Saloony Tunes with the Chevrolet Cruze

With diesel power the Chevrolet Cruze is a decent budget bet, as long as its four-door body fits the bill. Steve Walker reports.

With diesel power the Chevrolet Cruze is a decent budget bet, as long as its four-door body fits the bill. Steve Walker reports.

The Cruze is at its best with a diesel engine and remains good value despite the price premium needed over the petrol models. Handling is competent, though less composed than in more mainstream family cars, while the design and build aren’t obviously low rent. Strong economy in both models and decent performance from the 148bhp car also count in its favour but Chevrolet limits the appeal of the Cruze by only offering a four door bodystyle.

In the era of compact crossover 4x4s, supermini MPVs and executive hatchbacks, is there still a place for the good old saloon car? The concept of a lidded boot tagging along behind your vehicle is clearly less popular than it once was, particularly in middle to lower areas of the market where even cars that do come with a four-door option tend to be offered as a hatch as well. Chevrolet is one brand that’s keeping faith with the saloon and it’s confident that fleet customers in particular will want to do likewise when they get wind of its Cruze 2.0 VCDi diesels.

It’s tough at the bottom and, in car market terms, that’s where the Chevrolet Cruze plies its trade. As a budget family saloon car, it’s competing in a sector where there’s a dwindling number of rivals but customers seem to be in similarly shortsupply. Tight margins have prompted other manufacturers to edge cars of the Curze’s ilk upmarket and traditionalcustomers have been tempted away by exciting new niche markets that have popped into being.

All this leaves the Cruze out on a limb in some respects but Chevrolet will counter that if you’re after an affordable saloon car with room for the family, there aren’t many other options. With the 2.0 VCDi diesel engines installed, the Cruze shapes up even better from a cost point of view and could well raise some eyebrows amongst company car users.

There are two petrol engines available with the Cruze and two diesels. The diesels are by far the most satisfactory options. From a driver’s perspective, the Cruise is competent.

The ride can be jittery over bad surfaces but is generally composed and, appropriately enough, the Cruze is a comfortable cruiser. It also handles much better than we’ve come to expect from a budget saloon car, resisting roll admirably and showing a nice neutral balance through corners. The steering in the diesel cars, which have the extra weight of a larger engine over their front wheels, is slightly less sharp but this ensures they aren’t as jumpy at motorway speeds.

The Cruze doesn’t give its low pricing game away with half-hearted design. It’s a handsome-looking thing from most angles with the sharp creases around the bonnet and the lower body mixing well with the long curve of the roofline. The short overhangs front and rear produce a well planted stance on the road and the front end is distinctive - large headlights and a tall grille complete with a big yellow Chevrolet bow tie. Interior space is pretty good for four occupants. Only headroom might become an issue for taller people in the rear seat. The boot can accommodate 450-litres, which is good for the class.

The build quality inside the Cruze is considerably better than expected given some of Chevrolet’s past efforts. The controls are clearly laid out with big buttons and an interface that doesn’t require much getting used to.

The chunky steering wheel is another highlight and there are big door pockets along with a large box in the centre console to help keep the place tidy.

The fly in the ointment is that the vast majority of the cars the Cruze would count as rivals are hatchbacks or available as both four-door saloon and 5-door hatch. In the UK, the market for booted cars without a premium badge has dwindled and the lack of a five-door bodystyle is a major handicap for this Chevrolet.

Running costs for the diesel Cruze models should stand comparison with the compact family car mainstream with the only slight question mark relating to how residual values hold up over time. The 123bhp car returns 51.4mpg on the combined cycle with the 148bhp option only a single mile per gallon behind. Emissions of 145g/km for the less powerful car are alsoright up there. Both cars have 12,000-mile service intervals and a 3-year/60,000-mile warranty.

Chevrolet can offer a very affordable route into a frugal family sized saloon car with its Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 VCDi diesel models. The upfront prices look favourable and lead you to expect that significant corners may have been cut somewhere along the line but the Cruze reveals few serious downsides. You have to make allowances for its position at the budget end of the market but the car is well designed and a competent performer. The saloon bodystyle is hardly the height of fashion these days but it appears there’s life in the old boot yet.

The 2.0-litre VCDi engines are undoubtedly the ones to go for in your Chevrolet Cruze. The premium over the petrol models is significant but you’re getting a far more capable vehicle that will pay back some of your outlay with its low runningcosts. The fleet managers and company car users which the Cruze is likely to rely on for the bulk of its sales will certainly concur.