The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is a new version of the compact sedan that put Chevy back on the map with a top-tier entry that took on the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Jetta, and many others back in 2011. It competes with the latest versions of those cars, and comes in several trim levels, from the base L through to the high-volume LS and LT models and on up to the top-of-the-line Premier versions.
Chevy calls the crisp, handsome wedge shape of the new Cruze an “aggressive design optimized for aerodynamics” (with a coefficient of drag of 0.29). It takes advantage of wind-tunnel testing done for the Volt, and inherits some of that car's chiseled, handsome look—and revamped dual-grille front end. If anything, the two cars look almost too similar, though similar styling has been introduced in the larger Malibu. The Cruze is a global model, selling as an upmarket sedan in some markets, so it has an "upscale ambience" inside, with a dual-cockpit look and refined interior materials.
The new Cruze gets only a single engine choice for 2016, a new all-aluminum 1.4-liter engine that’s 44 pounds lighter than the cast-iron-block engine it replaces. It gains direct injection and engine stop-start, and it makes 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a new 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. Separately, Chevrolet says that a 1.6-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder engine will arrive early in the 2017 model year, but its specifications and fuel economy haven’t yet been detailed. This year's gasoline Cruze models are EPA-rated at 33 to 35 mpg combined.
GM boasts that the new Cruze provides mid-size interior room in a small car, as well as premium cabin appointments that are inspired by Chevy’s larger sedans, the Impala and Malibu. The car is lower, leaner, and sportier, with a significant 3 inches added to overall length and an inch more wheelbase than before. That translates to 2 more inches of rear leg room, and GM says the Cruze offers more rear knee room than the Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra.
Handling and roadholding are tight and predictable, and while the Cruze is no sport sedan, it strikes a good balance between confident on-road behavior and a quiet, comfortable ride. Top Premier trims get an improved Watt’s link rear suspension arrangement, while the rest of the lineup has a conventional torsion-beam setup. The structure underpinning the Cruze is new, both stiffer and up to 250 pounds lighter than that of the 2015 model, offering a better-tuned ride and more precise handling.
On the safety front, the current Chevrolet Cruze has been a standout, with some of the best crash-test ratings in its class. GM claims that the new body structure is stronger yet, and it’s boasting that the Cruze will offer more standard safety technologies than any other model in its class—including 10 standard airbags. Optional active-safety systems include blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking assist in one package, and the addition of lane-keeping assist, intelligent headlights, and forward-collision warnings in a second package.
Two features offered by some competitors aren't presently offered on the 2016 Cruze, though: automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Chevy says its buyers showed less interest in those features, and that it is pricing the active-safety packages it does offer aggressively, to boost adoption.
Connectivity and infotainment aren’t skimped or skipped over in the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze lineup. Cruze L, LS, LT, and Premier trims will be offered, and across the lineup, the 2016 Cruze will include a standard rearview camera and a 7.0-inch MyLink touchscreen system with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, to allow you to use smartphone-enabled apps—streaming audio, for example—via the vehicle’s screen.
An 8.0-inch touchscreen is available, as is a 4G LTE data connection and hotspot capability, which Chevrolet says has proven to be a popular option that other models don't offer. Other options include heated rear leather seats, wireless phone charging, and premium leather upholstery with contrast stitching. A “more expressive” RS package will amp up the presentation, but as with the smaller Sonic to Sonic RS, a Cruze won't bring any serious increase in performance.
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze sedan is built in Ohio for the North American market, and is now on sale.