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2016 Chevrolet Cruze: First Drive Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Chevrolet Cruze, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Chevrolet Cruze Review

The Chevrolet Cruze has faced stiff competition in its compact segment from the Toyota Corolla, the Mazda3 and the Honda Civic since its debut in 2011. Designed as a replacement for the Chevrolet Cobalt, the Cruze was originally hailed for its refinement and for offering amenities normally found in midsize cars. However, after 5 model years with only minor improvements, the Cruze had begun to lag behind other newly redesigned compacts such as the Ford Focus and the Kia Forte in terms of features and style.

The completely redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is now a totally different car from the inside out. We recently had the opportunity to drive the brand-new Cruze before it hit the showroom floor, and here’s what we thought.

What’s New?

The Chevrolet Cruze has been completely redesigned for the 2016 model year. Gone are the angular design cues, and in their place is a look that more resembles a smaller version of its newly redesigned stablemate, the Chevrolet Malibu. The front fascia is virtually unrecognizable in comparison with the outgoing model, with a more modern front grille and the addition of eye-catching LED-accented headlights.

The interior styling has also been completely rethought, increasing functionality and comfort. Amenities are intelligently designed and placed, offering a clean, functional and attractive atmosphere for drivers and passengers alike. Rear legroom has been increased to 36.1 inches, which translates to a more comfortable ride for full-grown adults traveling in the back of the compact. Even being well over 6 feet tall, I was able to sit in the rear of the Cruze without feeling like a lanky sardine. In addition to increased spaciousness, heated rear seats are now available as well, an option also found in its main competitor, the Honda Civic.

In addition to upgraded styling, the Cruze has shed substantial weight over last year’s model, dropping as much as 250 pounds depending on the trim level. This reduced weight not only increases the Cruze’s agility but also ups performance and fuel efficiency. A brand-new, direct-injected 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is shared across all trim levels, returning up to 42 miles per gallon on the highway and propelling the diminutive Chevy from 0 to 60 miles per hour in an estimated 7.7 seconds. See the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze models for sale near you

Ample Technology

The new Chevrolet Cruze offers a wide range of the latest technology, improving everything from in-car entertainment to safety. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard features on all trim levels, allowing for a more user-friendly interface between smart devices and Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. Wireless charging capability has also been added for the 2016 model year, offering a cable-free approach to replenishing your device’s battery. In addition, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity is also offered as an option, allowing for 24 gigabytes of Wi-Fi data usage over 2 years.

Chevrolet also offers a variety of safety technology in the Cruze. In addition to a class-leading 10 airbags, the vehicle features forward-collision alert with automatic braking, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Other additional safety features on the 2016 Cruze include a rear LATCH child-seating system, automatic headlamps and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Behind the Wheel

Bolstered by an array of new features, the new Cruze is an absolute pleasure to drive. The turbocharged 4-cylinder engine supplies ample power while returning excellent fuel-efficiency numbers. While it’s no speed demon, the power plant has plenty of pep for a compact sedan. The available automatic transmission is silky-smooth as well, providing for seemingly effortless shifting throughout a variety of conditions.

Chevrolet has also included start/stop functionality in the Cruze to improve fuel efficiency in stop-and-go driving and reduce gas consumption while idling. Whereas some vehicles with this feature can be slow to start back up on occasion, the Cruze accomplishes this feat with seamless transitions that are difficult to notice even when you’re looking for them. In fact, it took the better part of an afternoon of driving through the city of Nashville to realize that this feature was even working at all.

Handling on the Cruze is bolstered by an improved chassis architecture, resulting in a 27 percent more rigid body. This increased stiffness aids the Cruze in handling, along with the MacPherson strut front-suspension design. At moderate speeds, the Cruze feels surefooted and nimble, as demonstrated on a jaunt through the windy roads of the Nashville hills. With virtually every curve, the Cruze proved ready and able to hug the road like a squirrel on a pine tree. On the other hand, the Cruze is certainly no race car. Higher speeds reveal the compact Chevy’s limitations, producing a bit of float after 70 mph.

Our Take

After driving the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze in a variety of conditions over the course of 2 days, it’s safe to say the newly redesigned compact is a substantial leap forward over the outgoing model. The substantial amount of available technology and Wi-Fi connectivity make the Cruze much more attractive to tech-savvy drivers while enhancing an already improved driving experience. In fact, we think the new Cruze is an appropriate little brother to the stellar Malibu and a worthy competitor for the newly redesigned Honda Civic. Find a Chevrolet Cruze for sale

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.


Rob Nestora
Rob Nestora
I’ve been working as an editor and content producer on the team for about six years. I love cars and technology, so working on a website with an automotive focus is a perfect fit.

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