the Cruze a 10 is that with so much pressure on manufacturers to reduce emissions and improve efficiency, there are more impressive feats out there than this. There are larger, more powerful cars which have lower emissions, and I reserve the 10 for cars which raise the bar, and set new standards.

Practicality – 8/10

With a large family hatchback such as the Cruze, practicality almost goes without saying. The boot- for instance- is so vast you’ll struggle to fill it with shopping. Expect to discover bits of groceries weeks later because they’ll have escaped at some point on the journey home from the supermarket. The cabin is spacious too, such that all passengers have plenty of room to enjoy any journey without feeling cramped. Visibility is good, and parking isn’t an issue. I found that the Cruze handled everything I threw at it. From a bumpy country road blast to a long-distance motorway cruise, I never grew tired of the car. To own I think it would be good, but for everytime when you washed it; when you’d be reminded you picked a bland car. So over time this could well grate on you.

Fun – 2/10

There isn’t a lot going on with the Cruze that warrants a decent score here. Yes, you can plug your iPod in, but you can’t control it, and I couldn’t for the life of me boost the volume from the auxiliary input. This meant I had to have the stereo seriously turned up to hear my favourite music. And if you forgot, this would deafen you if you unplugged the iPod and the car switched to radio mode. The Cruze isn’t bad to drive, but you hardly want to grab the keys. It’s definitely not a drivers’ car; more of an A-to-B, gets-the-job-done sort of vehicle. And what’s the fun in that. For me the image kills any possibility of the Cruze being able to put a smile on your face, and you certainly wouldn’t feel any nostalgia about it or mention it to your friends.

Concluding Remarks

So the Chevrolet Cruze then. It’s actually been one of the easiest cars to summarise. The looks are dreary and about as stylish as a pink wig. The interior is nice but lacks any sort of fun gadgetry. The engine is a little gem, and salvages the Cruze from being a terrible car. But what really puts the final nail in the coffin is the Chevrolet badge. And General Motors knows this. They’re pulling the plug on Chevrolet in Europe and focusing more on the Vauxhall and Opel cars. My Cruze was priced at £18,750 and you can get a lot more for your money elsewhere. In fact, the Peugeot 308 I tested just a few weeks ago certainly offered a lot more value. What do I suggest? If you want to rob a bank, buy a Cruze. Nobody would be able to describe the getaway vehicle to the police. Find out more on the Chevrolet website.

Total Score - 30/50

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