"The Chevrolet Cruze hatchback represents fantastic value for money and comes with a five-year warranty."
This more practical hatchback version of the Chevrolet Cruze was launched in 2011, when the 2008 saloon received a mid-life refresh. That means a more flexible and versatile interior, a big boot and generous levels of equipment and accessories. All for an inexpensive price. The Cruze is a good alternative to many of the more obvious choices on the market. Our recommendation is the 1.7-litre diesel, which combines the car's general comfort with decent economy and power to make decent long-distance cruiser.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
We’d recommend going for the 1.7-litre diesel Cruze as it's the most economical and will return up to 62.7mpg. That's not anywhere near best in class, but it is competitive and so much better than the efficiency you’ll get from the 1.6-litre and 1.8-litre petrol engines in the range, which can only manage to return 42.8mpg apiece. Thankfully, a three-year fixed-price servicing scheme and five-year warranty should keep maintenance costs in check for a while without too much strain on your wallet. However, resale values on the used car market is poor for all Chevrolets and you shouldn’t expect the Cruze to buck the trend – but at least it's relatively inexpensive to buy in the first place.
Interior & comfort
One thing the Cruze most definitely does have is a nice dashboard – stylish and much more interesting than many in its class and supposedly based on the Corvette (it's actually based on the same platform as the Vauxhall Astra). Combined with the firm yet comfy seats, the driver sits in a decent environment. But the Cruze is a considerable let down in terms of refinement. Far too often, the passengers are knocked and shaken about by rough road surfaces, thanks to the stiff suspension. Road, engine and wind noise levels are also very intrusive driving at motorway speeds and the often poor quality of the interior makes the whole experience pretty tiring after a while.
Practicality & boot space
Adding a hatchback version alongside the saloon model of the Cruze brings some extra practicality to the range – including 11mm of extra height to improve headroom in the back. Unusually, however, the boot has actually decreased in size by nearly 40 litres to 413 litres – but that's not bad when you consider it's still 100 litres more than in the Ford Focus. You also get decent access to the boot to make loading easier – and better – than in rivals like the Citroen C4, but beyond that there is lack of clever storage solutions, with only a few simple tie downs to hold loose items in the boot. The Cruze does come equipped with a number of storage cubbies dotted throughout the car, allowing small items to be stowed easily, and the glove compartment is a decent enough size.
Reliability & safety
While Chevrolet continues its drive to improve reliability across its entire range, it didn’t do so well in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, placing 20th out of 32 in the list of top manufacturers. That said, it didn’t feature on the list at all in 2012, so leap-frogging the likes of Vauxhall and Ford is pretty impressive. So, the Cruze is a modern car based on tried-and-tested General Motors mechanicals and should prove to be fairly reliable during its lifetime. The previous car had a woeful reputation for reliability, but it was based on a rebadged Daewoo and shouldn’t reflect on the current range. Even so, some of the materials used inside the Cruze still feel cheap and flimsy, and don’t look like they will stand up to many years of family abuse. Obviously aware of this, Chevrolet sells every Cruze with a five-year warranty. In terms of safety, the saloon version has secured a full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety test and comes fitted with airbags for both front occupants as standard.
Engines, drive & performance
You can get the Cruze with one of four engines – two diesels and two petrols. You can only get the latter with a five-speed manual that, as a result, sounds ragged when driven at motorway speeds. Of the diesels – which are better than the petrols – we’d go for the 1.7-litre VCDi, due to its six-speed gearbox and the smooth, quiet way it delivers performance. The steering of the Cruze will be way too light for some tastes but it does make it easier to manoeuvre the Cruze around town. It doesn’t grip that well through the bends, with the likes of the Ford Focus and VW Golf both doing better. The Cruze, then, is not a driver's car but only a bit worse than the Hyundai i30.
Price, value for money & options
You can easily find a better drive or more comfort from many of the Cruze's main rivals, such as the Volkswagen Golf or Skoda Octavia, but it certainly offers an abundance of equipment and accessories for the price. Entry-level S models are fitted with remote locking, air-conditioning, electric windows and a CD player as standard. The Mid-range LS model throws in alloy wheels, foglights and rear parking sensors, while the top-of-the-range LTZ is crammed full with standard equipment and accessories, including automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, cruise control and iPod connectivity. Chevrolet's reputation and position in the UK market has long been that of a budget brand, but bringing in the Camaro has changed that somewhat, allowing the brand to go a bit more upmarket. However, the Cruze remains good value for money.