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2016 Chevrolet Cruze: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader June 2016

The compact-car segment is hotter than ever, with several major players -- notably the Honda Civic, Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra -- earning recent redesigns. But it isn't just the imports that are duking it out: The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze has been fully redesigned for the latest model year, and it's ready to do serious battle with all the top models in the field.

What's so different about the new Cruze? Just about everything. There's a handsome, futuristic new look on the outside, a thoroughly revised (and enlarged) interior, an updated powertrain with better gas mileage and a lot more of the latest high-tech features and gadgets that we've come to appreciate from the small-car segment. The Cruze is so dramatically updated that we think it easily deserves a spot on your shopping list.

What's New for 2016?

The Cruze is fully redesigned for 2016. Highlights include new interior and exterior styling, a long list of new features and an updated powertrain lineup that's been trimmed to just one engine.

What We Like

Handsome new look; larger interior with better materials; impressive array of technology; improved 4-cylinder offers great gas mileage

What We Don't

Interior still not as large as some rivals; sad to see the diesel model gone; steering feels a little numb

How Much?

$17,500-$24,000

Fuel Economy

Although last year's Cruze offered three engines, the 2016 has just one available powertrain: a 153-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which can be mated to 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions. Fuel economy reaches as high as 29 miles per gallon in the city and 41 mpg on the highway with the manual or up to 30 mpg city/42 mpg hwy with the automatic.

Standard Features & Options

The Cruze comes in four trim levels: the L, LS, LT and Premier. L models are only offered with the 6-speed manual transmission, while the Premier is only available with the 6-speed automatic. LS and LT models come standard with the manual and offer the automatic as an option. All Cruze trim levels only offer front-wheel drive.

The base-level, stick shift-only Cruze L ($17,500) comes standard with air conditioning, 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, Bluetooth, a backup camera, power accessories, a 4-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, OnStar with a Wi-Fi hot spot and a 7-in center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The LS ($19,000) adds only a front center armrest and carpeted floor mats but also allows drivers to order the automatic transmission, which is $1,000 extra.

Step up to the LT ($20,700), and you get 16-in alloy wheels, steering-wheel-mounted phone and audio controls, cruise control, LED running lights, satellite radio and a 6-speaker stereo. The LT also offers a Convenience package with keyless ignition and a push-button starter, a power driver's seat, heated front seats and a remote engine starter.

Topping the range is the Premier ($24,000), which comes standard with both an automatic transmission and the LT's Convenience package. The Premier also includes larger alloy wheels, a heated steering wheel and leather upholstery.

Other options (mostly for the LT and Premier) include an 8-in center touchscreen, a 9-speaker Bose audio system, a navigation system, heated rear seats, automatic climate control, a wireless-device charging system, a full-color driver information center, a power sunroof and a long list of safety options including rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high beams, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, rear parking sensors and a blind spot monitoring system.

Safety

Because it's so new, the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze has not yet been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But the Cruze offers a long list of safety features, both standard and optional. Standard equipment includes side-curtain airbags, a backup camera and anti-lock brakes, while options run the gamut from rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system to forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist and automatic high beams -- items you don't usually expect to find in the compact-car segment.

Behind the Wheel

On the road, the latest Cruze feels a lot punchier than the outgoing model, even though it retains the same 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that was optional last year. Chalk it up to a little extra hp and an improved transmission. Speaking of that transmission, it's impressively smooth, even under hard acceleration.

Inside the latest Cruze, there's a lot more room for passengers, especially in back. Materials are dramatically improved too, meaning that the Cruze's cabin offers about as much of a visual improvement as its exterior design. As for cornering and handling capabilities, the Cruze feels as stable and composed as any other car in this segment, but it's not as quick-witted as sporty small cars such as the Mazda3, largely due to a slightly vague steering feel.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Honda Civic -- The Civic is among the best models in this class, touting standout styling, a high-class interior, a lot of the latest equipment and features, and impressive interior room.

2017 Hyundai Elantra -- The 2017 Elantra is fully redesigned and earns a spot near the top of the class thanks to a handsome look, a smooth, comfortable ride, a long list of high-tech features and a reassuring 10-year warranty.

2016 Mazda3 -- The spry Mazda3 is among the sportiest models in this segment, and it's also one of the most technologically advanced. As a bonus, the Mazda3 is also offered as a practical 5-door hatchback.

Used Chevrolet Malibu -- If you like the Cruze's design and technology, you might also want to consider Chevrolet's latest Malibu, which features more of the same in a larger package. It's pricier than the Cruze, though, which means you may want to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

If we were getting a Cruze, we'd choose an LT with the Convenience package and a few safety options. For less than $25,000, you'll have a well-equipped small car with a standout design, an upscale interior and an impressive array of convenience and safety technology.

Find a Chevrolet Cruze for sale

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Used 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Limited LT Sedan
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Used 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Limited LT Sedan
Used 2016 Chevrolet Cruze
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Used 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Limited LT Sedan
Used 2016 Chevrolet Cruze
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Used 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Limited LT Sedan
Used 2016 Chevrolet Cruze
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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.
2016 Chevrolet Cruze: New Car Review - Autotrader