The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze proves that sometimes taking risks can result in great rewards. After years of playing it safe, GM finally put the time and resources into building a world-class compact car every bit the equal of the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Mazda3. With an impressive set of features, styling, engines and body styles, the 2018 Cruze has the flexibility to appeal to many different demographics.
So what’s so different about the latest Chevy Cruze? For starters, there’s the handsome, futuristic exterior, the spacious and well-appointed interior, the turbocharged powertrain with impressive gas mileage, and a lot more of the latest high-tech features and gadgets we’ve come to appreciate from the small-car segment. Not one to rest on its success, Chevrolet has upped the Cruze’s appeal with a new diesel engine option for the hatchback, giving this 5-door hybridlike fuel economy without the hybrid price tag.
What’s New for 2018?
Changes for 2018 are minor but important. The diesel engine option is now offered on the hatchback model, making it the most fuel-efficient nonhybrid in its class. A new color, Satin Steel Gray Metallic, is added to the paint choices. See the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze models for sale near you
What We Like
Handsome styling; large interior with superior materials; impressive array of technology; peppy 4-cylinder offers great gas mileage; the diesel offers even better economy
What We Don’t
Interior still not as large as in some rivals; steering feels a little numb; standard engine lags behind competitors in horsepower; no L or LS trim for hatchback; manual not available on top trim level
The 2018 Cruze offers two engine choices: a 153-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which can be mated to 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, or a 137-hp 1.6-liter diesel offered with the 6-speed manual or a 9-speed automatic. The diesel engine’s 137 hp may not seem impressive, but its 240 lb-ft of torque can move this little car with surprising speed. With the gasoline engine, fuel economy reaches as high as 28 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway with the manual, or up to 30 mpg city/40 mpg hwy with the automatic. The hatchback gets 28 mpg city/37 mpg hwy with the manual and 29 mpg city/38 mpg hwy when equipped with the automatic. Fuel economy for the diesel sedan is 30 mpg city/52 mpg hwy with the manual and 31 mpg city/47 mpg hwy with the automatic, while the hatchback gets slightly lower ratings of 29 mpg city/48 mpg hwy with the manual and 30 mpg city/45 mpg hwy with the automatic.
Standard Features & Options
The Cruze sedan comes in four trim levels: the L, LS, LT and Premier. The hatchback is offered only in the 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. The diesel engine is offered only on the LT trim and can be equipped with either a 6-speed manual or 9-speed automatic. All Cruze trim levels only offer front-wheel drive.
The base-level stick-shift-only Cruze L ($17,850) comes standard with air conditioning, 15-in steel wheels with hubcaps, Bluetooth, a backup camera, power accessories, Teen Driver, a 4-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, OnStar with a Wi-Fi hotspot and a 7-in center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The LS ($19,400) 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 ($21,720, sedan; $22,115, hatchback) 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 push-button start, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats and a remote engine starter. The RS package adds fog lights, rear spoiler, a body kit and 18-in alloy wheels.
The LT diesel ($24,670, sedan; $26,310, hatchback) adds the diesel engine and the LT’s equipment.
Topping the range is the Premier ($24,350, sedan; $24,820, hatchback), 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 warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, rear parking sensors and a blind spot monitoring system.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze a 5-star overall rating, with five stars in the front crash test and four stars in the side and rollover tests. The Cruze offers a long list of safety features, both standard and optional. Standard are 10 airbags, including side-curtain airbags, a backup camera and antilock 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 Cruze feels a lot punchier than its modest 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine’s size might suggest. Chalk it up to minimal turbo lag and an efficient automatic transmission. Speaking of that transmission, it’s impressively smooth, even under hard acceleration.
Inside the Cruze, there’s a lot of room for passengers, especially in back. Materials are of the highest quality, meaning the Cruze’s cabin offers about as much visual delight as does 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
2018 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.
2018 Hyundai Elantra — The Elantra was all-new last year, fully redesigned and earning 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/100,000-mile warranty.
2018 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 offers a manual transmission on its top-line Grand Touring trim.
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.
If we were getting a Cruze, we’d choose an LT with the Convenience package and a few safety options. For around $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 technologies. If fuel economy is a priority, the LT Diesel is worth a look, although the $3,000 premium over its gasoline-powered sibling might be hard to swallow.