Chevrolet Cruze 1.8L: A Compact that Walks the Middle Path
The Chevy Cruze 1.8L
Chevrolet makes thrilling cars like the Corvette Stingray and the Camaro. It makes luxury cars like the Impala. And it makes the Cruze.
One would have thought the Cruze would have got at least some of the same chromosomes. But it appears that Chevy saw fit to create a vehicle for the compact sedan category from the ground up, with a whole new DNA helix. The Cruze prefers – like a Buddhist – to tread the middle path that breeds a calm repose.
Chevrolet entered the mid-priced compact sedan category later than most rivals. The original Cruze – from which the 2017 model year 1.8-liter inline-four variant at Carlease has evolved. It has seen multiple changes to the specs since then. But while its rivals have decided that even a compact should have at least one – or, better still, two – features that set the brand apart, the Cruze stubbornly places all its features into a tight band of variation. In the process, Chevy has created a car that won’t accelerate enough to set your heart thumping, nor be luxurious enough to satisfy the customer at the other end of the spectrum.
Somewhere along the way from 2010 onward, the Cruze won some touring-car trophies in the US and the UK. Before you get all excited – these wins came from super- and turbo-charged engines that you won’t find on the regular production car. Some remnants of the racing pedigree can still be experienced in the street-legal Cruze.
|Smooth up-changes (but jerky down-changes)||Not very fuel-efficient|
|Well-tuned suspension||Unaided deceleration is rapid|
|Auto down on all windows (but no auto up)||No parking sensors|
|Huge trunk||No auto lights|
|Slightly cramped rear seat|
In all other ways, though, the Cruze is the epitome of the safe, affordable point-A-to-point-B machine with just enough features to compete with other machines populating the city streets. Let’s admit it: although most of us will drool at the sight and sound of a Lambo Murcielago, we would rather not be in the driver’s seat attempting to tame a wild beast like that. It is for just such people that the Cruze from Carlease is a great option.
In all aspects, the Cruze is a competent performer. It doesn’t give you the option of a Sport drive-mode, so acceleration is quick – ish – but it won’t drag-race a smile out of you. The six-speed automatic gearbox cranks through the up-changes pretty rapidly into top, keeping the rev counter well shy of the red line at all times.
This could be because Chevy wanted to keep fuel consumption low. But then, there isn’t anything like an Eco drive-mode either. Unfortunately, the fuel gauge drops quite rapidly compared to the competition.
Another reason for the rather unimpressive fuel-efficiency is the rapid deceleration when you take your foot off the pedal. This forces you to accelerate from a lower engine revolution to come back up to speed in stop-and-go traffic, using more gas than is strictly necessary.
The quick deceleration could be due to an onboard computer that isn’t very well tuned, so to speak. This also results in rather wild swings of more than 5kph if the Cruze goes over a bridge while the cruise control is set and functioning. We had more than a few hairy moments when the computer screamed at us that the vehicle was “over speed” – meaning traveling faster than 120 kph – even though the cruise control was set for 115 kph.
One of the chromosomes that the Cruze does seem to have inherited from the Camaro or Corvette – unfortunately – is the cramped rear seat. The Cruze is a rather large and long vehicle, but most of the space seems to have gone to the engine compartment and the trunk. It leaves the passengers in the rear seat crunched for leg-room.
The Cruze we tested at Carlease had middle-of-the-road interior design and materials, with a distinctly art deco black-and-gray color scheme on the seats as well as the dashboard. The stain-resistant fabric seats were just about comfortable enough for city runs, but did create discomfort on long drives.
One of the pet peeves we have about the Cruze is the ill-designed storage spaces between the front seats. Isn’t Chevy aware that people need to store mobile phones and other paraphernalia within easy reach? And no, the pop-up covered box above the music console is definitely not the answer.
While the competition goes all-out to provide in-car electronics galore, Chevrolet is a little stingy with these. The Cruze from Carlease came without OEM parking sensors or auto lights. There’s an auto-down function on all four windows, but no auto-up anywhere in sight. Even to pull up the driver-side window, you need to hold the button up, making it a little difficult to drive with a cup in one hand.
Clearly, the Cruze is still a work in progress until it reaches some sort of equilibrium of features where it can compete on level terms with the Civics and the Corollas. But there’s one aspect in which Chevy has blown the competition away. The sound system totally rocks, and the robust Bluetooth connectivity – bolstered by USB and audio ports – on the MyCar system means you can connect the music from your smartphone or device with minimal fuss and take the middle path all the way to nirvana.
The Compact Sedan shootout
|Chevrolet Cruze||Honda Civic||Kia Cerato||Toyota Corolla||Nissan Sentra|
|Engine||1.8L I4 FWD||1.6L I4 FWD||1.6L I4 FWD||2.0L I4 FWD||1.8L I4 FWD|
|Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)||7.8||5.4||7.7||6.1||6.7|
|0-100 kph (sec.)||11.5||11.6||10.5||9.7||9.8|
|Top Speed (kph)||198||200||210||195||190|
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