By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.8
Just a few short years ago, the compact-sedan segment was dominated by foreign automakers. Fast-forward to today, though, and we see extremely respectable models coming from the domestics. Among them is the Chevrolet Cruze, which burst onto the scene a couple of years ago with good looks, smart features, lofty fuel economy and a comfortable ride. The Cruze doesn't feel like an economy car, and its sales have proven that a quality compact from an American automaker can connect with buyers. The Cruze isn't the sportiest sedan in the segment – which includes the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Corolla – but it offers impressive comfort and fuel economy. That latter characteristic gets a further lift in 2014 with the introduction of a turbodiesel model.
The Cruze stands out from other compacts with its comfort-oriented ride and overall feeling of solidity and strength. If you've been yearning for a powerful, high-mileage diesel compact sedan, the Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is the only such vehicle available for 2014 besides Volkswagen's Jetta.
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The big news for 2014 Cruze models is the availability of a turbodiesel engine. This is the powerplant of choice in about 40 percent of European Cruze models because of its fuel economy (40-plus mpg) and power output. Plus, we named it to our list of the 10 Best Sedans Under $25,000 for 2014.
Driving Impressions Whether running errands around town or, yes, cruising on the highway, the 2014 Cruze's driving manners stand out for their comfort and refinement. While most compact cars have no problem...... shuffling short distances, offering similar levels of ease on long commutes can be another matter. Here the Cruze lives up to its name with impressive smoothness. The 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder found on most models puts out the same 138 horsepower and more torque as the larger, naturally aspirated (non-turbo) engine found on base LS trims, yet achieves better fuel economy. Unfortunately some turbo lag was evident from a dead stop, and the 6-speed automatic transmission in our test model was a bit sluggish to downshift. The Cruze's steering is a bit numb in the corners but nicely weighted. Stay tuned for our impressions of the diesel model, slated to arrive in summer.
1.4-LITER ECOTEC TURBO ENGINE
The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze sedan's 4-cylinder turbocharged engine not only delivers ample torque for a relatively fun driving experience, it's also quiet and fuel-efficient. Drivers who enjoy shifting for themselves will appreciate the Cruze's light and easy-to-use manual transmission.
MYLINK INFOTAINMENT SYSTEM
MyLink provides voice controls for the phone, music and radio, as well as Bluetooth music streaming. MyLink can also pair with certain smartphones to stream popular apps such as Stitcher and Pandora.
For a compact car, the Chevrolet Cruze's interior is surprisingly roomy. In fact, it qualifies as a mid-size sedan, according the EPA's rating system. Material quality is impressive. Controls for functions such as audio and climate are easy to see, reach and use. The Cruze is commendable when it comes to seat comfort. Front legroom is excellent, while the rear bench seat is comfortable for two adults, provided the front seats are not fully extended. Higher-trim models have leather seating standard in place of cloth. Abundant sound-deadening material makes the Cruze's cabin one of the quietest in the segment.Exterior
The Chevrolet Cruze's exterior styling is neither bold nor bland. We predict that the sedan's angled lines and confident stance will hold up well in the years to come. In front, the Cruze is highlighted by a split front grille that has become the "face" of other Chevrolets. What is perhaps the sedan's most striking feature are its headlights and lens housings that wrap around the front and angle sharply above the front fenders. Despite the Cruze's cavernous cargo hold, the car's trunk lid and rear are surprisingly tidy. Wheel sizes range from 16 to 18 inches.
The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze comes in six trim levels that admittedly seem like alphabet soup: LS, 1LT, Eco, 2LT, LTZ, and Diesel. Even a base LS is reasonably well-equipped with premium cloth seating, Bluetooth, a 6-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD/USB audio system, keyless entry, and a 6-month trial of GM's OnStar service. The LS does not come with cruise control. It is also the only gasoline model to use the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine – the others employ the smaller, more efficient 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. The Diesel is now the top banana of Cruze models and brings leather seats, remote starting, and MyLink audio system with 7-inch touchscreen display. All models have an impressive 10 airbags.
Options for the 2014 Chevy Cruze vary by trim and include navigation, a rear-view camera, 9-speaker Pioneer premium audio, a power driver's seat, a power sunroof, and a remote vehicle starter. An RS package offers a sportier look with a rear spoiler, lower bodywork, fog lights, and unique front and rear fascias. Enhanced safety features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear park assist.
Three engine choices are available for the 2014 Cruze. The two gasoline models use a naturally-aspirated 1.8-liter 4-cylinder or a smaller, more-efficient turbocharged 4-cylinder. Both gasoline engines make 138 horsepower and run on regular unleaded. The third choice is a new 2.0-liter turbodiesel that makes an estimated 148 horsepower and impressive 258 lb-ft of torque. The diesel is estimated to earn a stunning 46 miles per gallon in highway driving, but a rancid 27 mpg in the city. While that figure is close to the manual-transmission Cruze Eco, we've found that diesels often get better-than-stated highway fuel efficiency. The diesel uses an emissions fluid that requires refilling every 10,000 miles to coincide with oil changes. The 2014 Cruze Diesel includes a 2-year maintenance plan. Gasoline models offer a choice of 6-speed manual or auto transmission, while diesels exclusively use a 6-speed automatic.
138 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
125 lb-ft of torque @ 3,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/36 mpg (manual), 22/35 mpg (automatic)
Cruze LT, LTZ and Eco
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4
138 horsepower @ 4,900 rpm
148 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm (manual), 148 lb-ft @ 1,850 rpm (automatic)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/38 mpg (manual), 26/38 mpg (automatic), 28/42 mpg (manual, Eco), 26/39 mpg (automatic, Eco)
Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel
2.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-4
148 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm, est.
258 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000 rpm, est.
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/46 mpg
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the Chevrolet Cruze starts around $18,000 for a base LS model with a manual transmission. Moving up to an LS with an automatic adds about $1,000 more. The top gasoline trim is the LTZ, which starts at over $24,000. At $25,695, the 2014 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel represents the highest trim level and most expensive version of the Cruze. Compared with other compact sedans, the Cruze's starting price is in line with that of the Honda Civic, but on the high side of the Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra, Kia Forte and Dodge Dart. Before buying, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the 2014 Cruze. In terms of resale value, the Cruze is expected to be mid-pack in the segment with values similar to Hyundai Elantra and below leaders such as Honda Civic and Subaru Impreza.