What is it?
Carrying a monstrous burden of responsibility for Chevrolet, the Cruze is a world car with a potentially enormous market to exploit in the Far East, where this sort of cheap four-door saloon has bags of appeal. The Cruze is built in countless countries, badged up as American and then shipped locally, with the most significant volumes likely to be making the short hop from South Korea to car-hungry China.
But don’t think any of this means it’ll be cutting corners. The Cruze shares its basic front-wheel drive GM chassis design with the Vauxhall Astra, a fine handling and riding C-segment car. So this could be a way of getting great engineering at a bargain price.
It’s not, though. Not really. The fine detailing that makes an Astra so accomplished is sorely lacking and the Cruze feels as cheap as it is when you get moving. It doesn’t ride that well, transmitting smaller and larger changes in the road surface through the cabin. The car feels fairly stable, but handling and grip are well below average these days, regardless of cost, and the vague, artificial steering quickly saps your confidence in the Cruze.
The engine choices aren’t great, either. Weak 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrols with just 113 or 130bhp on offer make for a tiring time at the wheel and gearbox, while the torquier diesels are too expensive for
a car of this calibre.
On the inside
The Cruze provides a fairly decent driving position with enough adjustment for taller drivers to get quite comfortable, but the overall sense in here is that the cabin is quite narrow and headroom isn’t brilliant.
The cockpit is nicely styled, with a bravely forward-facing design theme, but there’s too much flash in relation to quality and the use of shiny cheap plastics around the fussy centre console isn’t going to strike a chord with many in the European market.
On the upside, the Cruze has a whopping great boot for a car of this size and price, but the saloon access is restrictive.
The obvious hook here is that the Cruze is cheap, but it’s not so much cheaper than the immeasurably better Skoda Octavia, a car that is doing pretty much the exact same job on a more local scale. Resale values are also likely to be fairly atrocious for the Cruze, a budget motor with no track record on reliability and little real brand recognition.
Chevrolet is offering a ‘Five- Year Promise’ though, a package that covers warranty, servicing, breakdown and MOT costs. Generous, but are you really tempted?