Chevrolet Cruze Test Drive

Last Updated:

I know most of us already think of the Cruze as a “not so new” design. It has been hipped for years, and actually came out in other countries a while ago.
But in person, it does look quite modern. Even if a bit on the conservative side of the spectrum.
I see its main competition as the new Jetta.
But most will also consider the new Elantra and 2012 Focus sedan.

I do think it has more presence and a fresher look than the Civic.

And the current Corolla cannot even compete in that department…


The interior feels a bit more original than the exterior.
I really like the shape of everything. Even if there is still a bit too much of silver plastic on the console for my taste.
Everything feels really solid. And all plastics, even the hard ones, have a high quality look and feel.
I would say the interior is quite a few steps above the new Jetta, both in looks and quality.

The seats are very comfortable, and quite supportive.
The steering wheel feels great, and all the secondary switches seem very solid and smooth.
And I really like the cloth trim on the dash. It looks good and shows that someone is trying something different.

The back seat is OK, but not nearly as roomy as the new Jetta. And even a bit smaller than the Kia Forte.
The Cruze is pretty large for a compact sedan, but unfortunately, it doesn’t translate in a roomy back seat…

The only thing that really bothered me was the quality, or lack of it, of the standard 6 speaker stereo.
The base car comes with a 4 speaker system, but the 2LT gets an upgraded 6 speaker unit.
And I have never heard such weak bass from a car stereo. I had to actually turn the dial all the way up.
Something I never had to do in any car. And it still sounded just OK.

I would definitely consider the $400 9 speaker Pioneer upgrade.


The ride is great. And pretty firm. A bit more so than the Jetta.
And the car feels great on the road, firmly planted at all time.

The steering is on the lighter side of things. The usual for that kind of smaller family car. But it has actually more feel than the Jetta, with better accuracy off center. Especially on the freeway.

.Engine and transmission

My test car was equipped with the new 1.4 Liter Turbo engine.
Which I was really curious about.
It is the smallest one used in this class. Everything else in that category has a larger displacement engine.

At first, I was bothered by the sound. At idle, it isn’t as quiet as most others. And the really annoying thing is that it transmits small vibrations through the seat, so you can not only hear it, but also feel it.

But once things are under way, it settles down and the car is actually very quiet.

Over the course of a week, I did get used to the sound.
And actually grew to like the sportiness of it.
But still, the Jetta’s 2.5 Liter engine sounds and feels like a luxury car next to it.
The only other engine that sounds that busy is Mazda’s 2.5 Liter in the Mazda3.

The VW TDI is also a bit quieter.

The 1.4 Turbo is rated at 24 City and 36 HWY.
I got 26 City and reached 40 on the HWY.
Which is really good.
But not that much better than what I got a few weeks earlier with the 2.5 Liter Jetta.
And the new Elantra could do even better.

So I am still not convinced about using such a small engine, for such a small increase in gas mileage.

The 6 speed auto was always eager to downshift, which added to the sporty character.
But it also could get a bit abrupt at times.


The Chevrolet Cruze proves that GM can produce a highly competitive compact sedan. It actually feels like what most people would expect of an import.
The ride is firm and comfortable. The interior is one of the very best in the class. And the whole car has a satisfying solid feel to it.

But the new 1.4 L Turbo is not for everyone. It doesn’t feel as sophisticated as the rest of the car.
I think it will be a better match for the upcoming Chevrolet Sonic.

But on the other hand, it does give the Cruze quite a sporty feel. And the car is super quiet on the freeway.

My test car was priced at $21 900. Without GPS or a sunroof.
A similar Honda Civic would be $22 700, but includes a sunroof.

The Kia Forte is a better deal. You can get the SX 2.4 Liter sedan with a sunroof for about $21 300.
So the Cruze is price inline with its competition.

But none of these cars will offer the upscale interior feel of the Cruze.

If you are looking for a compact sedan, you definitely need to test drive the Chevrolet Cruze.

