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2016 Chevrolet Cruze Premier Review

Chevrolet ups its game with the new Cruze Premier

By: Wade Thiel

Web2Carz Senior Staff Writer

Published: June 29th, 2016

The first Cruze proved to be a major success for Chevrolet. It sold incredibly well domestically and internationally, and it's actually their top-selling car globally. As good as the first generation Cruze was, it wasn't without the need for improvement and received mixed reviews upon its release. While it was an impressive addition to Chevrolet's lineup and a much-needed successor to the Chevy Cobalt, the Cruze still wasn't on the same level as the Honda Civic or the Toyota Corolla.

Now, Chevy has a new Cruze and we got to take it for a week to see how it stacks up this time around against tough competition. During that week we put this car through the wringer, by driving it all over Illinois. Here's what we found out about this American compact sedan.

  • Driving Impressions

    The Chevy Cruze is one smooth car. It brings a refined mid-sized-like ride to a car with a smaller footprint. The Cruze soaks up bumps easily and feels well cushioned, but it then surprises you in the corners by allowing for minimal body roll and providing a rather sporty experience, though not a riotously fun one. Driving the Cruze is overall uninspiring, but still really nice. If you're looking for something to get you to your destination smoothly and comfortably, this is a good car for you.

    The ride isn't the only thing that's smooth. The 1.4-liter turbo engine features silky smooth operation. We hesitate to say it's as smooth as Honda's power plants, but it is darn close. The six-speed transmission cycles through gears effortlessly and doesn't hunt for the right gear. The powertrain feels solid and confident. The car always seems comfortable to cruise along at just about the right pace and rarely feels out of breath or near its limit.

    • Ride Quality: Smooth, cushioned and comfortable. The suspension is well-tuned. You get a good balance of comfort and sportiness, erring on the side of comfort.
    • Steering: Lacking road feel, but well-weighted. Its steering isn't as precise or well-tuned as a car like the Mazda3 but is on par with the Corolla and Civic.
    • Acceleration: The car isn't slow, but it's much more comfortable cruising at a consistent speed than it is at accelerating.
    • Braking: The brakes are smooth and progressive, providing plenty of stopping power.
    • Handling: The Cruze has minimal body roll, even when you really pitch it into curves. It felt confident and sturdy no matter the situation.

  • Technology & Safety

    The Cruze Premier is one of the most tech-laden packages in the compact sedan segment, featuring an easy to use, but robust infotainment system, Bluetooth technology and 4G LTE Wi-Fi as standard equipment in the Premier trim level. While the car is packed with technology, it doesn't feel overwhelming whatsoever. Everything is very clear, simple and easy to use. Most functions are accessed through the 7-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash, which is one of the better screens and systems we've seen recently.

    • Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: The screen features high resolution and functions well. While the 7-inch screen could stand to grow a bit, it's still a high point of the interior.
    • Bluetooth Phone Pairing: Quick and easy. Our phone reconnected upon entry without issues as well.
    • Voice/Sound Quality: Voice and sound quality were high on both ends of phone calls. The Bose premium audio system sounds great playing music or the radio.
    • Controls: The controls for the car are well-laid out and easy to use. Everything is where you'd think it would be and the touchscreen is responsive and smooth.
    • Safety: The Cruze features a rearview camera, stability control, traction control, remote panic alarm, tire-prressure monitor and a plethora of airbags to keep you safe.

  • Exterior Design & Styling

    The exterior of the Cruze is greatly improved over the previous model. The car now looks like a mini Malibu from the outside, featuring similar styling. The Cruze also borrows some styling cues from its plug-in hybrid brother, the Volt, up around the front end of the car. Overall, Chevy was able to give the Cruze a much more attractive and rakish exterior that'll be sure to catch your eye.

    • Front: The front looks like a well-formed merger of the Volt and the Malibu, While the grille shape and headlight structure has more of a Volt bent, there's still elements of the Malibu to it.
    • Rear: In comparison with the front, the rear is downright boring. There aren't near as many angles and creases, though the rear is still more interesting to look at than the Corolla's.
    • Profile: In profile, you can really see the sweeping lines down the side of the car. It's as recognizable from the side as it is from the front.

