Chevrolet Cruze LTZ Hatchback – Now Muscling into Euro, Japanese and Korean Hatch Territory

Well priced, good all-rounder, great boot space, well-designed cabin

Not an exciting drive, rear seats hard and too upright

 Chevrolet Cruze?

Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

GM released their designs for the Chevrolet Cruze saloon in 2008, with the hatchback arriving on the scene in Europe in 2011. With the hatchback market swarming with fierce competition, and the stakes going up all the time now buyers expect good quality for their money, have they done enough to make sure the Cruze get noticed by potential punters? Let’s have a drive in the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ and see.

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

The Cruze comes in three designs; saloon, hatchback and station wagon. We think the hatchback is the best-looking out of the three, which is why we got it to review.

The front end is the best part of the exterior, with a big ol’ American-style grille, a large ‘golden bowtie’ badge in the centre so you’ll know for sure what make it is. There’s a fair amount going on up front, with sharp lines dominating the overall look. The long, swept-back lights which go to a point have lines on the bonnet and wing following their shape, the bonnet ones protruding out, giving it a muscular look – much like the 2011 Captiva we tested. It’s actually quite a bulky front, and makes the car look like a much bigger car than it actually is.

Front grille - Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ

The rear of the Chevrolet Cruze has a high bootline with a jutted rear bumper… and that’s about it. Nothing much to talk about really, apart from the huge rear light clusters, which look great when you stare into them, and Chevrolet’s designers have at least spent some time getting them looking decent.

Driving the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ rear view

In the LTZ-spec we were sent, the Cruze has a set of 17″ alloy wheels. Whatever you do though, don’t go for the £300-extra black wheels option. They don’t suit the look of the Cruze at all, make it look like you’re trying to make it sportier than it actually is.

It’s a mind-changer, the Cruze. When I first saw it, I wasn’t overly fussed and a few of the other people I asked had the same opinion. The more time went by though, the more I liked it, and it was the same with the others I’d talked to as well.

Certainly, the Cruze hatchback is individual enough in its design if you’re in the market for something a little different.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

We said in our review of the Chevrolet Captiva that the interior wasn’t up to par with other European and Korean competitors, so how does the Cruze do?

Front seats on the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ

We got sent the highest LTZ spec, which means over the LS and LT you’re getting half leather(ette) seats, six speakers (instead of 4), plus a sat-nav system with bluetooth for your phonecalls, auxiliary and USB ports and steering-wheel controls for the stereo too. There’s a few other differences, but take a look here to compare specs.

The sat nav is an improvement over the last Chevrolet system we used (in the Captiva). It’s a more modern display, and looking up places of interest and other options is easier and more accessible than previously. The directions are super-clear and it has some neat features such as a night scene at the end of the ‘road’ for night driving. Bit tacky maybe, but hey, it’s different at least. The only gripe I really had is that it’s a little slow to catch up when negotiating roundabouts – which can be irritating when you’re trying to work out whether you’ve come off at the correct exit or not.

Boot space on the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ

The Cruze that came was a brand-spanking new 2013 version, and talking to one of Chevrolet’s PR people at a recent SMMT show, they stated that Chevrolet have been listening to people and actually acting on feedback, so I was curious to see if they’d made the needed improvements.

On opening the doors, immediately it was obvious they have upped their game. While the interior is not some stupendously luxurious place, I think Chevrolet have got it right for the price. You’re paying a snip over £19,000 for the Cruze in LTZ spec (with 1.7 VCDi engine), and it feels like that. Not cheap, and not sumptuous – a good middle-of-the-road balance in fact.

Whereas we’d seen too many cheap-looking and feeling plastics used in the 2011 Captiva, the Cruze has raised the bar considerably with a nicely-styled interior that isn’t dull or boring. Rubberised trim on the dash and door card tops make the plastics feel higher quality while thick mesh material on the doors and the passenger side of the dashboard make the interior a little more idiosyncratic than usual.

