DALLAS, July 18, 2011 — I like the sound of it, the Chevrolet Cruze. It just rolls off the tongue. What I like even more is that it’s a laidback car and, even a bigger score, its eco-friendly. Coming in as a sedan level entry in 2011, the Cruze is all new to the market with reminisces of the old Cobalt, long gone in the Chevy lineup.
Competition for this one means it stands in line with the Ford Focus 2012 version, the Hyundai Elantra and the Mazda 3. Of course, there are always the stand-ins for the entry sedan market too which are the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla, but the Cruze stands in the front of the line any way you look at it and better, there’s no yawn factor with this one either.
The big “pro” for me with the Cruze is that it is eco-friendly and that’s a lot these days. Forget about the larger than needed engine that Chevy has been known to offer in the past.
Nope, on this one it’s not too big, not too small, but just right.
The efficient turbocharged engine and the eco model’s not-to-be-overlooked fuel economy mean you have choices with this model and plenty of it choosing from either a 1.8-liter non-turbocharged inline-4 or the 1.4-liter turbo option.
The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze comes in four trim levels the LS, Eco, LT and LTZ. The LS has 16-inch steel wheels, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an eight-way manual adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seat, a trip computer and full power accessories while the Eco is equipped similarly, but is tooled for maximum fuel efficiency with aerodynamic improvements, lightweight alloy wheels, low-rolling-resistance tires and a smaller fuel tank to reduce weight.
The LT can either be a 1LT or 2LT option with the 1LT a turbocharged engine, chrome wheel covers, color-keyed power sideview mirrors and the 2LT adding alloy wheels, a remote vehicle start, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a six-way power driver seat and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
If you opt for the big deal Cruze LTZ the wheels grow two inches and there is an automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors, rear park assist and a sport-tuned suspension and four-wheel disc brakes.
Keep in mind you can mix and match the trims in a number of cases too, particularly with the variety of sound systems, or a sunroof option. If you prefer the RS appearance package that includes the front/rear fascias, foglights and rear spoiler and it’s an option for trim level mixing and matching.
What about under the hood you’re asking? The LS has the 1.8-liter inline-4 with 136 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque while the Eco, LT and LTZ are turbocharged with a 1.4-liter inline-4 giving it 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. The LS and the Eco are equipped with a six-speed manual transmission while the other trims are six-speed automatic, which is also an option on the LS and Eco if you want it.
Safety gets top marks in the Chevrolet Cruze lineup with stability control, antilock brakes, full-length side curtain, front knee and front and rear side impact airbags standard on all trims. All but the LTZ also has a front-disc/rear-drum brake setup while the LTZ offers the four-wheel disc brakes instead.
Inside the interior is more than you’d imagine with an upscale styling and design reminiscent of a larger car with more of a price tag. The Cruze has narrow front seats and a diverse color scheme, mine came in jet black, but it added to the upscaleability, which is certainly one of the head turner features here. Easy to navigate the knobs and buttons even the seat dials are intuitive and if you don’t like one position there are plenty more to try out for comfort.
Handling takes top kudos in my book and is the most “to talk about factor” and you know how I am about feeling the road. It’s a secure ride, I’d say even a sporty drive, and I didn’t feel as if I’d be dumped over or do a tailspin if I took the curves for a test run. My backseat drivers gave me a big smile and thumbs up too, its comfy back there and a roomy. So bottom line is there are no complaints and if you’re a Chevy lover you’re gonna feel like you’ve finally come home.
Least You Need to Know: The wow factor sets in when you realize the gas mileage is such a deal. Notice the larger than most trunk making the Cruze an excellent vacation and travel vehicle for the family. Top of the line LTZ will also get you zero to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds not so bad since you’re not on a race track anyway.
Miles Per Gallon: This one got better gas mileage than a number of eco-friendly cars I have driven lately with 26 miles per gallon in the city and a whopping 37 miles per gallon on the highway.
Cost: The Silver Ice Metallic Chevrolet Cruze I drove around town was the eco version and came in at $21,130.
Rita Cook is a writer/editor with has over 1000 articles to her credit in the past 13-plus years. She is a frequent auto and travel contributor on a radio show in Los Angeles called Insider Mag Radio at KPRO 1570 am on from midnight to 12:30 a.m. Monday mornings. Cook is a member of the Texas Auto Writer’s Association, writes for the Dallas Morning News Green Living Section as well as artist profiles and spends much of her time on the road traveling or working on books. Her latest book release in May was “A Brief History of Fort Worth’ published by The History Press.
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