The 2008 introduction of the Chevrolet Cruze marked a turning point for General Motors, whose countless failed efforts in the compact car segment could elicit derisive laughter from even the most taciturn of fleet managers.
Now entering its second generation, the Cruze has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and other small-ball stalwarts.
The all-new 2016 Cruze hangs its hat on a new, turbocharged 1.4-liter inline four that delivers 153 horsepower (hp) and 177 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque, a not-insignificant upgrade over the outgoing, naturally aspirated 1.8’s 138 hp and 125 lb.-ft., particularly for a compact. A new diesel powerplant will reach the U.S. market in the 2017-MY.
GM hopes to improve upon the 2015’s fuel economy numbers, as well. The 1.8 earned 36 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway with a manual transmission and 35 mpg with available automatic; the OEM has pledged to hit the 40-mpg mark — at least with the standard-equipment six-speed stick.
The exterior styling is refreshingly understated and falls right in line with the recently redesigned mid-size Malibu and full-size Impala. The new Cruze is 2.7 inches longer and about 1 inch shorter than the 2015, allowing the wheelbase to stretch to a class-leading 106.3 inches. The new dimensions are complemented by more athletic sheet metal and a slightly more aggressive stance.
Beneath the surface, the second-generation Cruze teems with standard and available safety and technology features that are seldom seen among compact offerings. Four-wheel disc brakes, 10 airbags and rearview camera come standard, and an available advanced-safety package adds lane-keeping assist and forward-collision, blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alerts.
Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system can be displayed on a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen and is compatible with Apple CarPlay for iPhones and Android Auto for Android/Google disciples. Creature comforts such as premium fabrics (including leather), heated front and rear seats and steering wheel as well as high-end audio are available on higher trim levels or in option packages.
The new Cruze will be available in L, LS, LT and Premier trim levels — all of which can be augmented by an RS appearance package that adds front and rear styling cues, a rear spoiler, fog lamps and, when added to the Premier edition, 18-inch wheels.
Launch dates for the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze were not available at press time; GM has pledged to deliver the new cars “early” in the year with a starting MSRP of $16,120.