Fabric covered dash on the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ

Splashes of gloss black trim are here and there, adding a little class to the Cruze, while angular pieces of faux brushed aluminium – which actually look rather nice – around the stereo controls and surrounding the gearstick make the inside appear more upmarket than its price suggests. All the buttons and dials have a nice precise movement when they’re twisted or pushed too – much better than the old ‘clicky’ stuff Chevrolet used to use.

The front seats, although only 4-way manually adjustable, are comfortable enough and we did a couple of three-hour journeys in them with no real issues. Thy could maybe do with being a little deeper for comfort for your legs and bum, and they would benefit from more lumbar support, but overall they were good enough. The rear seats felt a little too hard in all honesty, and you are sat at too much of an upright angle to get really comfortable in them – they need to be softer and slightly more shaped. Front and rear leg room is decent, and even taller people should find the room adequate enough.

Rear seating Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ

Boot space with the seats up is very good on the Cruze due to its sheer depth. You’ve got 413 litres to fill (big enough for 4 big suitcases) compared with the VW Golf’s 380L, BMW’s 1 Series with 360L, and the Kia Cee’d’s 380L. With the rear seats folded down the Golf will beat it by miles though, for whereas the Cruze has 883 litres, the Golf’s seats fold completely flat giving a massive 1270 litres.

Boot space on the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ

Boot space on the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ

The drivers console has non-fussy easy-to-read dials, and the pods surrounding them have a cool design too. I actually really liked all the fuel consumption stats in the display between the dials too (more on that later).

LCD fuel gauge on the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ

All told, the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback has an interior worthy of the price.While not pretentious, it impressed me with quality and comfort levels, while the materials have been carefully chosen as well. Chevrolet have obviously taken on board criticism about previous-gen cars, and kudos to them for doing something about it on the Cruze.

Engine and gearbox

The Cruze has the option of two petrol engines – a 1.6 and a 1.8 – and one turbo diesel unit in 1.7 litre capacity. In LTZ form you can have either the 1.8 petrol or 1.7 VCDi, and they’re all front wheel drive.

We opted for the diesel, and it arrived with just 219 miles done. Better not give it the beans too much then! The engine is a GM unit, and is the same one as the Vauxhall Astra. First thoughts are that it’s a little noisy – not anything like old-school diesels of course, and probably more on-par with something like the Kia Cee’d 1.6 noise-wise. It’s not irritatingly rackety, but it is noticeably diesel-y at low speed or at a standstill.

The 1.7 VCDi puts out just under 130 horsepower, while torque is suitable enough at 221 lb ft (300 Nm). It’s not hugely quick to sixty, achieving that in 9.8 seconds, but then this isn’t meant to be a speedmobile is it. It’s made for comfortably running at town and motorway speeds with enough punch to overtake fast enough and cruise well. More on that later.

Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ engine bay

Like most manufacturers now, Chevrolet touts the diesel engine for its fuel efficiency and on paper they are certainly impressive. 51.3 urban, 72.4 extra-urban, 62.7 combined. The digital readout between the dials I mentioned earlier come into play with the fuel economy. They give the usual average and live consumption readings, but then you’ve got extra readouts for how much additional fuel the fan or air conditioning etc is using per hour, and also an ‘economy trend’ graph for the average over X amount of miles. It’s not overly unnecessary stuff, and it’s useful info for real-world driving.

Our real journey of a few hundred miles of flowing motorway driving plus the rest in either traffic or country roads produced an average reading on the digital clock of 48 mpg.

However, if you go by the 530 miles we got from the 60 litre fuel tank that gives a realistic figure of just 40 mpg. We’ve got to take three things into consideration here though, to be fair to the Cruze; 1. The engine wasn’t run in, so it’s still tight. Put a few thousand miles on and it’ll have slackened nicely and you’ll get much better economy. 2. Our motorway run was done at slightly over 70 mph for the majority, and apparently this means 25% less economy than at 70 mph. 3. I chickened out 20 miles after the fuel light went from solid to flashing, so the tank could have had more miles left in than I estimated.

