DRIVING IMPRESSION: Chevrolet Cruze 1.4T LS Hatch

BY CHARL BOSCH - JUNE 18, 2015

Just over a year ago, I had the opportunity to sample the then facelifted version of Chevrolet’s Cruze fitted with the same 1.4-litre turbocharged Ecotec petrol engine as used in the Opel Meriva, Opel Astra, Chevrolet Sonic RS and more recently, the new Opel Mokka.

As mentioned during that article, the combination with of the new powerplant and slick shifting six-speed manual transmission finally afforded the Cruze the power it deserved, and left me eating a massive slice of humble pie after expressing my doubts as to whether the small mill would be able to cope with the extra bulk.

Not long after a mid-life facelift in 2012, Chevrolet also announced the arrival of a five-door hatchback model, a move I initially questioned due to the availability of the Astra which, albeit priced significantly higher, uses the same Delta II platform and offers similar levels of refinement.

As it turned out, the only one thinking that General Motors had made a potential fatal flaw was me, as monthly sales, already around 500 units at the time, continued to rise as buyers could now opt for the sporty nature of a hatch without having to sacrifice the practicality of the sedan.

Earlier this year, and somewhat surprisingly, the Cruze received a second round of revisions with the most prominent being the fitment of Chevrolet’s MyLink touchscreen infotainment system and exterior enhancement for the grille and headlights.

The unexpected updates were certainly not frowned upon when a Red Bean Smoothie coloured range topping 1.4T LS arrived for a recent week long evaluation.

While most of its direct rivals are often dismissed for their somewhat conservative styling, the Cruze continues to remain one of the most striking with its trademark chromed dual-port grille, sloping roofline, clamshell bonnet, new 17-inch alloy wheels and bumper mounted LED daytime running lights.

Where the Cruze continues to shine is its interior. The dual cockpit layout not only looks classy in its trademark silver and black finish, but built quality rates as the undoubted highlight with soft touch plastics on the dashboard and suede-like inserts on the passenger side.

What’s more, the quality of the switchgear doesn’t exhibit a cheap feel while the MyLink system is easy to use regardless if you opt for the multitude of buttons or the screen interface.

Comfort remains another major Cruze drawing card as the seats felt comfortable and supportive while the steering wheel features rake/reach adjustment instead of the usual height only setting.

Getting in the back and with the driver’s seat popped into my position, more than enough space was still available. Similarly, the boot is best described as capacious with Chevrolet claiming it to swallow 413-litres of luggage with the rear seats up and 1254-litres when folded down.

Given it range topping status, the LS comes fully equipped with Bluetooth, a six-speaker sound system with USB and Aux input, electric windows all around, traction control, electric mirrors, cruise control, auto lock/unlock doors, six airbags and ABS with EBD.

Having mostly settled into a commuter role since its arrival, HLP 843 EC then had the opportunity to prove itself on the open road near the end of its stay, when commitments, as with my previous Opel Corsa, had me venturing down the N2 towards Humansdorp.

On the move, the engine once again showed its credentials by offering a surge of low down power no matter what gear you might find yourself in. It remained quiet and refined during my trip, doing its name justice and leaving me in complete comfort.

As with my previous Cruze tester, the six-speed box somehow continues to outshine the engine in the drivetrain department as the shift action is not only slick, but allows you to make the most of the available 200 N.m of torque.

Just before its departure, the Cruze performed its second long distance haul when a colleague borrowed it for a trip to East London. Having driven the hatch after its first facelift but with the base 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine, he was left somewhat speechless and couldn’t stop talking at the difference a reduction in 200 cc and a turbocharger makes.

The first all-new vehicle to emerge after the recession and also GM’s first attempt at making a world car, the Chevrolet Cruze has been a massive success with over three million units having been sold worldwide. After having sampled it for the second time now, the reason for these successes no longer warrants any surprises.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE LAYOUT DOHC 16v Inline 4 Turbo
DISPLACEMENT 1,364 cc
MAX POWER 103 kW @4900-6000 rpm
MAX TORQUE 200 N.m @1850-4900 rpm
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; Front-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] n/a
TOP SPEED 195 km/h
FUEL CONSUMPTION 5.8 L/100 km
EMISSIONS 135 g/km