Redesigned for 2016, Chevrolet Cruze is a compact sedan that glides down the road with surprising levels of refinement for the class. Attractively trimmed inside, the 2016 Cruze offers easy everyday operation and practicality.
The Chevrolet Cruze should be on any shopping list that includes the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, or Nissan Sentra.
The all-new 2016 Cruze is substantially longer (by three inches) than the previous generation riding lower on a slightly longer wheelbase.
Benefitting from extensive wind-tunnel development to minimize drag and maximize fuel economy, the Cruze looks a bit like the electric Volt, but all Cruze models are powered by a small turbocharged gasoline engine.
The 1.4-liter engine uses turbocharging and direct fuel injection to generate 153 horsepower and 177 foot-pounds of torque while achieving an EPA-estimated 30/42 mpg City/Highway, or 35 mpg Combined, with the popular 6-speed automatic transmission. Loaded models get slightly reduced fuel economy due to added weight. With the standard 6-speed manual, the 2016 Cruze is rated 29/41 mpg.
Inside is a roomy cabin, with roomier back seats than those offered by the Hyundai Elantra or Ford Focus.
Cruze cruises easily. The handling is not sporty but it’s enjoyable to drive, with a smooth, easy manner. Its pleasant balance of ride and handling is a result of a more rigid unit-body than what was used in the previous generation, along with precise suspension tuning and reduced weight. Cruze Premier models use a suspension upgraded with a Watt link, a little nicer than the standard torsion-beam suspension that comes on the rest of the lineup.
A rearview camera is standard equipment along with a seven-inch touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with streaming audio. An eight-inch display and 4G LTE hotspot is a popular option, along with wireless cell charging, premium leather interior, even heated rear leather seats, unusual in this class.
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze comes in four trim levels: Cruze L ($17,495), Cruze LS ($18,995); Cruze LT ($20,695), Cruze Premier ($23,995). A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, a 6-speed automatic is optional; Cruze Premier comes standard with a 6-speed automatic transmission. All come with the same turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine.
Cruze L comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, rearview camera, seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, OnStar, 60/40-split folding rear seatback. Cruze LS is trimmed more nicely and offers the optional automatic. Options include automatic climate control, eight-inch touchscreen, Bose audio, sunroof, navigation, wireless smartphone charging, 110-volt outlet. Several safety features are optional.
Cruze LT upgrades with SiriusXM, six speakers, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels. Cruze Premier features leather interior, improved rear suspension for sharper handling, 17-inch wheels. RS package brings special exterior trim, 18-inch wheels. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
The all-new 2016 Cruze looks sleeker than pre-2016 versions. Cruze looks like it could be a sedan version of the Volt hatchback electric car, though it is not. A Volt is a third more expensive, so this gives the Cruze an upscale boost in appearance.
The sleek appearance of the Cruze goes deeper than cosmetics: The 2016 Cruze boasts a low, 0.29 coefficient of drag, which allows it to slip more easily through the air for lower fuel economy.
The split upper and lower grilles share their design with that of the Volt as well as the Impala full-size and Malibu midsize sedans. Upper trim levels are distinguished with more bright trim, and LED taillights and headlights are used.
The cabin is attractively designed, with a premium appearance. Upper trim levels are elegant, with handsome two-tone leather in the Cruze Premier. A large touchscreen occupies the top of the center stack, with seven-inch standard, eight-inch optional.
Controls are straightforward and easy to operate, adding to the easy, breezy feel of the Cruze. The seats are comfortable. Cruze Premier RS models offer more substantial seat bolsters.
The back seats two adults, who will find more space for their knees than what’s found in the dated Focus or the new Elantra.
Using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, occupants can run their apps on the Cruze’s seven- or eight-inch touchscreen.
All 2016 Chevrolet Cruze models come with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, turbocharged to generate 153 horsepower. The Cruze can accelerate from zero to 60 in 7.7 seconds, according to Chevrolet. That’s adequate performance, though it isn’t sporty.
Mostly the engine and 6-speed automatic transmission operate quietly in the background as the Cruze breezes along. It’s a good combination and makes the Cruze good for running errands. When commuting, the driver may need to punch the throttle to accelerate up an on-ramp to join fast traffic.
The Cruze manages turns nicely and is capable of briskly cruising down winding rural roads without significant body lean. Four wheel sizes are available. We found the best ride quality came from the smaller diameter wheels (15- and 16-inch) with taller sidewalls. Cruze Premier models are available with 17- and 18-inch wheels, and we think the 17-inch wheels would be easier to live with every day.
The 2016 Cruze uses a new structure, lighter and more rigid than that of the previous generation. Lighter weight means better fuel economy, better handling, better braking. A more rigid structure means better handling and a smoother ride. The Cruze rides firmly but not harshly, though the 18-inch wheels are less comfortable.
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is a compelling compact sedan. Be sure not to mix up the all-new 2016 Cruze and not the previous-generation Cruze Limited or Cruze Limited Eco. The all-new version is a big improvement over those models.
New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough contributed to this report, with staff reports by The Car Connection.