Going on to the gearbox, and the diesel Cruze is only available in six-speed manual. It’s quite a nice ‘box actually, and the ratio’s are well set-up. The gearstick has a fairly short throw, and it’s nice and solid. Easy to get into gear, but positive at the same time. Much better than I thought it would be.

Overall, the 1.7 VCDi is a good engine producing the power you’ll need for the average drive, and it’s mated to a decent manual gearbox.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

The Cruze drove and rode better than I envisioned. That’s not derogatory towards Chevrolet, but come on, the Lacetti of even only a few years ago wasn’t brilliant, so maybe I had that at the back of my mind beforehand.

There’s nothing outstandingly brilliant about the way the Cruze VCDi drives, but then there’s nothing bad about it either. It’s a good all-rounder. It sounds like I’m summing it up a bit too easily, but drive one and you’ll see what I mean. It drives positively enough both around town and takes long journeys in its stride while still returning decent fuel economy. That’s all you need if you’re in the market for a low-t0-middle of the price range hatchback.

Driving the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ on a country road

The 1.7 turbo diesel pulls along happily enough, and you’ll find enough power there to overtake some slow-poke on a country road, or accelerate quickly into the flow of traffic on a motorway. The torque peaks at 2,000 – 2,500 rpm, which is a very narrow band, but it’s enough, and as power peaks at 4,000 rpm you’ve got the horses you need for most normal driving scenarios.

City driving is easy thanks to a light clutch, and the fuel-saving stop-start system worked good enough and without irritation. Into neutral at lights or wherever and the engine will stop. A push on the clutch will start it again. Press the Eco button next to the gearstick if you want to disable that function. Any drawbacks? Two. It cuts the engine if you coast to a stop, and a few times has cut out before I’ve had chance to get it into reverse gear when I’ve pulled up to parallel park. Also, as soon as you come to a stop after a long motorway journey, it immediately stops the engine. I thought it’s best to cool the turbo for 30 seconds or so before switching the engine off after a run? Apart from those it’s not a bad system.

Mentioning reversing, the reversing camera is good and includes guide lines which move left or right as you turn the wheel, showing where your wheels will end up. The only problem is that there’s a vacuous big warning sign slapped across the top of the screen when the camera comes on, obstructing your view of anything higher up. For example; the spare wheel on the back of a 4×4 cannot be seen because of the ridiculous alert, so it kind of defeats the purpose! Take heed Chevrolet, and change it for next time.

Reversing camera view on the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ

The suspension set-up on the Cruze hatchback is commendable. It rides smoothly over the typical huge pothole or towering speed bump you’ll find on U.K. roads, so you’re guaranteed of a nice ride on the better European tarmac. On the twisties, the Cruze does the job of holding the road well, and there’s no real roll to talk of – not in a sports-car way, but it’s good for a large hatchback. The steering has good response and conveys feedback well enough through the ‘wheel.

On a long run the Cruze is notably quiet and refined, with surprisingly low wind, engine and tyre noise. The 1.7 diesel will sit happily at motorway speeds, and the engine isn’t screaming or being strained at all. At 80 mph it’ll be turning over at 2,500 rpm, and while a changed ratio to lower revs slightly would give even better economy, it’s still sufficient for long distances.

The braking system is more than adequate, and they respond well. They aren’t so sharp that they’ll throw you through the windscreen, but they give confidence when you need them. I had a guy pull out of junction without look while I was doing around 35 mpg, and had to haul on the Cruze’s all-round discs. The Chevrolet stopped super-sharply – unexpectedly so, in fact.

Driving the Chevrolet Cruze LTZ Hatchback

Talking of stoppin’ ‘n drivin’ safety equipment, the Cruze is well specc’d. It has the standard ABS and traction control, but then there’s electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and stability control (ESC). Although there’s no Euro NCAP rating as yet, the last Cruze got 5 stars, so this should get the same.

