Very much ahead of and a big improvement over the previous-generation Cruze it replaces.
With a spate of new and redesigned compact cars coming into the market, just about every automaker has been working hard at making their entry-level cars feel anything but. In the past, General Motors has excelled at making compacts that were affordable and relatively durable, but nobody saw the Chevrolet Cavalier and Cobalt as being particularly ground-breaking in the premium department. They were cheap and cheerful and did their job well, and that was about it. Enter the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback Premier.
Building on the successes of the first-generation Cruze that debuted for 2011, last year brought a new sedan into the mix. After evaluation of several trim levels and both automatic and manual transmissions, a hatchback is now available in this tight segment: it’ll have to do battle against the likes of the Honda Civic, Volkswagen Golf (reviewed here), Mazda3 Sport, Subaru Impreza, and Kia Forte5, among others. With the sheer number of heavy hitters, the little Chevy definitely has its work cut out for itself.
The Premier is the top trim level in the Cruze range, and starts at a base price of $24,645. At this price, buyers get LED daytime running headlamps, power heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, keyless ignition with pushbutton start, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a rear spoiler. The test vehicle had a few extra options and packages: a $2,995 Technology and Convenience Package adds a power sunroof, navigation, Bose audio, automatic climate control, heated rear seats, wireless charging, a 120-volt AC outlet, and an auto-dimming rear view mirror, among other features. $995 tacked on the RS Package, which adds 18-inch aluminum wheels, a sport body kit, and front fog lamps. Finally, $495 for the Kinetic Blue Metallic paint job brought the final as-tested price to $29,130.
The only thing missing from the Technology and Convenience Package is some of the actual technology seen in its competition. Buyers will need to substitute this package for the $600 costlier True North Edition in order to get the modern safety suite of driving aids, including forward collision warnings, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring (with cross-traffic alert), and lane keeping assist. In either case, this price point is fairly competitive with similarly equipped versions of the Mazda3 Sport GT, Kia Forte5 SX AT Luxury, Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring, and the Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport-Tech.
For all trim levels of Cruze Hatchback, there’s only one engine available: a 1.4-litre turbocharged four cylinder mill provides 153 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, and 177 lb-ft of torque between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm. There’s practically no turbo lag, and the low and midrange punch will make acceleration effortless in daily driving. Refinement levels are also high, and noise, vibration, and harshness are very well controlled. Power does taper off a bit moving into the upper rev range, but it’s still an improvement over the wheezy naturally aspirated four bangers of yesteryear. Compared to others, it’s a bit down when getting to the loaded models; the Mazda3 (2.5-litre), Honda Civic (turbo), and Kia Forte5 all have significantly more power.
For geartrain, the test vehicle’s six-speed automatic transmission does an admirable job at keeping the 1.4-litre turbo four in the meat of its powerband. Shifts are soft and borderline mushy, but this also equates to comfort as the Cruze rows through the gears. For its trouble, it’s rated for 8.4 L/100km of fuel consumption in the city, and 6.4 L/100km on the highway. With plenty of colder weather and winter storms, observed fuel economy was a reasonable 8.2 L/100km. Even with the forced induction out of the turbo, regular octane fuel is acceptable. Start-stop technology is included, which turns the car off at stoplights to save fuel. While the system is not fully seamless, the small shudder is a small price to pay to save fuel. Thankfully, for those who don’t like it, it can be bypassed.
Ride and handling is handled fairly well in the Cruze Hatchback Premier, and while it won’t win any handling awards (those go to perennial champs Mazda and Honda), it can still hold its own on a twisty road. The Cruze (reviewed here) is a solid highway cruiser, remaining stable and quiet throughout; ride is well-controlled and not overly stiff, and is a great improvement over prior generations of compact cars. As a minor caveat, the test vehicle was equipped with P225/40R18 winter tires, so expect even more quiet and better handling with a proper set of three-season or summer tires.
With the rear seats folded up or down almost-flat, the Cruze Hatchback can swallow as much cargo as can be expected for a compact five-door. Exact volume specifications weren’t available from General Motors at the time of publication, but expect it to be generally similar to its classmates. Two adults can sit in comfort up front, and the leather seats were supportive and will fare well during longer trips. Rear seat passengers will be fine unless a third person is added into the mix – at this point, hip and shoulder room will be at a premium.
With respect to the multimedia and centre stack, General Motors has done an admirable job creating a well-constructed setup with plenty of buttons for many features. This way, the most common functions can be accessed with reduced distraction from the road, as well as gloved hands in the winter. The single-zone automatic climate control also has an eco-mode for the air conditioning; use this mode to take more advantage of the Start-Stop fuel saving technology, as the engine won’t shut off if it is needed for air conditioning use.
In conjunction with full 4G-LTE WiFi hotspot capability through OnStar, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration is also included on the GM MyLink system. The menu system in general is fairly straightforward and intuitive. It’s one of the better multimedia suites in the industry right now, and the full smartphone connectivity allows users to use navigation, send and receive messages, and stream music via Spotify, Google Play Music (for Andoid Auto), or iTunes (for Apple CarPlay). The wireless charging is also a bonus, allowing occupants to charge their devices (if supported) without a cord. Fair warning, however – phones can get quite hot when wireless charging.
As an absolute piece of kit, the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Premier Hatch is a solid car, with a great set of interior features and high levels of refinement. The powertrain is generally good, with adequate power and fuel efficiency. When compared relatively against its (mainly) Japanese and Korean competition, overall output does fall short, but the Cruze makes up for it with a strong infotainment system and a well-designed interior. At the end of the day, it’s still very much ahead of and is a big improvement over the previous-generation Cruze, and it goes without saying that it’s absolutely lightyears ahead of the old Cobalt and Cavalier.
2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback Premier Gallery