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Review of: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze 4dr HB 1.4L LT w/1SC

7.6

2017 Chevrolet Cruze hatchback: More contrasts than just a fifth door

By G. R. Whale

Jul. 21, 2017

I’m biased toward hatchbacks, having always owned one because they offer unbeatable practicality, and they’re thriftier and quieter than compact crossovers. This one’s a study in contrasts, with plenty of pluses balanced by a few head-scratchers.

Pros & Cons

  • + Practicality
  • + Touchscreen display
  • + Refined drive
  • - Not big on driver involvement
  • - Value for money
  • - Trunk access
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  • Walkaround

    The attractive Cruze is fairly long and low, squat on its haunches, even though the rear doors are shared with the sedan. Its nose is so long that the ribbed plastic aero skirt scuffed every driveway and one speed bump, and the large spoiler on the hatch borders on boy-racer. The “RS” on the grille indicates some cosmetic upgrades, and has absolutely nothing in common with the “RS” as applied to a Focus or older Subaru.

    Only from astern does the Cruze seem broad and portly, but it is 210 mm easier to park than the sedan, and the rear wiper works faster than any defroster. The hatch aperture feels a bit small and high. The cargo space claimed by Chevy matches a Volkswagen Golf with seats up but not folded, despite the Cruze being nearly 200 mm longer. Unlike the sedan, the hatch’s spare tire well will not hold the full-size flat—it comes with securing straps.

    8.6Very good
  • Interior

    A light and airy cabin is contemporary, not edgy, with a straightforward layout, simple gauges and controls, and ample room for adults in the front and back. Materials seem average, with padded cloth mirroring the upholstery used for dash and door trim. With a rear seat armrest and touch entry at all four doors (where many cars offer only the driver’s door), it seemed odd to find no sliding visors or mirror lights, no automatic window-up or climate control functions, and a urethane wheel where many have leather at this price.

    A power driver’s seat upgrade was welcome—it doesn’t include lumbar adjustment but that didn’t bother me, and the rear seat was fine as long as I watched my head getting in. It folds simply, with the narrow side behind the driver, to just a smidge above the cargo floor. I’d skip the iPad holder add-on.

    7.3Good
  • Tech

    The seven-inch screen was plain and grayscale until I plugged in the standard CarPlay (Android Auto is also available) which worked very well, even pronouncing all the names correctly in an Italian group text message—I couldn’t imagine even an Alfa Romeo doing that. Other useful standard features include Wi-Fi, satellite radio, OnStar, predictive rear camera and teen driver system. To get driver assistance such as forward collision braking, blind spot, and lane departure warnings, you need a $2,900 LT option pack or the pricier Premier trim.

    9.1Excellent
  • Driving

    Apart from superior visibility and parking, the hatch drives the same as the sedan, a solid refined Cruz-er. Losing a sedan’s trunk enclosure usually makes hatches louder, but this one feels at least as quiet and even those in back had no noise complaints.

    The 1.4 turbo feels bigger, with generous mid-range torque uncommon in this class, often lugging along at 1,000 rpm. It stays smooth to high revs, though the only time you’ll want those is for engine braking, as it’s nearly absent below 3,000 rpm. A six-speed manual saves you $1,450 and is preferred if you like to shift for yourself, the automatic better left to its own thinking. It’s tuned for economy so there’s no sport mode; the auto start/stop is very smooth but has no shut-off for queue creep or zipping across a busy highway.

    Body motion and roll are well-controlled, the ride not jarring but 18-inch wheels could prove unsettling on secondary roads. Brakes provide a fine response, a firm pedal and planted stable stops, and the steering makes winding roads or long highways easy, though there’s not much feedback. It feels like all the hardware is here to make a more engaging driver; it’s just tuned more for comfort.

    Torque indulgence without me shifting led to 9.4 l/100km in town but yielded 5.6 highway, ending up on the high and low sides of the city and highway ratings, respectively. Only the Ford Focus 1.0 litre and Honda Civic 1.5 Turbo are rated better, so if you want more, wait for the diesel.

    7.2Good
  • Value

    I’ll gladly pay the $700-800 effective hatch premium over a sedan, especially with 10 airbags and included infotainment, but this comes down to dynamics and equipment preferences. This car is $24,330, or $27,225 with driver assistance, Bose audio and moon roof.

    My biggest problem: a more powerful Golf with blind spot and moon roof is $26,650; a Subaru Impreza with CarPlay, moon roof, full driver assistance, turn-following LED headlights and all-wheel drive is $28,100; a Mazda3 GS with driver assistance, heated steering wheel, moon roof but no CarPlay is $23,800… and I enjoy driving them more.

    5.9Poor
  • Conclusion

    A Cruze hatch is a good young-driver car, and grown-ups will enjoy many of its attributes as well. I find it completely competent rather than interesting, but don’t consider that an indictment—the same can be said of most best-selling cars. And those don’t come in Orange Burst.

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