Review: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze 2LT
Words and photos by Andrew Ganz.
Words and photos by Andrew Ganz.
As post-bankruptcy General Motors reinvents itself, the automaker formerly known as the world’s largest is finding that it cannot ignore historically less-profitable segments like compact and subcompact cars.
But to compete with rivals like Toyota and Honda, GM knows the facsimile game won’t work. Luring buyers back into Detroit products requires something new. In this case, it is a trip into uncharted waters: A move upscale with the globally-developed Chevrolet Cruze.
To find out if GM’s Korean and German divisions are up to the task, we put nearly 3,000 miles on a nicely-equipped 2011 Cruze LT.
How does it look?
The Cruze doesn’t look all that fresh if you’ve been following the auto industry for the last few years – or if you’ve been to Eastern Europe, where it is proving to be a genuine sales success.
But if it’s new to you, you’ll probably like its conservatively creased and toned body, which starts with a bold tall two-section and culminates in a short and high rear deck lid. The look isn’t as daring and trendy as the upcoming Ford Focus, but it strikes us as the kind of style that will wear extremely well.
And on the inside?
The Cruze’s interior elicited strong emotions the first time we plunked ourselves down into its seats, but its pluses quickly outweighed its negatives. Cruze’s basic design is well executed, with a simple, easy-to-use center stack flanked by the dual-cowl dashboard design GM’s design studios favor...
But we have little reason for concern with the rest of the Cruze’s plastics, which were meticulously screwed together and composed of either the soft touch or the none-too-hollow variety. In terms of fit and finish, design, execution and usability, Cruze sets the high bar extremely high not only for its class, but for far pricier cars.
But does it go?
General Motors has never mastered four-cylinder engines in the way that its Japanese rivals have, so we approached the Cruze’s new 1.4-liter turbo unit with trepidation. Compared to most modern turbos, its power output of slightly under 100 ponies per liter seems a little weak, as does its modest torque.
But once under way, we found that the Cruze manifests its power in a solid and strong way that had us sufficiently satisfied. Only during certain mid-range passing acceleration exercises, like freeway on-ramp merging, did the Cruze feel like it had a mountain of torque available. A fast machine it is not, but the torque piles on with a comforting rush and it generally plods along without little fuss or complaint. Unlike most engines in GM’s Ecotec family, this 1.4-liter is a paragon of smoothness at idle and throughout the rev band.
Why you would buy it:
You want a four-door sedan that makes you feel like you paid more than you did.
Why you wouldn’t:
Fuel economy is your number one priority, or you liked the general crapiness of your old Cavalier.
Leftlane’s bottom line
Fuel economy aside, the Cruze is the most complete compact car we have ever tested. It may not offer quite the sporty feel of a Mazda3, but it counters with a wholly refined feel that belies any lingering negativity we had toward the bowtie badge’s last compact offerings. Cruze blows the Corolla and even the Civic out of the water and its style is more mature than the Focus.
2011 Chevrolet Cruze 2LT base price, $20,675. As tested, $21,890.
17-inch wheels, $395; Compact spare tire, $100; Destination, $720.