Chevy has launched the Cruze backwards. Not stuck in reverse -the gearbox is fine - but backwards in a marketing-ish way. Usually a car like this starts life as a hatch before morphing into a saloon sometime later. Not here. Us Brits might prefer our medium-size everyday runabouts to have five doors rather than a sealed boot, but over in China they prefer things the other way around. Similar story in America. So while Chevy fed the world's hungriest markets with sedans - it became China's best-selling car - we've been made to wait almost two years for the hatch.
Fair enough. We quite like the Cruze, but we've hardly been drooling at the prospect of one with a different bottom. Especially one with less bootspace than the four-door - 413 litres instead of 450, according to the figures. That's not unusual in the transformation from saloon to hatch - it's the same for the Golf and Jetta - but, of course, the hatch aperture is taller and squarer, so you can shove things in rather than posting them through a slot. So it's more practical now, though to our eyes it doesn't look as chiselled as the saloon, so there's less of a visual link between this and Jason Plato's touring car.
Like the saloon, the hatch shares GM's global ‘Delta' platform with the new Astra. But where the Vauxhall feels engaging, this does not. The 2.0-litre diesel is strong and quiet, but reach a tricky corner, and the Cruze makes a fuss of things, especially through tighter bends, as it struggles to control body roll and gives up the search for grip long before you do. Be more gentle, and it'll repay you with a comfortable ride and hushed cruising. The interior is grown-up and smart, and feels more expensive than the price might suggest.
And here's where the Cruze picks up some points. A top-spec LTZ 1.8-litre petrol costs £16,095 and comes decorated with standard kit, including parking sensors, climate control, automatic lights and wipers, and 17-inch alloys. The 2.0-litre diesel LTZ we've driven here is £17,795 and includes the same things, but, with CO2 emissions of 147g/km, it's only a little bit cleaner than the 1.8, so unless you're lapping the countryon a weekly basis, the petrol is fine.
Chevy reckons the addition of a hatch will boost Cruze sales from 2,500 a year to around 6,000. That'll be a few more thousand contented pensioners, then. But for those of you interested in more accomplished practical hatchery, look no further than the Kia Cee'd. It's the telly show's Reasonably Priced Car for a reason.
We like: Versatility, poundstretching value
We don't like: The handling's languid, and it's lost some visual appeal
The verdict: A hatchback improves the Cruze's practical kudos, but this thing's more about affordability than excitement
Performance: 0-62mph in 8.5secs, max 127mph, 50.4mpg
Tech: 1998cc, 4cyl, FWD, 160bhp, 265lb ft, 1480kg, 147g/km CO2
Tick this on the options list: The LTZ trim level
Avoid this: Leather seats, £1,500