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2015 Chevrolet Cruze: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2014

Once hailed as the best General Motors compact car in decades, the Chevrolet Cruze has recently started to lag behind newly redesigned compact car rivals -- many of which have undertaken major strides in terms of refinement, equipment, affordability and interior quality. Enter the 2015 Chevrolet Cruze, which offers newer, more modern styling and a few additional connectivity options to help it remain fresh until its next full redesign.

No, it's no longer our top choice among small cars. That honor goes to newer rivals such as the Mazda3, the Kia Forte and the more heavily updated 2015 Ford Focus. The Cruze remains a solid contender in a challenging segment, and for that, it continues to earn our praise.

What's New for 2015?

The Cruze offers a slightly new look for 2015, along with LED running lights, an updated interior and GM's 4G LTE OnStar system with an available Wi-Fi hot spot. Other updates include Siri Eyes Free for iPhone users and a few new colors.

What We Like

Comfortable ride; spirited turbo; fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon; refined interior; abundant cargo space; good list of features

What We Don't

Bland styling compared with that of some foreign competitors; poor seat positioning; relatively pricey at the top end; not as much technology as rivals

How Much?

$18,500-$26,200

Fuel Economy

The Cruze offers a choice of three engines. The base engine is a 1.8-liter inline-4 producing 138 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. Output is managed by either a standard 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 6-speed automatic. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with the manual, or 22 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the automatic.

A more intriguing powerplant is the 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4, mated to the same two gearboxes. Output is still 138 hp, but torque is up to 138 lb-ft, and peak output is across a broader range of engine speeds. Fuel economy is an impressive 26 mpg city/38 mpg hwy with either transmission choice.

The Cruze Eco model is propelled solely by the 1.4 turbo but also adds a series of aero upgrades and low-rolling-resistance tires to optimize efficiency. Its fuel economy tops that of virtually all subcompact cars and even some hybrids. It's rated at 28 mpg city/42 mpg hwy with the manual, or 26 mpg city/39 mpg hwy with the automatic.

Finally, the new Cruze Diesel uses a 151-hp 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder engine. Offered only with a 6-speed automatic, the Cruze Diesel returns 27 mpg city/46 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze is available in five trim levels: LS, LT, Eco, LTZ and Diesel.

Base-level Cruze LS models ($18,500) offer a surprisingly long list of standard equipment. Such items include air conditioning, Bluetooth, a USB port, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and satellite radio.

Shoppers who step up to the Cruze LT ($19,800) find two versions: the 1LT and the 2LT. The 1LT adds alloy wheels, cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Fuel-saving Cruze Eco models ($20,800) are equipped like the 1LT.

Drivers who step up to the 2LT ($22,200) add a power driver's seat, leather upholstery with heated front seats and Chevrolet's MyLink 7-in, center-mounted touchscreen. The Cruze Diesel ($25,900) is equipped like the 2LT.

The range-topping Cruze LTZ ($24,800) brings automatic climate control, push-button start and a rearview camera. Key options include a sunroof and a premium audio system.

Safety

The Cruze offers 10 standard airbags -- a compact car rarity. Aside from front, side and head curtain bags, the Cruze puts airbags at the knees of the driver and front passenger and adds two side bags for the rear outboard positions. The Cruze also has ABS and stability control. The optional safety package adds some features usually found on pricier models, such as parking sensors, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning.

The Cruze boasts a 5-star overall safety rating in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests. The Cruze earned that rating after a perfect 5-star score in frontal and side impacts, along with a 4-star score in rollover protection.

Behind the Wheel

The Cruze offers a driving experience that's evenly balanced between a smooth ride and sharp handling. On one hand, it offers a solid and comfortable feel that's ideal for virtually any type of driving. Road noise is almost nonexistent, thanks to a deliberate effort to buffer the cabin with advanced sound-deadening materials.

On the handling front, the Cruze is confident in corners, showing off a decidedly sporting character when pushed to its upper limits. Calling it nimble might be going too far, but the Cruze is definitely well composed through fast turns.

Both gasoline engines are adequate for normal driving, but the 1.4-liter turbo has a more spirited feel. The diesel's performance largely mirrors the 1.4-liter turbo's, though the diesel offers a little more power.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Focus -- The heavily revised Ford Focus offers more high-tech gadgets than the Cruze does, along with more direct steering and an impressive new 1.0-liter engine that's sure to trump the small Chevy's gas mileage.

Mazda3 -- The Mazda3 is our favorite compact car, thanks to its excellent fuel economy, razor-sharp handling, long list of high-tech features and practical hatchback option. Affordable pricing helps things, too.

Used Ford Fusion -- The midsize Ford Fusion boasts a larger interior than the Cruze and more engine options. It's pricier, though, so we recommend checking out a used model.

Used Honda Accord -- A 2- or 3-year-old Accord will offer similar pricing and equipment to a new Cruze, along with a larger interior. The Accord also boasts Honda's legendary long-term dependability.

AutoTrader's Advice

We think the best 2015 Chevrolet Cruze is the Eco model with a manual transmission to manage its 1.4-liter turbo. This combination makes the Cruze truly fun to drive while offering exceptional highway fuel economy. While the Eco's gas mileage isn't quite as strong as the Cruze Diesel's, the Eco is less expensive to buy.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Chevrolet Cruze: New Car Review - Autotrader