An Impressive Machine at 40 MPG
I want to get right to the point: I found the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Premier sedan to be a most impressive machine. Nicely rendered inside and out, the Cruze performed flawlessly, whether it was in the urban slog or hustling on the freeway.
On top of that, the 2017 Cruze leads the pack when it comes to standard features. Even the base-model Cruze L packs a seven-inch touch screen, support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a built-in Wi-Fi hot-spot and parental monitors for teen drivers. Starting at just $16,975, neither the top-selling Honda Civic nor Mazda3 are even offered at that sub-$17,000 price point.
When fuel efficiency rather than performance is the order of the day, the Cruze gasoline powered car shines bright with a prodigious 40 mpg highway and 30 mpg city EPA rating with an automatic transmission. (The manual transmission is one mpg less.) This, of course, earns the Cruze entry into Clean Fleet Report’s 40 MPG Club, a club we think every car should be striving to join.
Getting That 40 MPG
The motivating force is a 153-horsepower, intercooled, turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four-cylinder engine with direct injection. Quite smooth and quiet for the class, the gasoline-fired four churns out a maximum of 177 pounds-feet of torque over a broad range stretching from 2,000 to 4,000 rpm. The six-speed automatic is programmed to keep the revs low, rarely letting the engine extend beyond 5700. The automatic also comes with an automatic engine stop-start feature to save fuel when the car isn’t moving.
The six-speed automatic is optional ($1,000) for the LS and LT, while the Premier gets it as standard.
The turbocharged four-cylinder may imply a dash of performance, but it’s been tuned more for maximum efficiency. Still, the zero-to-60 mph time of 7.7 seconds is an indicator that freeway merging or passing is accomplished easily and is on par for the class.
Sleek Outside, Handsome Inside
Fully redesigned last year, the Cruze sedan cuts a sleek hole through the air with a 0.28 coefficient of drag, the result of hundreds of hours in the wind tunnel. It’s a modern and attractive shape, but we’ve seen it before—in the similar-looking Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. The dual-grille front end is also familiar having been borrowed from the Impala and Malibu sedans.
The car is low, lean, and distinctly sporty looking. A fast windshield rake and a faster-sloping rear profile lend to the sporty design, while the rear profile culminates in a standard integral rear spoiler that contributes to the car’s aero efficiency. The sleek profile is complemented by detailed, layered line work in the hood and body-side panels.
Step inside the 2017 Cruze, and you’ll find a handsome cabin that’s chock-full of high-tech features. Chevy’s trademark dual-cowl dash layout offers straightforward instruments in a pod in front of the driver and a seven- or eight-inch touchscreen display in the center of the dash on every model. The dash also features a selection of knobs and buttons for quick and easy access to audio and air-conditioning controls, a welcome sight for buyers not yet ready to move to a future comprised of screens alone. The climate controls feel especially premium, with temperature readouts built into the knobs.
Technically the 2017 Cruze is compact in size, but is close to being a midsize sedan. That means it really is a five-passenger car with a generous amount of room in the front and rear. Front seats are well bolstered and are all-day comfortable. Entry and exit is easy even for six footers. If child car or booster seats are part of your everyday life, they are a relative breeze to install.
For the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze sedans, the 14.8-cubic-foot trunk in the L and LS models is larger than most compact sedans. The Cruze’s position among competitors drops slightly for the LT and Premier models, which have a 13.9-cubic-foot trunk—still above average. The trunk has a good-size opening and is wide at the rear. If you need more space, the 60/40 split rear seats easily fold down.
Compact Car Tech King
If you’re smartphone savvy, you’ll be right at home in the 2017 Cruze. Its standard infotainment system integrates with iOS and Android devices via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
That gives access to many of your favorite apps right on the Cruze’s 7.0-inch touch screen. This touch interface, known as Chevrolet MyLink, is responsive and straightforward to use. Standard features also include Bluetooth, a USB port, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a rearview camera and Chevy’s Teen that helps parents monitor their teen’s driving performance. Satellite radio is standard in Cruze LT and Premier models. A larger eight-inch touch screen, a Bose sound system and satellite navigation are optional.
A full array of active safety technology is available in LT and Premier models through add-on packages. The basic package features rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. A second package builds off this, adding automatic high beams, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist and a following distance indicator. A fully-loaded Premier Cruze will top out at close to $29,000—not terribly expensive.
On The Road
Taut and responsive in feel, the Cruze test driver under-promised and over-delivered in almost every aspect and it was fuel efficient, no doubt about that. I was able to easily meet and often times exceeded the car’s EPA-estimated 30-mpg city, 40-mpg highway ratings.
Acceleration was brisk, but brisk is standard fare for cars in this segment. The six-speed automatic responds eagerly to throttle inputs. The Cruze felt substantial on the road, larger and more stable than its dimensions would suggest. Handling was refined and easy, with steering that was pleasantly hefty. The car tracked straight down the road and responded willingly to inputs.
The Cruze’s soft suspension caused it to feel imprecise when driven aggressively in corners, but the payoff was a smooth ride over bumps and potholes. If you are looking for a sporty driving experience, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Just as the name implies, the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze is built for cruising. I gave the Cruze high praise for its whisper-quiet interior, which isn’t typical of the compact car class. The four-banger largely lived a life of silence, operating quietly in the background. Its supple ride, relaxed handling, comfy seats and impressively quiet interior make it a superb commuter car and the long-distance cruiser of this class.
When Chevy picked up the Cruze, I had driven 197 miles and the fuel mileage readout indicated 37.6 combined mpg, a very pleasing number.
In The Marketplace
Globally, the Cruze is Chevrolet’s top selling model, and in the U.S. it is well-prepared to face competitors with its low price, fuel economy and tech features. The addition of the hatchback version and diesel engine option broaden its appeal. But rivals aren’t sitting still.
There are a number of reasons the Honda Civic is one of the best-selling cars in America. The 2017 Civic offers a balance of features, fun-to-drive personality, safety and fuel economy. But the Cruze can best the Civic with its heavy dose of standard features and approachable price.
For zesty handling the Focus is the clear winner, but for everyday commutes and unrivaled standard features, the Cruze edges ahead. Toyota’s Corolla and the Cruze are both good picks for everyday commuting. Each provides a comfy interior and smooth ride. But the Cruze holds an advantage with convenience features and leads the way in fuel economy.
When it comes to compact cars, the athletic Mazda 3 sets the standard for how compact cars should drive—providing a comfortable ride, nimble handling and zippy engine performance. However, the Cruze has better fuel economy and the Mazda doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The Chevrolet Cruze and each of the above rivals offer warranties that match up closely. On the plus side for the Cruze, it provides something that few others outside of the luxury realm do: two free scheduled-maintenance visits within the first two years or 24,000 miles of purchasing the car.
Obviously, choosing a new compact car will be a tough decision. If the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze wasn’t on your shopping list, take it for a test drive. I think you will find like I did, it under promises and over delivers.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Road Test: 2017 Mazda3
Road Test: 2016 Honda Civic
Road Test: 2017 Toyota Corolla
Road Test: 2017Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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