Conversation 27 comments

  1. I included the Cruze in your "Money not being an issue, which car would you want" post. This, In my opinion, looks better then the Hyundai(and maybe even the Focus), feels more upscale then the Jetta (though I wish it had as much rear-space as it), and gets great gas milage.

    I own an 06' Chevy Cobalt and I've never seen worse quality in any car, ever! (it was a high school graduation present) This car, however, exudes value, and looks more expensive then it costs. Come to upgrade my car in mid2011, this is at the top of my list, (along with the Cmax, Focus, and Jetta).

  2. An advertisement on every f*cking picture, Vince? The redundant ads on your website are more than annoying, but this is now absurd. You've been deleted from my bookmarks, ol' buddy.

  3. The 2011 Elantra is even a better deal: The Elantra Limited with heated leather and sunroof is only $20,795.

  4. Vince, I agree with you on the lack of room in the back seat. (Corolla's have a lot more room in the back). But I disagree with you on the seats being comfortable. I found them to be rock hard and very shallow, like they have been cut down to create the illusion of more interior space. This is a common complaint I have with many Korean cars(the Cruze being a Chevy badged Daewoo).

  5. Announcement:

    Mr. Burlap,
    I've had your site bookmarked for a long time and have enjoyed it…spelling and grammatical errors notwithstanding.

    But the ANNOYING pop-up ads in all your pictures have resulted in my departure. Goodbye!

  6. Great review Vince! Just goes to show that if people will leave their "American cars are crap" attitudes and bias' at home they might just realize that American cars have changed and actually are competitive or, GASP!, even BETTER than the imports!!!

  7. This is the exact vehicle that GM needed three years ago. In 2011 is seems like it is too little, too late.

    I test drove one and I have to disagree with you, Vince. I thought the transmission was very hesitant to downshift and the 1.4 turbo was not suited to the weight of this vehicle. Acceleration from a dead stop felt downright lethargic. I also didn't feel as if it really stood out anywhere given its price.

    Speaking of price, you would have to be NUTS to spend $21,000 or more on the Cruze. That is true midsize territory there. You could get a Sonata GLS which is FAR nicer, gets nearly the same mileage, is larger, and has a serious powertrain.

    For C segment vehicles, my choices go as so:
    1. Mazda3
    2. Upcoming Focus
    3. New Elantra

    I wouldn't take a chance on a first build year GM product.

  8. I'm starting to see a bunch of these on the road – and from what I see, for good reason.

    Bottom line is that it's a good looking car, seems well built, offers pretty decent fuel economy and is reasonably priced.

    As a consumer, can you ask for much more?

  9. It may be a nice car, but its look screams for an over the hill customer, who can only afford a small and inexpensive car.

    If you were 25 years old(I am not) and saw side by side the Cruze, the new Focus, the new Elantra, and the Mazda3, which one would you choose to be seen driving?

    No responses from the GM PR department please…

  10. I recently attended the Indianapolis Auto Show, and they had several Cruzes there. The one that stood out, in my opinion was the base model. At just over $17k with a stick, it was still reasonably well equipped. The fabric interior was fine.

    A note on the rear seat room – the front seat travel on the Cruze is extraordinarily long. It goes back so far that at 5'10" and long legs for my height, I could barely touch the pedals.

    The Cruze is pretty decent, but so is the new Elantra, and the Focus promises to be a contender as well. There should be a lot of rebates flying around next year.

  11. I was cruising on I66 west of DC this weekend when this amazingly hot car zoomed past on my left. It was a new Elantra looking absolutely stunning for any size or class car much less a compact. I tailed it, passed it and saw it from all angles and it is simply drop dead gorgeous. Then a few seconds later a new Cruze went by on the right. Let's just say that the Elantra is Angelina Jolie and the Cruze is Joy Behar.

  12. What's with all the hate on Vince for this review?? He has some pop up ads that appear ONE TIME when you first open the page??? Give the guy a break – the site costs you nothing to look at, costs him money to run – and he needs to make a living.

    RELAX. Frigging cry babies!

  13. "Let's just say that the Elantra is Angelina Jolie and the Cruze is Joy Behar."