To sum up, the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback in 1.7 VCDi guise is smooth to drive, possesses enough power to keep you happy and will cruise well enough to do long journeys in comfort. With the engine run in, you’re likely to achieve well over 50 mpg on an average drive too.

Price

The range-topping Cruze LTZ  1.7 VCDi costs £19,420. Similarly spec a Volkswagen Golf SE BlueMotion manual 1.6 TDI 105 PS to the same standard as the LTZ and the price comes out at just over £23,000, the BMW 1 Series 116d ES 5-dr Sports Hatch manual (116hp) comes in at nearly £24,500 while the Kia Cee’d ‘3’ 1.6 CRDi manual (126 hp) is a snip above £20K, albeit sporting slightly more tech than the Cruze LTZ.

So, the LTZ is well priced and has good safety stuff as standard, but if you’re willing to sacrifice a few options such as sat-nav and bluetooth, go with the LT spec (has same safety gear as the LTZ) and you can save around £1,500.

Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ 1.7 VCDi verdict & score

The Chevrolet Badge - Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ

With the 2013 Cruze, Chevrolet have jumped a good few echelons forward from their older models with the Cruze Hatchback. I complained about them not being up to European standards, but now… yes, I think they’ve come on track. They’ve upped their game considerably, and with a lower price than its rivals, I now genuinely think people will be far more taken with the Cruze Hatchback. Can it run with strong Euro, Jap and Korean competition? I’d say so.

The Cruze Hatchback has a good interior space and design, a decent diesel engine, great safety measures and it feels planted yet comfortable on rough roads. Overall, an unpretentious hatchback which delivers on value for its price.

Do you own a Chevrolet Cruze? What’s your thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the article

Exterior  6
Interior  7
Engine  6.5
Gearbox  6
Price  6.5
Drive  6
Overall Score  6 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2013 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LTZ 1.7 VCDi 5 door 6-speed manual
Spec includes  All-round power windows, auto stop-start, 17″ alloys, heated wing mirrors, satellite navigation, rear camera, bluetooth for phonecalls, aux and USB ports, climate control, auto lighting, cruise control. See spec sheet for more
Options you should spec  Metallic paint (£445.00)
Price (as tested)  £19,945
Engine  1.7 litre turbo diesel, in-line 4-cylinder, 16-valve
Power, Torque, CO2  130 PS (128 hp), 221 lb ft (300 Nm) | CO2: 117 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive, 6-speed manual gearbox
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, EuroNCAP  Max speed: 124 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 9.8 seconds | No NCAP rating as yet but last gen. achieved 5 stars.
Fuel economy (mpg)  Urban: 51.3, Extra-urban: 72.4, Combined: 62.7
Weight (kerb)  1,429 kg (3,150 lbs)
Websites  Chevrolet UK, Chevrolet America, Chevrolet Europe, Chevrolet Worldwide

Check out our other car reviews

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Jason Fanthorpe, Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

2 responses to “Chevrolet Cruze LTZ Hatchback – Now Muscling into Euro, Japanese and Korean Hatch Territory”

  1. allan cook

    Your comment about the reversing camera screen with the warning notice on the top of the screen,
    Well I got a LTZ back in April and found out that if you press the menu bottom this warning notice will go off the screen.
    Also at this time my MPG is even worst than you got on your test, I have contacted Chevelot and the matter is in there hands.
    Regards Allan Cook

  2. mdavies

    Hi Allan.
    Thanks for the comment, and the tip about the reversing screen.

    Regarding the MPG figure being lower than expected, the quoted figure is tested by the government, so they are based on their figures, and not Chevrolet’s. Most manufacturers now state that the MPG is tested in laboratory conditions and may not reflect those you’ll get in a real-world environment. Very annoying, I know. What Car have a ‘True MPG’ calculator here, which is rather good: http://www.whatcar.com/truempg/my-true-mpg
    Chevrolet’s MPG smallprint is as follows “Fuel consumption information is official government environmental data, tested in accordance with the relevant EU Directive.”
    Hope this info helps!
    All the best,
    Chris.

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