In the past, General Motors offerings in the small car segment had often people scratching their heads; dismal quality, performance and awkward styling were only just some of the negative headlines.
However fast forward to 2013 and one will find the Chevrolet Cruze has been a godsend for GM after the rather average Cobalt that it replaced. Squaring the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus straight in the headlights, it's been a sales success. In fact, it's hard to believe that after only going on sale in the States in 2010, that its successor is well under development. Then again, it was presented in 2008 in other markets, so it is time for a new model
Whereas the current Cruze was a safe bet when it came to exterior styling, surface language and detailing appeared clean and mature. Yet up against stiff competition like the Mazda3 and Ford Focus, it was borderline motoring wallflower. The front end treatment looked moderately aggressive, however the mid-section and the rear-end were arguably bland. Design of the next generation car follows along a slightly familiar path, yet somewhat departs with eye-catching and dynamic body language.
If you think the front-end looks familiar, then you're not alone. Said to be heavily inspired by the Tru 140S Concept car, it features the Chevrolet twin-opening grill with a slim upper opening and a dominant lower intake framed in chrome. Either side of the wildlife-ingesting grill are chrome-beveled fog-light housings that now incorporate DLR's. Above these are dynamic headlights that have a tucked-under look on the inner edges to accommodate the trapezoidal shaped upper grill. As your eyes move up further, a substantially raked windscreen becomes a visual standout - giving the Cruze a prominent cab-forward silhouette.
Arguably, one of the least successful exterior design aspects of the current car - the midsection, looks much more resolved with a stronger shoulder line and reworked C-pillar. That back-end also comes in for some much needed attention, with new horizontal wedge-like tail lamp clusters; these now appear to have detailing that mimics those rear lights fitted to the Camaro and new (Holden-based) SS V8 Sedan.
Under the skin is a reworked interior that is expected to be in line with GM's more recent offerings, therefore cue better materials and detailing that should be right up there with the best in class. Cabin and trunk volume will get a boost (not that the current Cruze body-hauling compartment is small) thanks to GM's flexible new D2XX platform - which is the replacement for both Theta and Delta II platforms.
What isn't known about the new platform is how handling will compare to dynamic class-leaders like the Mazda3 and Ford Focus - not that the current car fairs badly, but has room for improvement.
Propelling the new bodywork will be a range of turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines and a carry-over, Italian designed, 148hp 2.0L Clean Turbo Diesel engine. As for transmission choices - it's largely still of the unknown, however GM are co-working with Ford on developing 9 and 10-speed automatics which could make an appearance for future small car applications.
The Cruze will battle it out in an ever-improving segment with competitors that will try anything to get a leading advantage. Ford's Focus and Honda Civic are among the best, while Toyota has just revealed the latest Corolla and Mazda has an all-new 3 well under development. At this stage, other variants of Cruze are largely undecided, yet one would hope a Coupe based on the Tru 140S Concept is in the works. In regards of pricing, don't expect it to deviate greatly from the current car. An on sale date is expected around fall of 2014 as 2015 Model Year version.
Overall, initial indications based on our illustration is that it appears much more aesthetically refined. This should bode well for retaining GM's existing customer base, yet should also bring in new customers to the brand. What do you think - does it go far enough to stand out? Let us know your thoughts.
By Josh ByrnesPhoto Renderings Copyright: Carscoops /Josh Byrnes