Cruze Hatchback


By Graeme Fletcher, Driving.ca - Back in the days of the Cavalier and the Cobalt, Chevrolet was never really viewed as a serious contender in the competitive compact car market.  Times are, indeed, changing.  Today, the Cruze range rides taller after its remake and the addition of an attractive hatchback model.

While the new Cruze Hatchback shares the sedan's 2,700-millimetre wheelbase, the rear-end treatment brings a ride with a lot more presence.  The wraparound tail lights and integrated spoiler emphasize the added flexibility of the fifth door, and as a package it comes together very nicely.  The wish is the RS package be made standard equipment; the bolder body kit, larger rear spoiler and fog lamps give it more visual authority.

The Cruze's cabin is typical Chevrolet.  While I'm not a fan of the fabric inserts on the dashboard, the rest of it comes together well.  In the tester's case, it included the equipment that comes with the True North Edition.  Along with an eight-way power driver's seat and power moonroof comes a better audio system and Chevy's MyLink infotainment system.  It arrives with a larger eight-inch touch screen that gives fast and easy access to all the functions, including phone, music and apps, and it supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  OnStar and a Wi-Fi hot spot are also aboard.  The other half of the North package brings some desirable safety technology; blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert.

Teen Driver is a very cool feature for parents.  It mutes the audio until the seatbelts are buckled, it gives visual and audible warnings when the car is driven over predetermined speed limits and it prevents the key safety items from being turned off; this includes the traction control system, so no more smoky burnouts.  Finally, it gives a report car on how the teen drove.  It is a simple but highly effective bit of technology.  I'm just glad it was not around when I borrowed by father's car!

Move rearward and there is plenty of room for two adult riders.  The legroom is good and there's enough headroom, thanks to the sculpted headliner.  The anomaly is found in the headrest count.  While there are five seatbelts, there are only four headrests.  As such, putting someone in the middle spot when their head and neck will sit above the top of the seatback is not a smart move.

The hatch does bring versatility and space; with the seats upright, there are 700 litres of cargo capacity and 1,336 L with the 60/40-split folding rear seat folded flat.  It also arrives with the needed tie downs and a privacy cover to keep prying eyes off the stuff stored in the back.

At this point, the Cruze hatch arrives with one engine: a 1.4-L turbo-charged four-cylinder.  Its 153 horsepower is good for the segment, but it's the 177 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm that makes the bigger difference.  While there is a very minor bout of turbo lag off the line, once moving the power builds strongly and brings a rewarding turn of speed.  In the end, the hatch canters to 100 km/h in 7.8 seconds, which is up to class standards.

More intriguing is the possibility of diesel power for the Cruze, as GM has hinted at such a model with an all-new nine-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual.  The 1.6-L turbodiesel, as used in the Opel Astra in Europe, pushes 160 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 rpm.  Note to GM: Build it and it will sell!

The power reaches the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.  The temptation is to pick the manual, but in the long run it is the automatic that's the better buy.  It slips through its gears smoothly and it's willing to drop a cog when a burst of speed is called upon.  The hitch is the need to put the shifter in low (L) to take advantage of the manual toggle switch atop the shifter.  The design dissuaded its use totally, and given the sportier thrust of the Cruze hatch, it is an oversight that needs addressing.

Ditto the idle/stop system.  It is one of the smoother systems operationally, but there is no on/off switch.  Ironically, the owner can start the engine remotely and let it pollute as it idles needlessly in the driveway, but the driver cannot defeat the idle/stop system.

The Cruze hatch proved to be light and lithe on its P205/55R16 tires.  While the suspension's design is fairly basic, it gets the job done effectively.  Through a series of switchbacks, the amount of body roll was controlled and the response to steering input was both quick and predictable.  On the flip side, it delivered a comfortable highway ride, soaking up the rougher tarmac.  As such, the tuning serves to deliver the road manners required of a sportier ride without giving up the comfort demanded of a family car.

The Cruze hatchback is a welcome addition to the Chevrolet lineup, as it brings better versatility than its sedan sibling.  Going whole hog can get fairly expensive, but the mid-range LT is right-priced and well worth a look.

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By Lesley Wimbush, Driving.ca - Chevy's targeting a younger, more ethnically diverse and predominantly male buyer with the new hatchback version of its best-selling compact Cruze - one who's relatively affluent, active and presumably hip, given the carefully crafted image of our surroundings.

