Review: 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Proves It’s Never Too Late To Get It Right

After decades of showing apathy, General Motors has a seriously good compact sedan with the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze.

While it isn’t revolutionary in any way, there’s shockingly little wrong with the new Cruze, and that’s a good thing. Because GM’s small cars have typically come with some serious catch that could only be solved by massive rebates, a practice that moved millions of Cavaliers and Chevettes and Sunfires and Cobalts and so on and so forth.

The last Cruze was a solid effort, even if it didn’t exactly threaten the class leaders with the way it drove or with efficiency or price. But who knew it would preview this latest version that should be mentioned in the same breath as sedans from Honda and Mazda and others?

Compact sedans keep getting more grown up, but not all of them act as mature as they look. The main selling point of the Cruze emerges with the way it drives.The Cruze is now right up there with the Civic and Mazda 3 for that level of accomplished manners that’s so surprising. Most of the credit goes to the slick 1.4-liter turbo four and six-speed automatic. Despite economy minded gearing and a start-stop system, it’s hardly ever caught off-guard when your right foot summons it. And the low-end torque will surprise anyone who just got out of a Hyundai Elantra, for example.

Like the Hyundai, the ride with the 17-inch wheels feels soft rather than floaty, or as stern as it is in the Civic. It gives off the impression the Cruze is a bigger car than it is – and, suddenly, there’s less of a case for its bigger brother, the Malibu.

Steering could be sharper and the whole car feels less solid than before, but that’s a trade-off from the nearly 300 pounds it shed in the redesign, which is part of the reason why a 40 mpg highway run was easily doable. Even 30 around town was pretty common. And this is about $8,000 less expensive than the last Toyota Prius I drove.

It’s drivers who’ve been in Import Land for decades who will inevitably be the most impressed by the Cruze. No, it isn’t the leader in sportiness, but it hits dead-on the mark between comfort and enthusiasm. Mazda 3 drivers will appreciate the quiet. Toyota Corolla drivers will like the vastly improved connection between the steering wheels and front tires. Nissan Sentra drivers will wonder why the Cruze uses a transmission instead of a grumbling teenager to get the power to the wheels. There’s something in the Cruze for every compact sedan buyer.

Top Cruzes go for around $28,000, which is roughly what loaded Civics and Elantras cost and still less that what you can end up with for a Focus Titanium (although discounts apply there, too). I’d be tempted to step down to an LT to get a manual for around $22,000, but losing access to leather and nice wheels makes me wonder how good the Cruze is with a stick.

If GM does this right, they stand to gain a lot from the Cruze. Because where the Civic is polarizing and the Elantra is anything but, the Cruze strikes a neat balance between the two. Throw in a good engine with great efficiency and pretty spot-on pricing, and the biggest thing you’ll have to explain is that it isn’t a new Malibu.

GM is also standing by hatchbacks and diesels, something that’s bound to appeal to the disenfranchised Volkswagen customer with a fat buyout check in his or her pocket.

Photos: Zac Estrada/Carscoops

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  • Nice car. I have to say that GM is surely the best for an American car company when it comes to interior and exterior designs. They certainly have stepped up their game in the quality department when it comes to their interiors and telematic systems…

  • fabri99

    I really like the new Cruze, the front-end looks great. Too bad compact sedans seem to have those ugly bland rear ends all the time.

  • Six_Tymes

    This looks great, inside and out. Looking forward to the hatchback version.

    • WolShiver

      The new cruise hatch is gorgeous.

      It needs brembos, swaybar, springs and a 2.0t and we have a genesis, speed3, focus st and rs competitor

  • WolShiver

    Hi guys, quick note, gm has upgrade packages in the form ofan intake and exhaust, both come with updated psi and trim tunes. The intake+tune alone affords 25 more peak torque and more torque throughout the power band. Both together generate over 35ft lb more which is almost 20% which reads like a little but having Driven one with both it really makes it surprising. Obviously there is trifecta and hp tuners but those void warranty.

  • Galaxium

    The rear end is awful. The taillights look like random blobs.

  • getoffme

    Civic wannabe.

    • dumblikeyou2

      Uh, that’s the entire industry. Where’ve you been for the past three decades?

      • getoffme

        It wants to look like a Civic badly that it resembles the face of the Civic from two generations ago. Yep, still trying to catch up.

        • dumblikeyou2

          What the hell am I arguing about? It’s a friggin econbox. You win. Have fun in your Civic.

          • getoffme

            Then don’t comment. Why did you? P.S. I don’t have a Civic.

  • ONE OF THE BETTER LOOKING CHEVY SEDANS.
    NOW COME UP WITH SOME INTERESTING TAIL LIGHT LENSES.

  • MarketAndChurch

    Still can’t stand the rear end of this car but this is one of my favorites in this segment, and to be perfectly honest… this is more Honda Civic than the new Honda Civic.

  • larry1950

    GM got it right many years ago when they first came out with the Cruze in 2001. I know, I bought a 2011 and even back then the media bragged about it. And, they were right it was and still is a great little car.
    When the next newer Cruze comes along, they will still say the same that it’s never too late.

    • Al

      The Cruze, as a sub-compact car, didn’t exist in 2001. Do you mean the Cavalier?

  • trentbg

    Get what right? The missing LED or HID headlights, LED tail lights, memory seats or front ventilated seats. The other brands are not sleeping.

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