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The standard features of the Chevrolet Cruze LT Manual include 1.4L I-4 153hp intercooled turbo engine, 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), side seat mounted airbags, curtain 1st and 2nd row overhead airbags, rear side-impact airbag, driver and passenger knee airbag, airbag occupancy sensor, air conditioning, 16" aluminum wheels, cruise control, ABS and driveline traction control, StabiliTrak electronic stability.
Starting at: $21,240
According to Chevrolet, the Cruze sedan can accelerate from zero to sixty in less than eight seconds, which is adequate. But there is a hesitation in the acceleration when you floor it, from the automatic transmission or maybe just the 153-horsepower engine. Uphill freeway on-ramps can be an issue.
Having lost 250 pounds in that redesign two years ago, the Cruze is now responsive , nimble, and fun to drive. The chassis is planted. The rack-mounted electric power steering isn’t too light at low speeds, and nicely weighted at high speed. It’s no sport sedan, but the Cruze handles better and with more confidence than some of its Japanese and Korean rivals.
The comfortable ride is one of the best in a compact car, even with the big 18-inch wheels. The standard rear suspension is torsion beam, but the Premier gets an improved Watt’s link setup for crisper cornering. The Cruze also comes with four-wheel disc brakes, using long-wearing Duralife rotors. We’ve tested a number of different iterations of Cruze, and the one we like is the most expensive: Premier Hatchback with the RS package. Besides handling the best, it’s smooth and compliant without being noisy or harsh.
The Cruze sedan is longer and wider than most compacts, with a wedge shape that leads to a short rear deck. It has the same grille as the Chevy Volt, Malibu, and Impala.
Though they share the same wheelbase, the Hatch is eight inches shorter overall, all of the loss coming behind the rear doors. The roof curves back to a spoiler over the back glass in the fifth-door hatch that’s a bit small.
The cabin is modern without being too digital. It’s similar to the high-tech Volt, with relatively simple instrumentation in a pod, outlined in chrome, and intuitive controls. The layout is clean and sharp. In the center of the dash there’s a stand 7.0-inch or 8.0-inch touchscreen. Two-tone trim on the higher models. The front seats are comfortable, with better bolstering in the leather seats than cloth.
For a compact car, the Cruze sedan is very spacious. By the tape measure, it looks like a midsize car. It holds four adults as advertised, with more leg and hip room in the rear seat than rivals, namely the Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra.
The trunk is a large 13.7 cubic feet.
The smaller hatchback has 23.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat, not as much as the Honda Civic or Ford Focus hatchbacks. Even though it’s a compact, the Cruze hatch is slightly smaller than the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic hatchback. It’s all in vertical room, a penalty of the Cruze’s curvy roofing. However, with the rear seat folded, the Cruze hatch holds a competitive 47 cubic feet of cargo.
The Chevy Cruze is well worth considering in the compact class, especially the new Hatch. The engine could use a bit more oomph, and we wish the glitch at early acceleration would go away. The expensive Cruze Premier RS is way sporty, while the cheapo Cruze L with the manual gearbox and cloth upholstery is still solid and complete enough to work as an economical daily driver.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.
The 2017 Chevy Cruze comes in L, LS, LT, and Premier trim levels, and is available in sedan and hatch versions. All are front-wheel drive and powered by the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine.
Cruze L sedan ($16,975) is the base model with manual transmission, cloth upholstery, and 15-inch steel wheels with plastic hubcaps, but it still comes with rearview camera, 10 airbags, 7.0-inch touchscreen with infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 60/40 split folding rear seat. Cruze LS upgrades with air conditioning and offers the choice of an automatic transmission. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Cruze LT sedan ($20,150) and Cruze LT Hatch ($21,240) add a six-speaker sound system with available satellite radio, steering wheel controls, 16-inch wheels, foglamps, and a space-saver spare tire rather than a tire repair kit. Cruze Premier sedan ($23,475) and Hatch ($23,945) are loaded with leather, heated steering wheel and rear seats, upgraded rear suspension, and 17-inch wheels.
The RS package for LT ($695) and Premier ($995) models adds sporty front and rear fascia, spoiler, and 18-inch wheels. Other packages include infotainment and sound upgrades, safety equipment, such as blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, forward collision alert, and automatic headlights. Automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are not available.