A repurposed industrial building in the heart of Detroit is the new home of Third Man Records, the latest project of punked-out blues artist Jack White, an Edward Scissorhands look-alike who got his start here in the Motor City.  Against an Art Deco backdrop of exposed brick and primary colours is an eclectic collection of obscure music paraphernalia, from vintage turntables to Tardis-like wooden recording booths, circa 1960.  Behind the shop is a warehouse-like event space that also houses White's latest foray into musical preservation: a vinyl record pressing plant that will cater to smaller-output indie productions.  Here we're introduced to North America's first hatchback variant of the Cruze (Europe has had one since 2011), surrounded by robotic record presses, steam pipes and a blues-playing acoustic guitar picker, dressed in all black.

"The Cruze has been our best-selling vehicle globally," said Alan Batey, president of GM North America.  "And now, extending the range, here in the U.S. (and Canada), the new hatchback is a really big step."

Interior cabin space is exactly the same as the sedan, with no reduction in head, leg or shoulder room.  The interior is essentially the same as the sedan's, except for the all-important rear cargo space.  Aside from its sportier image, space and versatility are the hatchback's raison d'être.

In comparison to the sedan, which has a trunk space of 419 litres, and rear seats that produce an awkward hump when folded, the hatch offers 523L of cargo room, with a total of 1,189L of flat space with the rear seats down.

As with the sedan, the Cruze hatch offers a torsion-beam axle on the base LT trims, and a Z-link rear setup on Premier models.  Front suspension across the lineup consists of MacPherson struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar.

While the sedan offers three trims - LT, LS and Premier - the hatch is available in only the LT and Premier and is priced at $750 over the sedan.  The base Cruze hatch LT manual starts at $20,595, or $22,045 with automatic.  The Premier is $24,645.

As with the sedan, there are Convenience and Technology packages that build on the standard features, and a True North Edition that also adds the safety technology suite and the eight-inch MyLink touch screen with Apple CarPlay.  There's also an RS appearance package with sport body mouldings, rear spoiler, fog lamps and RS badging.

Safety tech includes lane-keep assist, IntelliBeam, forward-collision alert with following-distance indicator, lane-change alert, rear park assist and rear cross-traffic alert, but there's no adaptive cruise control.  This is available on mid-range Honda Civics and will be offered as standard on all upcoming Corollas, including the sub-$17,000 base models.

Our day was spent in the top-spec Premier True North; features include heated leather seats and steering wheel, and remote push-button start.  Chevy boasts that the Cruze is the "most connected car in its segment," and on top of Apple CarPlay, it also features standard 4G LTE Wi-Fi across the lineup.

There's really no marked difference in handling between the Cruze hatch and its four-door sibling.  The single engine choice is a turbocharged 1.4-L four-cylinder producing 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic in upper trim levels.  Performance is adequate, if not invigorating; the transmission is smooth but a set of paddle shifters would add some sparkle.

The Cruze rides smoothly with plenty of composure, and there's very little noise.  But even with the available spring and exhaust performance modes, this isn't a hatch for the boy-racer wannabes.  The steering, a rack-mounted electric setup that reduces parasitic draw from the engine, is nicely weighted but not as communicative as the Golf's.

Those of a more enthusiast bent may want to wait for the diesel variant, which is set to arrive in Canada next spring.  The diesel engine will likely be the 1.6-L CDTI four-cylinder found in the Opel, which produces only 136 hp, but has 236 lb-ft of torque.

"The torque that you get out of this type of diesel, in this type of vehicle - particularly being a Brit - with a manual transmission, that's what I call fun," said Batey.

In addition to the six-speed manual, the diesel Cruze will be available with a new nine-speed automatic.  In this configuration, the Cruze hatch could boast fuel consumption ratings as high as 50 mpg (5.6L/100 km).  The official fuel consumption numbers for the gasoline-powered Cruze hatchback are slightly higher than the four-door, at 8.3/6.4/7.4 (city/highway/combined) for the LT manual, 8.1/6.2/7.3 for the LT automatic, and 8.4/6.4/7.5 for the Premier automatic.

The Chevrolet Cruze hatchback is available in the showroom now.

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