2011 Chevy Cruze: Surprising in more ways than one

20 Dec 2010 | 2,564 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds At our house, cars rule. Just about every make and model gets a week-long stay at our humble abode.  But it seems that a recent visitor, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze really made waves with my almost 17 year old son, Brent.       "Wow, there's plenty of room up front, Dad, " said my six foot, 250 pound kid. He's looking for a car for college, and the Cruze just went to the top of the list.  "And it's quiet, too. Cool audio system, too,"  he added. Hey, Chevy--that last point isn't a small one. My kid wants to sing  classical music and teach kids the classics, too, so music really rocks his world, and he plays his favorite works to sing by in the car.      Actually, I shouldn't have been surprised by his reaction.  Both he and his brother, and their friends all dig American cars, including  Ford, Chevy, Cadillac, and these days, Buick especially.  BMW, Lexus, Honda and the others make nary a dent with this crowd. The only car makes made overseas that do rate with them are Nissan, Mercedes and Audis. No surprises there either.      I wonder if Chevy and the others know that there's a whole generation of young buyers out there who have open minds and are more than happy to consider American products. Why?  All the experts out there I've talked to say that imported cars remind them too much of what their parents drive--and that's the last thing they want. At any rate, the Chevy Cruze represents a huge improvement over not only over previous General Motors compacts, but is a more than viable competitor for makes like Toyota’s Corolla and Honda’s Civic. Our test car was a 2011 Imperial Blue Chevy Cruze LS, the model that we think most people will likely get if they are on a budget. It has a very competitive base price of $16,275, with standard equipment that is quite extensive. Stabilitrak stabiity and traction control, OnStar, with automatic crash response (important to us parents) and turn by turn navigation, rear window defogger, acoustic insulation parckage, fullpower accessories, vainity mirrors, driver infoprmation center, XM radio and tons of other things come at no cost to customers. Options on our test model included a connectivity package that provided USB audio interface, bluetooth for phone, and stererring wheel controls ($275),, automatic transmission ($925), a compact spare, and carpeted front and rear floor mats brought the final price to $18,375 after delivery costs. Our car had an1.8 liter four cylinder engine rated at 22/35 miles pr gallon, with estimated annual fuel costs of $1,665 based on 15,000 miles at $3.00 a gallon. Inside our Cruze had a nice, two tone interior of jet black and medium titanium tht looked way more costly than it was, and aluminum and chrome accents were tastefully applied.  All seams and fittings were prefectly constructed, and the quality and fit and finish were generally equal to and in some cases, better than  some of Cruze's comopetitors. Controls operated smoothly and silently, and there was plenty of interior room bothfront and back. On the road, it's clear that handling is a strong point with Cruze. ItsEeuropean influences are both strong and obvious, and this one is a compact car driving enthusiasts' delight.  Only a few complaints remain between Cruze being a very good compact, and a nearly perfect one.   The most obvious for us is that the six speed automatic didn't shift smoothly and it felt at times as though it was searching for gears, especially in going uphill.  Also, the trunk, while being presentable, still didn't make a great impression with us. It looked unfinished and to put it mildly, cheap, and wasn't in keeping with the high quality of the rest of the car.       And then there's the matter of styling. Part of the issue was the color.  Dark blue is rarely flattering for a smaller car, and the Cruze's strong points weren't in evidence as a result.      But while the Cruze in base form is a pretty car, it certainly isn't a dazzler, (though higher line Cruzes look pretty sharp) and that's going to be a problem for compact car buyers who see Ford's Focus and Hyundai's Elantra, for instance, both of which far more inviting and exciting.  It's clearly too early for Chevy to address that in this model cycle, but they may want to do something about it the next time around. Still we think Cruze has it all going for it, and we think the financial bottom line and sales charts are going to reflect that for both GM and Chevy.

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