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Chevrolet Cruze 1.6 LS

Click to view picture gallery“The all-new, Korean-built Chevrolet
  Cruze four-door saloon cruised into
  the UK
s new car market this week —
  and already 700 of the 1,500 available
  this year have been snapped up by
  eager buyers
...

ONE OF THE CORE FEATURES OF THE CHEVROLET RANGE is value for money and the new Cruze is no exception, with comprehensive levels of standard equipment across the entire range including electronic stability and traction control systems.

The all-new line-up kicks off with the 1.6 S, which enjoys a comprehensive list of standard equipment despite its 'value' price tag of just 11,995. As well as air conditioning and remote central locking, the entry-level Cruze features follow-me-home lighting (a feature normally reserved for premium cars), a quality CD/radio system with auxiliary input socket, electric front windows, a fully-adjustable drivers' seat and steering wheel plus upmarket, soft-touch cabin materials and premium blue backlit dashboard dials.

The LS model, expected to be the best-seller in the range, starts at only 12,595 for the 1.6 manual variant and includes air conditioning as standard plus other upmarket features such as 16-inch alloy wheels, a chrome-edged radiator grille, front fog lights, body-coloured bumpers and mirrors, a leather-covered gear knob and steering wheel, trip computer, electric rear windows, steering-wheel mounted audio controls and reverse parking sensors. For an extra 1,100, customers can order their 1.6 LS with a state-of-the-art six-speed automatic gearbox.

Flagship of the range will be the LT, which comes in 1.8 petrol or 2.0-litre diesel guises, starting at 13,595. For that, you get a complement of equipment that could have come from a luxury car, including cruise control, climate control, rain-sensing wipers, anti-dazzle rear-view mirror, an upgraded high-output stereo with 6-CD autochanger, chrome detailing and 17-inch alloy wheels, plus the option of an integrated satellite navigation system.

So the price is low and the specification high but that means nothing if the product doesn't look good. Well that battle has been also clearly been won because the new Cruze looks very smart indeed and well able to compete against the latest Kia, Hyundai and Skoda models of a similar size.

The Cruze four-door saloon has a coupe side profile and the only drawback to that is a shortfall of headroom for rear seat passengers. In all other respects the car is roomy, being 4,597mm long with a large 450-litre boot — and this can be increased because the rear seats split and fold. The boot lid access, although wide, is not very deep.

The interior is crisp in design with a front twin-cockpit layout where the dashboard has a centre console and then wraps around the driver and front seat passenger. Horizontal cloth bands across the dashboard flowing into the front doors complete a very pleasant interior appearance. As the specification is high there are lots of controls and instruments but the centre console controls operating the sound system and air conditioning are fiddly to use. The steering wheel design looks as though it comes straight from the highly-rated Vauxhall Insignia range — a bonus and indicates the value the Cruze offers budget buyers.

“Most importantly,
 it’s extremely
well equipped for the
money
...”
The Cruze uses the new GM Delta 2 global platform that also underpins the forthcoming new generation Vauxhall Astra, due on sale in January 2010. This set-up has been highly rated during pre-launch testing of the new Astra, and the Cruze performs pretty well, with good grip and composed handling.

It is softly sprung so there is evidence of wallowing although generally the ride is flat with little body roll — the harder sprung diesel model with its heavier engine is the most composed of the three versions I tried. The steering is precise enough but lacks feedback to the driver. Pitched at the budget end of the market, I'd class it as capable rather than sophisticated but it gets the job done as it is roomy and will certainly give loads of driving pleasure to value-for-money customers.

And as for the engines? Well, the 1.6-litre 111bhp petrol unit, the expected best-seller, is pretty sluggish during acceleration but once on the move it cruises happily at motorway maximum speeds and returned 35.4mpg during my brief test, which included A, B and motorway driving. Officially this unit will return 41.5mpg and the CO2 emissions of 159g/km give it a road tax bill of 150.

The 1.8-litre 139bhp petrol engine is an improvement over the 1.6-litre unit, giving another 9mph top speed (at 124mph) and its 0-62mph time of 10 seconds is faster by 1.8 seconds. Fuel economy, CO2 emissions and road tax are the same as the 1.6-litre unit and my test car returned a realistic 34.4mpg.

Best of all is the 2.0-litre VCDi turbodiesel unit with 148bhp. The extra torque of 236lb ft makes it far more responsive and faster. Top speed is 130mph and 0 to 62mph takes just 8.7 seconds. Officially, the average fuel economy is 50.4mpg — my test car returned 44.9mpg. Emissions are 149g/km, meaning a road tax bill of 125.

Not only is this 148bhp turbodiesel engine the best option, but the car also feels better balanced and offers a more controlled ride thanks to firmer suspension rates. It is the pick of the bunch but it does cost more to buy and, being a budget brand, I can understand why cash-strapped but sensible customers will go for the 1.6-litre engine and the LS specification making it an attractive financial package at 12,595.

Both petrol engines, incidentally, offer the 1,100 option of a 6-speed automatic transmission and so too will the diesel models later this year.

While the Cruze has a comfortable but soft ride it can be somewhat uninvolving to drive. That aside, it's a well-proportioned, smartly-styled four-door saloon with a hint of coupe styling and, most importantly, it's extremely well equipped for the money. — David Miles

Chevrolet Cruze 1.6 LS | 12,595
Maximum speed: 115mph | 0-62mph: 11.8 seconds | Overall test MPG: 35.4mpg
Power: 111bhp | Torque: 113lb ft | CO2 159g/km | Insurance group 4