The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze compact comes in two body styles, sedan and hatchback, all made in the U.S. This second-generation version was launched as a 2016 model. All-new for 2016, the Cruze sedan carries over to the 2017 model year unchanged.
New for 2017: Chevrolet Cruz Hatch.
Cruze was in the news when then-president-elect Donald Trump tweeted that General Motors was building them in Mexico and importing them over the border. In 2016, GM built 188,876 Cruze sedans, 8400 of which were built in Mexico, or about 4.4 percent. The 95.6 percent were built in Lordstown, Ohio. GM said that all Cruze models built in Mexico were intended for global sales, but then they brought some into the U.S. to meet unexpectedly strong demand. But the controversy flared in the first place because GM laid off 1200 workers at the Lordstown plant, saying the Cruze wasn’t selling well enough. The paradox might lie in the reality of the car business running hot and cold, and the issue of lag time. The demand was then, the layoff is now.
For 2017, Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback was added and is being built in Lordstown, Ohio. GM says it won’t import any more sedans from Mexico. So the bottom line is that the 2017 Cruze is made in America.
The front-wheel-drive Cruze is powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 153 horsepower, with a 6-speed manual transmission in the base model and 6-speed automatic in most models.
The 2017 Cruze sedan with automatic gets an EPA-rated 30 miles per gallon City, 40 mpg Highway, or 34 Combined; it’s rated 31 mpg Combined with the manual. The 2017 Cruze hatchback is rated 29/38/32 mpg. That’s nearly the same as the Honda Civic, and a bit better than the Toyota Corolla.
The NHTSA hasn’t crash-tested the Cruze, and the IIHS has only done a couple of tests, with the top Good scores in side impact and moderate front overlap. All Cruzes come standard with 10 airbags and a rearview camera, as well as electronic stability control.
(For 2018, a diesel engine will be available.)
The 2017 Chevy Cruze comes in L, LS, LT, and Premier trim levels, and is available in sedan and hatch versions. All are front-wheel drive and powered by the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine.
Cruze L sedan ($16,975) is the base model with manual transmission, cloth upholstery, and 15-inch steel wheels with plastic hubcaps, but it still comes with rearview camera, 10 airbags, 7.0-inch touchscreen with infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 60/40 split folding rear seat. Cruze LS upgrades with air conditioning and offers the choice of an automatic transmission. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Cruze LT sedan ($20,150) and Cruze LT Hatch ($21,240) add a six-speaker sound system with available satellite radio, steering wheel controls, 16-inch wheels, foglamps, and a space-saver spare tire rather than a tire repair kit. Cruze Premier sedan ($23,475) and Hatch ($23,945) are loaded with leather, heated steering wheel and rear seats, upgraded rear suspension, and 17-inch wheels.
The RS package for LT ($695) and Premier ($995) models adds sporty front and rear fascia, spoiler, and 18-inch wheels. Other packages include infotainment and sound upgrades, safety equipment, such as blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, forward collision alert, and automatic headlights. Automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are not available.
The Cruze sedan is longer and wider than most compacts, with a wedge shape that leads to a short rear deck. It has the same grille as the Chevy Volt, Malibu, and Impala.
Though they share the same wheelbase, the Hatch is eight inches shorter overall, all of the loss coming behind the rear doors. The roof curves back to a spoiler over the back glass in the fifth-door hatch that’s a bit small.
The cabin is modern without being too digital. It’s similar to the high-tech Volt, with relatively simple instrumentation in a pod, outlined in chrome, and intuitive controls. The layout is clean and sharp. In the center of the dash there’s a stand 7.0-inch or 8.0-inch touchscreen. Two-tone trim on the higher models. The front seats are comfortable, with better bolstering in the leather seats than cloth.
For a compact car, the Cruze sedan is very spacious. By the tape measure, it looks like a midsize car. It holds four adults as advertised, with more leg and hip room in the rear seat than rivals, namely the Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra.
The trunk is a large 13.7 cubic feet.
The smaller hatchback has 23.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat, not as much as the Honda Civic or Ford Focus hatchbacks. Even though it’s a compact, the Cruze hatch is slightly smaller than the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic hatchback. It’s all in vertical room, a penalty of the Cruze’s curvy roofing. However, with the rear seat folded, the Cruze hatch holds a competitive 47 cubic feet of cargo.
According to Chevrolet, the Cruze sedan can accelerate from zero to sixty in less than eight seconds, which is adequate. But there is a hesitation in the acceleration when you floor it, from the automatic transmission or maybe just the 153-horsepower engine. Uphill freeway on-ramps can be an issue.
Having lost 250 pounds in that redesign two years ago, the Cruze is now responsive , nimble, and fun to drive. The chassis is planted. The rack-mounted electric power steering isn’t too light at low speeds, and nicely weighted at high speed. It’s no sport sedan, but the Cruze handles better and with more confidence than some of its Japanese and Korean rivals.
The comfortable ride is one of the best in a compact car, even with the big 18-inch wheels. The standard rear suspension is torsion beam, but the Premier gets an improved Watt’s link setup for crisper cornering. The Cruze also comes with four-wheel disc brakes, using long-wearing Duralife rotors. We’ve tested a number of different iterations of Cruze, and the one we like is the most expensive: Premier Hatchback with the RS package. Besides handling the best, it’s smooth and compliant without being noisy or harsh.
The Chevy Cruze is well worth considering in the compact class, especially the new Hatch. The engine could use a bit more oomph, and we wish the glitch at early acceleration would go away. The expensive Cruze Premier RS is way sporty, while the cheapo Cruze L with the manual gearbox and cloth upholstery is still solid and complete enough to work as an economical daily driver.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.