By Matt Degen
Now entering its second generation, the Chevrolet Cruze is all-new for 2016. After several years of adeptly battling other best-selling compact sedans such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra, this latest Cruze builds on a strong foundation. The 2016 Chevy Cruze stands out with its comfortable and quiet ride, in-car technology that includes Wi-Fi access, and its conservative yet handsome design. For 2016, all Cruze models come with a 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that achieves at least 40 mpg on the highway. Next year, the lineup will expand to include an ultra-efficient diesel model and a sleek 5-door hatchback. With a price starting under $18,000 and a well-equipped model around $22,000, the 2016 Cruze is also a good value.
If you want a compact sedan that is comfortable, fuel-efficient and filled with tech features like in-car Wi-Fi and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, the Cruze deserves a strong look. All the latest safety features like blind-spot monitoring and forward-collision alert are available, too.
If you desire a small sedan that emphasizes sporty handling and a fun-to-drive nature, try the Mazda3 or Honda Civic. If you want all-wheel drive for better traction in inclement weather, look no further than a Subaru Impreza.
All-new for 2016, the Chevrolet Cruze sedan is slightly larger yet lighter and more efficient, featuring a new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, plus terrific tech and safety features. This new Cruze should not be confused with the 2016 Cruze Limited, a carryover model that has since ceased production.
The latest Cruze continues to do what it's always done best: provide a comfortable, quiet and composed ride. If you're looking for a small sedan that drives more like a...
... midsize one, this Chevrolet is for you. Power from the standard 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine is average for this segment. It won't wow you with its acceleration, but it's hardly slow. Moreover, the little engine plays nicely with the 6-speed automatic transmission for which most buyers will opt. Chevy touts the Cruze as "athletic," but we'll leave that descriptor for the Mazda3. More apt for the Cruze is "comfortable." And in a segment where too many players are trying to dazzle with dynamics, we find it refreshing to find one that's actually just a really good highway cruiser.
Odd name, awesome feature. In a first for Chevy, all 2016 Cruze LT and Premier models will come with 24 months/24 gigs of 4G LTE Wi-Fi, 24 months of SiriusXM satellite radio, 24 months of OnStar guidance, two routine maintenance services, and 5 years/60,000 miles of roadside assistance.
Remember when 40 mpg was reserved for hybrids? With today's small but efficient engines, that number is reality for small sedans like the 2016 Chevy Cruze. All models earn at least 40 mpg/highway, topping out at 42 mpg. A new diesel Cruze will replace the prior one that earned 46 mpg.
The Cruze's interior is much like its exterior in that it looks good without being flashy. This is a sensible place with a fair amount of room and logically placed controls. Highlights include a central-mounted touch-screen display and good ol' knobs and buttons for audio and climate functions. We found both cloth and the optional leather front seats comfortable, but wish there were adjustable lumbar support. Rear-seat legroom has grown over the prior model, though trunk space has decreased a hair. The rear seat folds for larger items, but you'll have to step up to an LT model for 60/40-split folding action.
The new Cruze has grown a couple of inches in length from the outgoing model, but still sports a small, easy-to-park footprint. More noticeable is the Cruze's new skin. The latest model has a sleeker and swoopier shape, with an all-new face and sweeping headlights, and a nicely buttoned-up rear with less-chunky taillights. Its roof is nicely tapered at the rear, and even the sides are more interesting with their creases. We still deem the Cruze rather conservative, and that's hardly a bad thing. We think its lines will hold up well in the years to come.
For 2016, the Cruze comes in four main trims: L, LS, LT and Premier. The bargain-basement L, offered only with a manual transmission, is pretty basic but does have a 7-inch MyLink infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, rearview camera, 6-way manual-adjust driver's seat, built-in 4G LTE connectivity with Wi-Fi (subscription-based), and a 4-speaker audio system with AM/FM/USB and auxiliary inputs. LS models add extra bits like a nicer steering wheel, floormats, armrests, and the availability of an automatic transmission. All Cruze models come with 10 airbags, 6-month trial to OnStar Guidance and two scheduled maintenance visits.
We recommend the Cruze LT. In addition to offering a manual or automatic transmission, it packs more features yet maintains an affordable price. It includes the 24/7 Promise connectivity package, 6-speaker audio system, cruise control, 16-inch aluminum wheels, and steering-wheel-mounted audio and phone controls. Manual models even come with the sporty RS appearance package. Top-line Premier models include leather seats, visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, 17-inch wheels, and an improved rear suspension that builds on the standard torsion beam. Options include Bose audio, sunroof, navigation, wireless phone charging, and safety features like blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist and forward-collision alert.
All 2016 Cruze models feature a new, turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. With 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, it is more powerful than the previous 1.4-liter turbo, and more efficient, too. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Though turbocharged, this little engine is happy to drink regular unleaded gasoline. Next year, Chevy plans to go forth with a diesel Cruze sedan that is expected to be even more efficient.
153 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/41 mpg (manual), 30/42 mpg (automatic), 30/40 (automatic, Premier trim)
With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Starting Price (MSRP) starting at $17,495, the Cruze undercuts rivals like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Mazda3 and even the Hyundai Elantra. About the only main rival that starts less is the Kia Forte, though a base Nissan Sentra and Dodge Dart are close. In reality, most buyers will opt for a better-equipped Cruze, and with that in mind we recommend the Cruze LT, which rings in for under $21,000 with a manual transmission and less than $22K with an automatic. Fully loaded, a Cruze Premier can reach beyond $29,000. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Cruze. The Chevy Cruze's resale value has traditionally trailed leaders like the Subaru Impreza, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.