By Keith Buglewicz
The 2nd-generation Chevrolet Cruze enters its second year of sales with a new body shape added to the mix: a sharp-looking 5-door hatchback, poised to go head-to-head with the likes of the Kia Forte5, Ford Focus hatchback, Hyundai Elantra GT and, of course, the Volkswagen Golf. The Cruze hatchback adds expanded cargo space and Euro-cool styling to a package that was already pretty appealing to begin with. Among its many features are its Wi-Fi access, 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that achieves at least 40 mpg on the highway, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and more. Put it together, and you have a solid compact-sedan-and-hatchback combo that's a strong alternative to the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and other class leaders.
If you're looking for a comfortable, quiet, good-looking, fuel-efficient, high-tech compact sedan or hatchback, the 2017 Chevy Cruze deserves a strong look. All the latest safety features like blind-spot monitoring and forward-collision alert are available, too.
If your shopping list must-haves includes "sporty handling" or " fun-to-drive nature," the Mazda3 or Honda Civic might be more your speed. The Subaru Impreza offers all-wheel-drive traction, and despite its emphasis on high-tech, the Cruze is missing things like adaptive cruise control, which is available on competitors.
There's the hatchback, of course, and with it comes expanded cargo space and seriously cool styling, especially when painted in the new Cajun Red Tintcoat. Other changes include an additional charge-only USB port for LT and Premiere models, and Teen Driver allows parents to monitor their kids' driving habits.
The last-generation Chevy Cruze built a reputation for a quiet, comfortable and composed ride, and the new car upholds that tradition. However, it also adds quite a...
... bit more. The 1.4-liter 4-cylinder is a gem, quiet and smooth, and while it won't wow you with its acceleration, it's hardly slow. It also plays very nicely with the 6-speed automatic transmission that is far and away the most popular choice. And while the Cruze isn't meant to be a canyon-carving demon, it's better than you might expect for such a comfortable car; sure, the Mazda3 has a clear edge, but the Cruze isn't exactly a drag. Still, it's refreshing to find a compact sedan that that's actually just a really good highway cruiser. However, despite available forward-collision mitigation, lane-keeping assist, and other advanced safety features, adaptive cruise control is not offered.
If you are a parent, and your kids are starting to drive, then you'll appreciate the Teen Driver feature available for the Chevy Cruze. It allows parents to monitor and encourage safe driving habits, such as obeying speed limits, audio system volume, and even reporting if the anti-lock brakes are engaged.
Hatchbacks seem like they're making a comeback, and we think we know why. If you want the space efficiency of a compact-crossover SUV, but just don't want the faux-truck trappings that come with it, a hatchback like the Chevy Cruze is a good way to go. Besides, it just looks cool.
Aside from expanded cargo space -- 18.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 47.2 cubic feet with them folded -- the Cruze hatchback's interior is basically the same as the sedan's. And that's fine by us, as the Cruze offers up interior styling that looks great without being too flashy. Controls are all placed sensibly, and the center-mounted touch-screen display and good ol' knobs and buttons for audio and climate functions are all easy to use. Cloth and leather seats are both comfortable, but there's no adjustable lumbar support. Rear-seat room is also tight compared to the Civic.
So, we all agree that the new 2017 Cruze Hatchback looks great, right? But that's not to take anything away from the sedan, which is one of the best-looking cars in its class. While bigger than the 1st-generation car, it's still compact enough that parking-lot maneuvers are a snap. But practical considerations aside, we just like the sleek and swoopy shape. The front-end elements are all spot-on, with no one thing dominant, and the same in the rear. It's not the most out-there styling for a compact sedan, but the slightly more conservative lines will wear nicely over time, we think.
The 2017 Chevy Cruze L model is the bargain-basement sedan, offered only with a manual transmission, but also including 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 subscription-based Wi-Fi, and a 4-speaker audio system with AM/FM/USB and auxiliary inputs. More buyers will gravitate to the LS model, which not only offers an automatic transmission, but adds a nicer steering wheel, floormats and armrests. Cruze Hatchback models start at the LT trim level, upgrading the audio system, and adding steering-wheel-mounted audio and phone controls.
In sedans the 2017 Cruze LT is a higher-level model, but it's also the best value. In addition to a choice of manual or automatic transmission, there are the 24/7 Promise connectivity package, a 6-speaker audio system, cruise control, 16-inch aluminum wheels, and steering-wheel-mounted audio and phone controls. With the manual you'll get a sporty RS appearance package. In sedan or hatchback the top-tier Premier adds leather seats, visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, 17-inch wheels, and an improved rear suspension. Options include Bose audio, sunroof, navigation, wireless phone charging, and safety features like blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist and forward-collision alert.
There's only one engine available for the 2017 Chevy Cruze: a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine that puts out 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. It's about mid-pack in its class for power, but it's near the top when it comes to fuel economy, with automatic models getting up to 42 mpg on the highway. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Despite the turbo, the engine uses regular unleaded gasoline, which helps keep ownership costs down. Eventually Chevrolet will introduce a diesel engine for the Cruze that should bump fuel economy even higher.
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4
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 mpg (automatic, Premier trim)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on a base 2017 Chevrolet Cruze L starts at about $17,800, including the $875 destination charge, giving it lowest-price bragging rights against the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Mazda3 and even the Hyundai Elantra. However, the reality is that most buyers will likely skip to the better-equipped Cruze LT, which starts at about $21,000 with a manual, or $22,300 with an automatic. A top-level Premier model starts around $24,500, and can stretch close to $30,000 when loaded with all the option packages. Those are sedans; if you're looking at the hatchback, add about $1,000 to $1,500 to the price of an LT or Premier model. Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their new Cruze, and note that resale value for the Cruze usually trails leaders like the Subaru Impreza, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.