The premise of the He said, she said chronicle is simple: we lend a press vehicle to a couple to test drive extensively for two weeks and give the two participants one simple instruction: to take note of all of their impressions, both good and bad.
Each of the test drivers has to keep their opinions to themselves so as not to influence the other. Easier said than done, right?
This month, Nancie Bélanger and Raymond Brossard test drove a Chevrolet Cruze LT equipped with a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine (138 horsepower, 148 lbs.-ft. of torque) and a six-speed automatic gearbox. The sticker price is $23,100, including the special equipment packages and RS trim, but before transport and taxes. Note that the base version of the Chevrolet Cruze starts at $15,665. Here are their impressions:
Name: Nancie Bélanger
Occupation: High school teacher
Drives: 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier
The Chevrolet Cruze didn’t exactly tickle Nancie Bélanger’s pink. While she didn’t have a ton of bad things to say about the American compact, she didn’t have very many positive things to say either.
Of the car’s style, she said, “It isn’t ugly, but it didn’t really do it for me. I found the design pretty plain. It’s harmonious, but nothing special.”
She found its performances underwhelming as well. “Accelerations are good, but the engine makes too much noise. It revs high, even when you’re not pushing it to the limit. On the other hand, the car drives very well and feels safe. It should appeal to several types of drivers.”
Nancie knows ergonomics
She gave it high marks for practicality. “I love that the bench folds down in two parts, allowing us to seat both of our children AND transport our skis. We can’t do with our current cars. However, the passenger compartment’s ergonomics are the pits.” Note that Nancie studied the ergonomics at university and “knows where to look.” She was critical of the driver’s seat adjustment. “I spent quite a while looking for the control to lower the seat. I ended up finding it, but only after a lengthy contortionist act.” And don’t expect to unlock the trunk from the inside, either. “You simply can’t do it without using the remote control or actually getting out of the vehicle to open the hatch.” What’s more, “The climate controls are so low – almost behind the stick – that you could catch them while shifting. To help drivers keep their eyes on the road, they should have been placed higher up, where the controls for the audio system are located. In any case, the audio controls are mounted on the steering wheel and are fantastic.”
Furthermore, at 5’5”, this test driver never did get comfortable in the driver’s seat. “The seatback has a bulge near the neck and shoulder blades. I found that very uncomfortable. Even after a week, I still wasn’t used to it.”
Backing up also required special care. “I couldn’t see very well due to the raised tail end, so I actually had to turn right around to see anything.” Basically, the car’s shortcomings in ergonomics and comfort mean that Nancie would not choose the Chevrolet Cruze.
“Definitely not new. Used, maybe...”
Name: Raymond Brossard
Occupation: High school teacher
Drives: 2009 Honda Civic
How do we know that our two Chevrolet Cruze test drivers didn’t talk to each other during the two weeks test-drive? In this case, many of the things that Nancie disliked, her partner Raymond Brossard had only positive things to say about.
In Raymond’s opinion, comfort was not an issue, and he was able to find a suitable driving position despite is 6’1” frame. He also noted that “the seats offer very good back support.” Moreover, he liked that they can be moved further back than average, which his son always tells him leaves less leg room in back.
Raymond had positive things to say about the exterior style: “It has nice, classic, even high-end curves. I find the grille too big for the rest of the car, but I like the big wheels and fog lights.”
He applauded the “unique combination of interior plastics and fabrics. The height-adjustable, telescopic steering wheel has a sporty look and handles nicely. The modern, easy-to-read instrumentation lights up beautifully at night. The controls aren’t hard to understand and the ventilation is powerful, especially near the windshield.” Unlike Nancie, rear visibility wasn’t a problem for Raymond, but he complained about the size of the B-pillar that he found created a more significant blind spot.
As for handling, Raymond initially expected the Cruze to be a real boat. “On the contrary, I was surprised to see how rigid the suspension is – and I like rigid suspensions. The ride is precise and reassuring, but at the same time, it absorbs jolts well. What’s more, accelerations with the turbo engine are good and the braking is super efficient.”
Like Nancie, Raymond was fond of the 60/40 folding rear bench: “It’s practical and easy to latch and release. You just pull it and it folds down. You don’t even have to take off the head-rests.” What is more, he found that the trunk had a very nice finish and that it had obviously been crafted with care. “And it’s huge,” he says, as demonstrated by the photo of his two kids inside.
Surprisingly fuel efficient
Raymond was also surprised by the Cruze’s fuel efficiency. It consumed only a bit more fuel than his Honda Civic, despite the fact that the American car has an automatic gearbox while his Japanese car has a manual.
He was also won over by some of the smaller details, like the on-board computer that displays real-time and average fuel consumption, the child safety lock back doors and the satellite radio.
“I find that the Cruze offers a lot of luxury for the price. Yes, I’d buy it. But since my sons are growing fast and we all like to ski, I think that my next vehicle is going to be an SUV.”