Variety added to value

The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze hatch

June 13, 2017
by David Miller

Images courtesy of: David Miller

From the June 2017 print edition

Over the past few years, the Chevrolet passenger car lineup has been completely revamped. It was an overhaul long overdue that started with exterior styling, and worked its way in through elevated interior materials and added technology. The retooling has bolstered a plethora of choices that includes the Spark, Cruze, Malibu, Impala and Volt.

The sales leader in all of them is the compact Cruze—currently fourth in Canadian passenger car sales, up 21.4 percent from 2016. Chevrolet has done a fine job in building momentum for the second-generation Cruze by releasing the sedan first, during the spring last year, followed by the hatchback variant in the fall. Later this year, a second engine offering in the form of a diesel will continue the story of added versatility to the value-based Cruze.

The staggered approach typically does well, and proof has been in the pudding, as the Cruze has leapfrogged the Mazda3 for fourth in Canadian compact car sales, while narrowing the gap to the third place Hyundai Elantra, a perennial top dog.

Bold looks
By now, many of us have seen the Chevrolet Cruze ad that has “real people” ooh and aah over the faintest thing the host has to say. One of the women describes the Cruze hatch as, “business in the front, party in the back,” and a big chuckle ensues.

It’s eye-rolling television, but the hatchback resonates with many in Canada. One doesn’t have to look far as the Cruze hatch instantly enters the market with plenty of competition from Honda, Volkswagen, Mazda, Ford, Toyota, Subaru, Kia and Hyundai.

Its sporty and curvaceous tail may be the finishing touch, but it all starts in the front with a bold, more aggressive and lowered demeanour that features a sharp, two-section grille with chrome surround. It’s swept-back headlights, coupe-like silhouette and stroking body lines provide plenty of character for the Cruze to receive some attention.

Outside of eight-inches in overall length, the hatch doesn’t change much from its sedan version, until you hit its C-pillar. That’s when the edgy rear takes effect with wider taillights, a cool-looking spoiler and the addition of 280 litres of trunk cargo space, for a total of 699.

My test vehicle was fitted with the RS package, which simply adds cosmetic enhancers. For under $1,000, the Cruze hatch Premier RS received a blacked-out front grille with RS badging, the addition of side skirts, fog lamps, a larger rear spoiler and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.

Plenty of gadgets on the inside
It’s impossible to provide a new Chevrolet review without talking technology. There are plenty of extra add-on packages to choose from ranging from safety technology in the True North Edition to extra comfort in the Technology and Convenience setup, but each Cruze comes standard with a rear view camera, satellite radio, built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi, OnStar, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Teen Driver technology.

The Premier RS has an optional eight-inch touchscreen and a modernized instrument cluster.

My Premier RS had the optional eight-inch touchscreen, along with a modernized instrument cluster, and it seemed to elevate the interior experience. There are a few cost-cutting measures, as hard plastics can be found, but that’s understandable given the segment, and Chevrolet does a fine job in at least keeping it fashionable.
Fashion can only distract for so long; eventually that turns to comfort and convenience. The hatchback’s sloping roofline may feel like a concern for back seat passengers, but surprisingly there’s ample headroom and legroom back there for two adults.

Has enough power to get by
A diesel is on its way, but for now, this tester was fitted with the one engine option: a turbocharged and direct injecting, 1.4-litre four-cylinder that produces 153hp and 177lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is matched to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

If you’re choosing between the sedan or hatch, there’s no difference in how this front-wheel-drive performs. Don’t let this sporty hatch setup fool you, it’s more tuned to provide a smooth ride with enough power with help from its ample torque supply.

Steering can be a tad slow in responding to your inputs, but it performs those manoeuvres with decent precision. One of its better attributes comes down to how well its soaks up the bumps and cracks of the road, which can be key in softening the blow during daily commutes. Seamless shifts assist that relaxing ride with only a little road noise seeping in.

There is a surprisingly ample amount of headroom and legroom in the back for two adults.

A start/stop feature that comes with the automatic gearbox assists in its frugal fuel economy numbers. In my drive, I was able to achieve a combined 6.8 L/100 km on mostly highway driving that’s on par, if not better than many of its compact competitors.

A premium is paid for the hatch
The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze hatch only comes in LT and Premium trims with a starting price of $20,595. That price may seem steep given the $15,995 price tag on the lowest Cruze sedan, made more eye-popping with the bells and whistles in my Premier RS test vehicle that brings it up to $25,740.

There’s a price to be paid for the sportier-looking and more versatile hatchback. But if you were hunting for a mid- or top-trim level, the costs aren’t that much more, and it’s surprisingly more refined and technologically-advanced than many in the segment. The hatch will resonate with different people, and it’s nice to see Chevrolet offering up some variety for its customers at a reasonable price.