  • Driver & Passenger Comfort

    The Cruze is perhaps one of the most comfortable compact cars out there right now, largely due to the well-cushioned and bolstered front seats. While the technology and ergonomics are good, every time we tried to think about the high points of the interior we kept coming back to the seats. You can sit in this car for hours and still feel good. The leather seating surfaces are surprisingly smooth and soft for a car at this price point and that same leather and attention to detail appears in other areas of the cockpit as well, like the leather wrapped steering wheel and parts of the dash.

    • Front Seats: The 8-way, power adjustable seats are very comfortable. The leather is nice, the padding supportive and you're likely to enjoy yourself even on the longest of drives.
    • Rear Seats: Rear seats feature similar foam structures and leather as the front, making for a nice place to sit and the rear leg room was adequate, though not the best.
    • Visibility: Visibility is great all around. Chevy picked smart locations for all of the pillars.

  • Storage & Cargo Room

    The Cruze doesn't have minivan-like cubbies, though it does have a reasonably spacious center console and a few pockets for you to put your phone or other devices. Our main gripe was with the cup holders. They look plenty big enough, but the mechanism that is supposed to keep cups and other items from jostling around is stiff and prevents you from fitting a very big cup in there. A typical water bottle fits fine but go beyond that you run the risk of getting it stuck.

    • Storage: Well-placed storage bins, containers and cup holders, though the cup holders are a little too small.
    • Trunk/Cargo Room: The trunk features around 14 cubic feet of cargo space, which is plenty for most people.

  • Final Impressions

    Overall, the Chevrolet Cruze is a superb compact sedan. If you want a smooth ride and comfortable seats paired with decent driving dynamics at a good price, this is a smart choice for you. We think it's as equally good as a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic, which is saying a lot because these two have been the big hitters in this segment for so long. When we can't find much else to complain about other than the cup holders and the driving excitement, we know we've got a good ride.

    We see the Cruze doing well this year, but many people will still pick the Corolla or Civic because of those cars' reputations. Still, for the relatively short time the Cruze has been out, it's managed to garner quite the reputation of its own. The little Chevy sedan has certainly earned it too. It's a heck of a nice car.

  • Price & Specifications

    Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

    Transmission: 6-speed automatic

    Drivetrain/Layout: Front-wheel drive, front engine

    Power Output: 153 hp and 177 lb-ft or torque

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 30 city / 40 highway

    Base Price: $23,120 (Premier trim level)

    As Tested: $27,250 (incl. $875 destination charge)

    Standard Features: Rear enhanced suspension; 4-wheel disc brakes; engine control start/stop system; airbags: driver & front passenger frontal knee side impact & head curtain, rear outboard passenger side impact & head curtain; remote panic alarm; Stabilitrack-stability control system with traction control; tire pressure monitor; rear vision camera; EZ key passive entry system; power door locks; door handles, body color chrome strip; mirrors, outside heated, power adjustable, body-color turn signal indicator; moldings, bright window surround; wheels, 17" aluminum; wheel, 16" steel spare; headlamps, automatic dual projection, LED signature; front bucket seats; rear 60-40 split fold rear seats; power seat adjuster, driver 8 way; floor mats; air conditioning; console, floor, with armrest; visors, driver/front passenger with illuminated vanity mirrors; cruise control; driver & front passenger heated seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel; steering column, tilt & telescopic; lighting, interior roof, rear courtesy, dual reading lamps; steering wheel controls; USB port with auxiliary jack; audio system, 6 speaker; trunk release, power; keyless start; remote vehicle start; Chevrolet MyLink audio system 7" diagonal color touchscreen select Bluetooth streaming, Apple CarPlay capability and Android Auto capability provided by Apple and Google available with compatible smartphone; OnStar RemoteLink app; XM radio and service; 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot with limited data trail.

    Options on our test vehicle: Sun & sound with navigation package: power sunroof, Chevrolet MyLink audio system with 8" diagonal touchscreen, select Bluetooth streaming, Bose premium 9 speaker audio system, multi-color driver instrument info enhanced display; enhanced convenience package: power window with express driver up/down, automatic air conditioning, auto dimming inside rearview mirror, wireless device charging, heated rear outboard position seats, 110-volt AC kinetic blue metallic power outlet

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