It was a swell party introducing the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze at the Fillmore Theater in Detroit last night. A bigger party might occur later when Chevrolet’s best-selling global car becomes larger and lighter by as much as 250 pounds when it goes on sale in the U.S. during Q1. Other markets – as many as 40 or more – will follow as the launch proceeds.
The compact Cruze, powered by a new 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, is rated at an estimated 40 mpg highway with 153 horsepower and 177 lb. ft. of torque. This should provide crisp performance (zero-60 ~8s) as well as pump relief with a range of more than 500 miles.
Better still, even though the compression ratio is 10:1, thereby helping with the high specific output and hence efficiency, the dohc four-cylinder runs on regular fuel. Six-speed manual or automatic transaxles are offered. A stop/start system increases the Cruze’s efficiency in traffic.
While the powertrain might be the heart of a car to traditionalists such as the writer, more important to newer generation buyers are the electronics. Starting with a revised MyLink App that offers better performance, plus compatibility with both Android Auto (eventually) and Apple CarPlay (immediately), the smartphone is now as much of a part of the interior as the standard seven-inch-diagonal screen and more costly eight-inch screen.
Moving from the entertainment side, there are some better uses of auto electrons, namely where safety is enhanced with Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision Alert. Projector headlamps with light-emitting diode (LED) lighting are standard, and LED daytime running lamps come on higher trim levels. There are also ten standard airbags.
While drives await a final opinion, the 2016 Chevrolet Cruse is more than competitive with current compact car offerings from the other two Detroit companies peddling Darts and Fusions, as well as the offshore brands with rather formidable – and proven – Camry and Accord entries. In the U.S., the best in class 106.3-inch wheelbase provides spaciousness with more rear legroom (@36.1 inches / 917 mm) and two inches (51 mm) more rear knee room – more than Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. Such nits, likely do not lead to a sure showroom pick, but there’s a cumulative positive effect on the total impression.
Beyond the numbers, GM designers claim there’s greater perceptual spaciousness in the new Cruze, from “flowing line work in the instrument panel, which blends almost seamlessly with the front door panels.” My view is it is a nice, but thoroughly mainstream interior with a dual-stack panel and center console. There’s room for five.
Outside, Cruze continues the themes of the larger Malibu and still larger Impala, both successful in the marketplace. A faster windshield rake and a faster-sloping rear profile that culminates in a standard integral rear spoiler contribute to the car’s aero efficiency at 0.29 Cd. Nicely done. The profile is enhanced by detailed, layered line work in the hood and body-side panels.
The current Cruze is a design hybrid since its engineering was done at Opel in Germany and Daewoo in Korea. North American versions went into production at Lordstown, Ohio during the summer of 2010 with OK but not great quality. Unlike the last time around where Cruz – after being on sale for years in 60 countries – debuted at GM in the U.S. last because of complications and delays caused by the GM bankruptcy, Cruze appears first in North America.
Top markets include China, the United States, Brazil and Canada, but not Europe, the home of GM’s Opel and Vauxhall and a continent where Chevrolet failed spectacularly and expensively during the last decade to establish its presence. Opel / Vauxhaul is also a giant complication to make Chevy GM’s global brand ala Ford.
The new 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is a design hybrid too, but it is a much better execution for U.S. customers. In the United States, Cruze sales were 273,060 in 2014 – a 10% increase compared to 2013. It is also the segment’s second-best seller to customers under 25 years old in the U.S., and it has doubled share here from the 2009-2010 period when the old Cobalt was being replaced by the current generation Cruz. No reason why Cruze sales will not keep growing, unless GM gets greedy on the introductory pricing.