    Baloney. The Elantra is a half used bar of soap and is horrendously whitebread.

    The Cruze is no beauty queen, but the angular lines are much better looking. It looks very upscale…. with the exception of the rear end design, which looks really bad.

  14. These are basically a flop in other countries. Even the aging Corolla model still outsells them by far.
    Thats what happens when models are overhyped years before their release. Hopefully the same wont happen for the Volt.

  15. When I first saw the Cruze in person, first thing I thought was…Thats it? Boring, donut tires and looks 10 yrs old. Says 'Rental Car' all over it.

  16. Agree about the pop-ups not being as intrusive as on many other sites.

    But the constant bad grammar, bad spelling and fuzzy logic in many of the statements in his text really give a bad impression of this site.


  17. "Way pay 21k for this when u can get the new optima for alot cheaper and look alot cooler !"

    Because a Kia sucks worse than a Chevy.

  18. I really like that last (rear qtr) shot, Vince!
    Any way you could make a bigger version available, please?

  19. Way pay 21k for this when u can get the new optima for alot cheaper and look alot cooler !

    1st off – congrats on the spelling…just bang up job there sport.

    2nd – will you idiots stop comparing a 'loaded' / mid range model to a base model???

  20. Vince,

    I think the Cruze is FAR overpriced for what it is. It is barely better than the competition if it is at all.

    Chevy is bragging that the Cruze is better than the Civic? News flash for those of you who don't know any better: The current 8th generation Civic was released in the SUMMER OF 2005!!!!!! That means the vehicle is going on its SIXTH model year. The Cruze should be lightyears ahead but it isn't. The Civic was probably being developed as far back as 2002. I still think the current Civic has a better ride/handling trade off and the engine feels better and more insulated and the shift logic for the transmission makes sense.

    That is embarrasing.

    The new Elantra will walk all over this rebadged Daewoo. $21,000 for an absolutely loaded to the gill Elantra? Sign me up.

    New Focus with amazing looks and a much more modern feel to go with it? Sign me up.

    Loaded Cruze with a wimpy motor for $25,000? Who are they kidding?

    I have seen about one new Cruze on the road since its release late summer, early fall. I have seen MANY new Elantras and those were released just last month.

    "Anonymous said…
    "Way pay 21k for this when u can get the new optima for alot cheaper and look alot cooler !"

    Because a Kia sucks worse than a Chevy.

    January 4, 2011 8:22 PM"

    I'd take a Forte over the Cruze any day of the week.

    At least it is a good value proposition and they put a real motor in it.

  21. "I'd take a Forte over the Cruze any day of the week.

    At least it is a good value proposition and they put a real motor in it."

    I had to check this with C/D, because the words "real motor" and "Kia" just don't sound right. The Kia claims more horsepower. But the Kia has less torque, gets significantly worse observed mileage and has the same 0-60 time. I'm not saying that the Forte is a crummy car, I think it looks really good. But it is not a strong competitor to the Cruze in the way you suggest.

  22. The rear seat feels as hard as a rock and the rear armrest is absolutely useless because it's too low.

    Goose neck trunk hinges and a whiny turbo that hasn't been tested yet for longevity? No thanks.

    Looks nice….but that's about it. (Although I know this is the reason some people have been tricked into buying this thing).

  23. To: January 5, 2011 10:57 AM

    The Forte SX gets 33MPG on the highway and has 174HP, runs 0-60 in the low 7's compared to the mid 9's with the Cruze. That is a HUUUUUGGGEEEE difference, guy.

    Also keep in mind you need the FE package to acheive the 40MPG highway rating, I believe it is 36 without that package, which you could realistically do in the Forte.

    The fuel savings would be a complete wash when you factor in initial cost of the vehicle, where the Kia wins in every single category.

    I don't even like the Kia that much, but I'd much rather have it over this unproven GM.

  24. Anonymous said…
    I really like that last (rear qtr) shot, Vince!
    Any way you could make a bigger version available, please?

    January 5, 2011 12:31 AM

    Belated THANKS for the pic, Vince
    I really appreciate it!!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *