Friday, February 11, 2011



DRiving | C9

the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze sedan offers unmatched interior room, crisp handling, and good fuel economy. it’s clearly the best compact sedan Chevrolet has ever built, but it needs a bit more refinement to lead in a segment full of excellent small cars. —Submitted Photo

New Chevy looks great in green
cruze: New turbocharged four-banger the key to compact’s spirited performance
By DaviD Booth
Postmedia News


saN dieGo, Calif. — suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised. I had heard good things about Chevrolet’s new Cruze (sort of) compact sedan. This was, after all, the New General Motors. Besides, the very same platform and much of the engineering forms the basis of the much-hyped Volt, a car that impressed me to no end. Nonetheless, I was half expecting yet another half-assed, yes-we’rein-the-game effort that has long marked GM’s sporadic forays into the small-car segment. So, my first few kilometres in the Cruze Eco version (which starts at $19,495) turned out to be something of a revelation. “Hmm, the interior is not half bad” was my first thought,

the tester clothed in a unique orangeand-black synthetic trim that really catches the eye. Others get a “soft touch” (GM’s words) vinyl clothing that’s not nearly as enticing. And, my gosh, is it roomy! Is this really just a compact? Unlike the Elantra I tested recently, my 5-foot-10-inch frame does not cause my bald pate to scrape the rear roof and there’s a modicum of shoulder room. The gauge set was bright and easily read, the centre console ergonomic and the rest of the switchgear at least somewhat obvious, although GM designers had managed to semihide the instant fuel economy switch, something of a glaring error for a car that is expressively all about fuel economy. Out on Los Angeles’ busy Highway 405 the ride turns out to be far more than just passable.

Hardly a sports car, the Cruze’s suspension is firm like a Volkswagen Jetta’s dampers are firm; it doesn’t float down the highway, but then neither does it punish its occupants. The Cruze, Eco or otherwise, will never be a sports car or even a sporty sedan. But few compacts are better at cruising along the superslab at a buck thirty in perfect calm and with reassuring stability. One thing that makes that highspeed touring ability necessary is the surprising performance from the Cruze’s new engine. The reason given for GM selecting a smaller, 1.4-litre displacement for its four-banger, and then adding a turbocharger, is to get the superior fuel economy that is the Eco’s main marketing message. It’s worth noting here that none of the changes made to the Eco to increase fuel economy are to the

powertrain, which is identical to that of the garden-variety Chevy compact. Instead, besides the low-rolling-resistance tires, the Eco has some nifty flaps in the front grille that limit air flow to the radiator, thus improving the Cruze’s aerodynamic coefficient of drag by some 10 per cent, and its curb weight has been reduced by 97 kilograms. The benefits are best found on the highway where the 4.6-L/100-km rating bests the Ford Fiesta’s. The basic reason for the Cruze’s exemplary performance in this regard is that sophisticated turbocharged engine. The by-product of that turbocharging, however, is that the little 1.4L has prodigious grunt — at least for this segment. Horsepower is a middling 138, but its maximum torque is a more substantial 148 pound-feet. More impressive still is that all that

torque is available from a low 1,850 to 4,900 rpm. So, unlike the higher-revving smallfours common to this segment, the Cruze’s 1.4L always feels relaxed. Couple it with the fairly slick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission and you have the most sophisticated engine in the segment (which still gets 5.1 L/100 km in automatic guise), assuming you’re not looking for boy-racerish high-revs Sturm und Drang. GM, best in class in the small-car segment, for any attribute, let alone the powertrain? Surely, David has been drinking just a little too much of the Kool-Aid as of late. Nonetheless, I contend that the Cruze’s little 1.4L engine is best in class. And not just because of the hybrid-like gas mileage that The General is trumpeting so loudly.

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