2016 Chevrolet Cruze: The Quiet Cruiser

Strong points
  • Improved engine
  • Tech savvy
  • Quiet and relaxing ride
Weak points
  • No added performance in RS package
  • Some safety tech should be standard
Full report

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – First introduced in 2011, the Chevrolet Cruze was the new kid on the compact block. Chevrolet wanted to go smaller and make an impact in one of the largest segments in the auto industry.

Logic dictated that the Cruze made sense for the Detroit brand known for its trucks, but it wouldn't be easy considering the big players it had to contend with, namely the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Chevrolet didn't envision taking over the segment; just merely taking a piece of that pie.

Fast forward five years later, and Chevrolet finds itself not only playing in the sand, but after three months of 2016 Canadian sales, it's currently running in fourth place ahead of the Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf and Jetta, Nissan Sentra and Ford Focus.

Chevrolet is now ready for its next step, which has us in the fun-loving city of Nashville to check its second-generation 2016 Cruze that's vastly improved in its design, performance and fuel economy, the latter being an area that it was weak in. 

Will these changes be enough to challenge the Civic, Corolla and Hyundai Elantra? Let's find out.

Longer, leaner and meaner

I've had great things to say about the new styling of the Malibu and Volt, and Chevrolet has brought this more aggressive look to the Cruze. We're talking a bold and fresh front and rear fascia, sharp lines and a flowing coupe-like silhouette.

The changes aren't as drastic from its outgoing model as seen with the Malibu and Volt, and that's what keeps the Cruze from being awe-inspiring. It has a handsome profile, especially in the front, just without any “wow” factor.

Even though we're testing out a smaller vehicle, it's clear that size has started to once again become a factor. The likes of the Elantra and Civic have grown, and now the 2016 Cruze becomes 2.7 inches longer, gained less than an inch in its class-leading wheelbase, and lowering its roofline.

All of these changes have been made, while shedding 250 lbs. (113 kg), thanks to a more rigid and lighter body structure with the use of hot-stamped, high-strength steel. The Cruze now takes on a longer, yet leaner look with a spacious cabin, especially in the rear legroom department. 

Quiet and calming ride

Chevrolet has gone with one engine choice for the new Cruze – a new 1.4-litre, direct-injected turbo four-cylinder matched to a either its retained six-speed manual or new six-speed automatic transmission.

The power numbers have been given a nice boost of 15 hp (up to 153) and 29 lb.-ft. of torque (up to 177), allowing the sedan to achieve a 0-100 km/h in 7.9 seconds. For more spirited drivers, this new engine no longer just provides that hint of excitement at initial acceleration, but now holds its own throughout the rev range in most gears.

Performance levels in the Cruze are respectable, but wouldn't be the major talking point when buying this car. What made me give my nod of approval came down to its quiet and smooth drive. The 1.4-litre Ecotec turbo is made from an all-aluminum construction that helps it be 50 per cent quieter and 18 per cent more fuel efficient.

After a drive in the top-trimmed Premier RS sitting on 18-inch tires (other trims offer 16- and 17-inch) through the windy roads of the Natchez Trace, the Cruze placed me in a state of calm. Sure, I was surrounded by a picturesque countryside, but the simplest of steering inputs and seamless gear shifts guided the Cruze on one of the more quiet and relaxing journeys, allowing me to admire the scenery.

No correction was needed in its tighter-steering Premier trim setup, as I picked up speed while the terrain sloped downward along with its fuel economy ratings. After my drive consisting of a 70/30 highway to city split, I was impressed with a combined fuel economy number sitting at 6.5 L/100 km – the official ratings are 5.6 L/100 km on the highway, 7.8 L/100 km in the city and a combined 6.8 L/100 km. 

A true value option

My test car for this program might have been the top-of-the-line that comes with a $23,895 price tag, but the new Cruze can be had starting at $15,995. For the person in need of a reasonably-priced transporter or one who's not too fussy about cars, but demands leather and technology – there's a Cruze for everyone. On top of that, there will be a hatchback and a diesel engine option coming out in the near future.

Regardless of the trim, everyone will get a plethora of standard equipment that includes a seven-inch MyLink touchscreen, a rear view camera, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that can be used for navigational purposes or other apps. As you move up the trim list, everything improves, including heated premium cloth front seats, wireless charging, and advanced safety technologies. All of these additions make for a good argument to go with the Premier trim that won't cost you an arm, a leg and many strands of hair.

The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze offers a lot of bang for your buck and has improved in all my checklist areas for what makes a great compact car (styling, interior space, quiet ride, fuel efficiency and technology). Can the Cruze take the next step up to the Civic, Elantra and Corolla? Well, it has all the attributes to do so; now it's up to the marketing team to get more people to its dealerships, where it's currently on sale to test out.

Share on Facebook

More on the subject

Spotlight on2016 Chevrolet Cruze: We're Driving it This Week
This week, The Car Guide will be headed to Nashville, otherwise known as Music City U.S.A, for the first drive program of the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze. We won't have a chance to check out the Grand Ole Opry or the Country Music Hall of Fame, but we will get a …
Detroit2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback: Coming This Fall
We were waiting for it for quite a while now, and it’s finally been unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. The Cruze has been completely redesigned for 2016. It was only normal that Chevrolet chose the new platform to create a more family-oriented version. The latter rides on the same …
First Drives2016 Chevrolet Malibu: Game on After Sweeping Changes
VICTORIA, BC – The Chevrolet Malibu nameplate has been around for 50 years. It's a staple in the Chevrolet lineup around the world, but recently has lost some steam in a heavily contested market. With the midsize segment being second for cars in Canada and tops in the United States, …
BlogThe 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Serves up Extras at the Premier Level
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze offers up exceptional pricing that starts at $15,995 for its base L trim. It may not include air conditioning, but it comes standard with a rearview camera, 10 airbags, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as well as OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability. It …
NewsChevrolet Will Help VW TDI Owners With Their Next Car Purchase
Following Volkswagen’s recent problems with its diesel engines, the German manufacturer decided to cut back on their TDI powerplants and focus on greener technologies. For example, they will roll out new electric vehicles shortly. This is all fine and good, but it leaves a large gap in the market: what …
Spotlight on2017 Chevrolet Cruze: We’re Driving it This Week
The Car Guide is headed to Motor City (um, Detroit) to slip behind the wheel of the new 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback. After the complete redesign of the Cruze sedan in 2016, GM’s Bow-tie brand will be adding a more versatile compact car to their product range, which should be …
NewsA Diesel-Powered Chevrolet Cruze RS
We know that Chevrolet wants to get into the diesel market, which is relatively quiet now that Volkswagen has stopped selling TDI engines. The American manufacturer not only has announced a turbo-diesel four-cylinder mill in the upcoming 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, but we know that the Cruze Diesel would be back.
First Drives2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatch: Out to Play Golf
DETROIT, Michigan – The Cruze is by far Chevrolet’s best-selling car in Canada, competing in the most popular car segment in the country. Gaining market share is tough when consumers go for the long-established nameplates, and especially when our rivals have a wider selection of body styles to fit everyone’s …