Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 VCDi LTZ
Handsome looks from the front are carried over from saloon
- Well-considered exterior is still attractive in five-door form
- Roomy cabin belies the car's compact dimensions
- Pleasing car to drive; well mannered and competent on the road
- Auto gearbox option on selected models
- Economy and emissions performance are no more than average
- Low brand image and buyer awareness a result of ignorance and badge snobbery
- Modest dealer network
- Some cabin materials not up to the class standard
Chevrolet is doing a fine job of carving itself a niche in the UK as a value brand with products that have a bit more personality and style than their rivals. That is certainly the case for the Cruze, which trades on its American heritage as well as competing in various racing championships. Now there is a five-door hatchback version which should have even broader appeal.
Understandably the hatchback Cruze is based on the existing saloon model, but is no worse off for that: first introduced in 2009, the Cruze was a big step forward for Chevrolet thanks to modern engines, a new platform and cabin trim that was much closer to more mainstream rivals than before.
With every manufacturer raising its games in terms of exterior design, the Cruze hatchback is more than acceptable in its exterior design. Arguably the switch to a tailgate rather than a bootlid does sacrifice a little of the good proportions that contribute to the saloon's good looks, but nonetheless it retains that car's attractive coupe-like profile.
Mechanically both Cruze bodystyles are the same, but there is very little need for change. With the class-standard front-wheel drive layout and a mix of petrol and diesel units, buyers of all tastes and budgets will find something to suit. The engine room is another area where Chevrolet benefits from its parentage, with the diesel in particular being particular powerful and efficient in the class.
Specification remains almost identical to the saloon, with a gradually increasing amount of standard kit available as you move up the range - all the basics are covered, plus a modest choice of perfectly acceptable engines, it's unlikely to be a surprise that the Cruze will attract buyers from the mature end of the spectrum seeking to downsize without taking too big a financial hit. The car's looks ensures that owners feel like they're getting a sophisticated-looking car for not a lot of money.
Our verdict on the Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 VCDi LTZ
Offering a five-door version of the Cruze is a logical next step, and one that is bound to attract buyers insistent on a full tailgate and increased luggage space. With the same sound driving dynamics, respectable quality and impressive value, the Cruze makes a lot of sense for cost-conscious buyers.
Chevrolet products have proved to be durable, making this a significant plus point. The Cruze's engine line-up average in terms of fuel economy and emissions, so don't expect much in the way of significant savings.
Space and practicality
There is decent space on offer front and rear while the boot is up to most reasonable demands, and the balance between the two is perfectly acceptable. There are a decent number of small storage areas dotted throughout the cabin too, which makes life with the Cruze easy.
Controls and display
Budget cars are often fitted with cheap and nasty controls, which undermine any honourable cost saving intentions. The Cruze has not been so afflicted; everything works in a well oiled fashion and feels like the quality items they should be. The car's various displays are also first class, with the audio unit a particularly easy device to use.
While no limousine, the Cruze's cabin offers a decent amount of room for four adults. Wind, road and engine noise never proves to be an issue, and the seats offer a good balance of support and comfort. The cabin is also wide enough to avoid the driver clashing elbows with the front seat passenger.
Along with the standard issue remote central locking and engine immobiliser, the Cruze is little different to most rivals in this respect, although it does benefit from being less well known in its own right and perhaps therefore less of a target.
Despite the car's low cost positioning, you do get the full compliment of twin front and side airbag right across the range. Electronic stability control is another standard feature, which will no doubt be welcomed by all who find it hard to believe that some makers still charge for it. The top spec car also gains cruise control to make long motorway journeys more relaxing.
Built on a proven General Motors platform, critics will find the Cruze a pleasant surprise on the road. Dynamically a match for some European rivals, the car's ride feels sophisticated and doesn't fall apart when dealing with poorly surfaced urban roads. Accurate steering plus good brakes complete the package. Engine-wise there's no bad apple in the range. The petrol motors are refined and willing, and likely to form the bulk of sales, while the diesel option is a smart one for high mileage drivers.
Family car appeal
Compact hatches are big enough for some family users, and the Cruze is certainly big enough to compete with key rivals. Getting a car seat into the rear should present no particular challenge, and the boot is wide enough to swallow large buggies.
First car appeal
There's no reason while the Cruze cannot be driven by a novice driver. It's not a complicated or overly powerful car and therefore is unlikely to be a challenge to drive.
Quality and image
Many European buyers will have little association with the Chevrolet brand outside of the Corvette. Although originally an American brand under the General Motors umbrella, Cheverolet is pitched as an affordable line-up for the rest of the world. UK buyers familiar with the old Daewoo name will notice current Chevrolets are little more than revamped offerings. The Cruze is a clean sheet design that aims to reverse any negative opinions of the brand.
Front seat occupants are well catered for in the Cruze. The seating position is high enough so you never have to drop down into the seat. Despite being a relatively compact car, rear seat access is reasonable. The door opens to an acceptable angle and you won't struggle to exit from any of the seats.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
There's no need to feel shortchanged despite the Cruze's leanings towards the budget end of the spectrum. The standard fit audio unit is perfectly acceptable, offering the usual radio and CD functions. The unit's split-level control area and display is a handy anti-theft measure while the various controls are all easy to understand and operate. The LT and LTZ models gain an uprated version of this unit.
Colours and trim
With its sophisticated looks, the Cruze's appearance is greatly enhanced by choosing one of the traditional hues normally associated with the likes of BMW or Honda. That said, brighter colours also work well and would appeal to a younger buyer. It's a little more subdued inside, although seat and fascia trim combinations can lighten the ambience.
A high bootline, similar to the saloon, means judging the extremities of the Cruze can be a challenge, but in all other respects it is a breeze to park. The power steering is very light at low speeds and the tyres have a generous sidewall that minimises any potential kerb damage.
Space saver wheel fitted.
Petrol engine options - 1.6-litre (113bhp); 1.8-litre (141bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (158bhp). Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox, six-speed auto gearbox (petrol only). Trim levels: S, LS, LT.
Kia C'eed More polished and capable but more expensive as a result
Hyundai i30 Similar tack to Kia, better pricing makes it a keen rival
Vauxhall Astra Mainstream rival very good in most areas
Proton Gen-2 Undercuts Cruze on price but average or poor in most departments