When the name Chevrolet is mentioned, you’ll probably conjure up images of ostentatious V8-powered beasts with body-builder inspired aesthetics, like the legendary Corvette and Camaro – vehicles that seem as though they were created for the drag-strip. Or in the case of the latter, to save the world under leadership of Optimus Prime.
But after spending a week with their Cruze, I’ve learned that the American manufacturer is capable of creating vehicles suited to normal, everyday applications too.
Made to compete with stuff like the ever successful, but insipid Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Jetta, the Cruze is a well-equipped vehicle with a reasonable price tag.
The derivative I sampled was the range-topping 1.8 LT, which, in addition to the essential features found on models throughout the Cruze range, boasts 17-inch alloy wheels, a plush leather upholstery and a semi-automatic gearbox.
It’s very Eurocentric in design – which isn’t a bad thing at all, as the Cruze happens to be a very stylish car. Someone from sister company Opel definitely had a hand on the drawing board.
I suppose conformity is necessary to seize a sizable amount of market-share, which is GM’s primary aim in a bid to get themselves back on top.
The Cruze’s front-end is bold: the honeycomb grille and large Bowtie emblem give it an almost imposing stance. This is the new face of Chevrolet it seems, even the diminutive new Spark, to be launched later in the year, bears these traits.
Much to my surprise, the Cruze did manage to turn few heads. It’s something I didn’t expect from a mid-sized sedan created with the average daily commuter, or sales rep in mind. “Ohh, stylish … I like this car” said one of the prettier female contemporaries of mine.
“It’s a Chevrolet…?,” she enquired, eyes still affixed to the gleaming demonstration model. “Cruze”… I replied, with all the nonchalance I could muster.
The interior of the Cruze is a pleasant place to be.
I was immediately struck by the futuristic-looking fascia, which looks even better during night-time driving, illuminated by a neon blue hue. The light-coloured materials used on the panels and seats create an ambience of space and everything falls to hand easily with the simple layout of instrumentation. Interior components exude solidity and touches like the chrome door handles and black trim inserts give the Cruze a premium feel.
The sound system too deserves a nod of approval. Even though the speaker units bear no emblem indicating a collaboration between Chevrolet and some renowned audio company – which many manufacturers seem to do – the Cruze’s system manages to pump out the high-bass tunage stored on my iPod in wonderful clarity.
There is a “but” in my eulogy: The Cruze feels extremely under-powered, even with its range-topping 1796cc engine. It struggles when faced with inclines and emits a painful drone under heavy acceleration. Its lack of get up and go really does spoil what is an otherwise good package. A 2.0 litre diesel-engined derivative is to be released in the year. The high-torque, turbo-charged engine GM are to employ in this model will certainly propel the Chev with a bit more sprite and vigour.
Even the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists – a really picky bunch – have given the Cruze their seal of approval, nominating the 1.8 LS model Cruze as their choice to qualify as a finalist in the Wesbank Car Of The Year competition.
This could very well be the vehicle able to redeem the ailing General, in the aftermath of the turbulent period in which bankruptcy seemed like the only future prospect for the Centenarian marque.
Photo Credit: Quickpic
For Miles’ opinion on the Chevrolet Cruze click here.