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Don’t hold the TV commercial against it.

 

You know the one: Possibly the worst of Chevrolet’s insipid “focus group” ads, where the vacuous ‘non actors’ claim the Cruze hatchback makes them think of “young urban professionals” and “weekend warriors” and other marketing clichés that should have been left back at the ad agency brainstorming session.

 

Or maybe you don’t — maybe you’re smart enough to change the channel as soon as you’re warned by the “real people, not actors” graphic.

 

I’m not, so my first reaction upon seeing the Cruze hatch was a burning desire to beat on it with a baseball bat. The boss frowns on that, so I took it home instead, and I’m glad I did — it’s probably the nicest small hatch General Motors has ever produced.

 

Our Cruze Premier was powered by Chevy’s 1.4-liter turbo four, an engine that feels more powerful than its paper numbers suggest. With the six-speed automatic, it makes for an efficient, reasonably smooth powertrain that never feels strained. All the car’s systems feel part of a nicely integrated whole that makes for pleasant, drama-free driving with just enough of a sporting edge to be engaging. Add in the heated seats front and rear, XM radio, heated steering wheel and attractive leather-trimmed cockpit, and you have all the makings of a premium commuter.

 

Just as well, since Chevy’s not positioning the Cruze hatch as a bargain option: At $26,500 it’s right against (and in some cases, pricier than) competitors like the brilliant new Honda Civic hatch and Ford’s top-shelf Focus Titanium. You should drive the Chevy before making your decision, though — it’s good enough to play in that field.

 

But please, Chevy, find a better way to get the message to consumers than “business in front, party in the back.”

 

–Andrew Stoy, digital editor

 




OTHER VOICES:

I haven’t been bombarded with those ChevysR4Millenials commercials, at least not to the same extent as Andy, so I guess I don’t have that weighing down on my assessment of the Cruze Hatchback.

On the one hand, it’s a competent US-market compact five-door from General Motors. Big whoop.

On the other hand, it’s a competent US-market compact five-door from General Motors! We haven’t seen one of those (competent or not) since, what, the short-lived Saturn Astra?

A mind-melter it is not, but a non-enthusiast hatchback doesn’t need to be. It needs to be practical, hard-working, hard-wearing, economical. The Cruze Hatch appears to be those things (though I can’t speak to how hard-wearing it is after a few days behind the wheel), and it’s a good measure more refined than someone whose last exposure to a GM hatch was, for example, that Saturn Astra might expect.

With that $26,475 sticker comes heated seats and steering wheel, blind spot detection and so forth, and an easy-to-use touchscreen-based infotainment system (though not navigation, it must be noted — you’ll have to hook up your smartphone for that).

One of my only real complaints about previous Cruzes, a hesitant transmission that seemed to search for gears in rush-hour-type traffic, has apparently been addressed here. Maybe it’s the particular six-speed automatic variant used with the 1.4-liter turbo, or maybe it’s a software fix. Either way, zero complaints this time around. Whether you’re creeping along or flooring it, response is quick and gearshifts are smooth.

I couldn’t get a fuel economy reading because I simply didn’t burn enough gas. After an extended driving on surface streets and in rush hour, finished off with sustained cruise-controlled expressway cruising, the onboard fuel economy calculator was creeping steadily toward 30 mpg.

So where does this useful little vehicle sit? It clearly isn’t trying to be the segment’s budget pick, nor is it trying to be the performance choice; the available RS package adds a spoiler, a body kit and a few other goodies, but no performance-boosters.

But the Cruze sedan upon which it is based has been a dependable, if quiet, hit for Chevy, much like the Focus was for Ford when it debuted (and continues to be to the present). The redesigned Cruze refined the formula from the top down, and the hatchback takes those proven bones and adds the practicality that comes with more room in the back.

What more could you want in basic transportation — except for a slightly hotter enthusiast version to round up a solid lineup?

–Graham Kozak, features editor






Andrew Stoy



Andrew Stoy



– Digital editor Andrew Stoy has spent the past 20 years wrenching on and writing about cars. He’s worked everywhere from dealer service bays to the headquarters of the world’s largest automakers.

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On Sale: Now


Base Price: $24,820


As Tested Price: $25,475


Powertrain: 1.4-liter DOHC turbocharged I4, FWD six-speed automatic


Output: 153 hp @ 5,600 rpm 177 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,000 rpm


Curb Weight: 2,978 lb


Fuel Economy: 28/37/31 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)



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