One day ahead of the U.S.-market debut of 2011 Cruze compact sedan, Chevy gave us a little personal time with the what might just be a genuine Corolla killer. From the Cavalier, to the Cobalt, and now the Cruze, Chevy’s latest compact car is anything but. Chevy hasn’t given us any statistics on interior room, but the Cruze might just be large enough inside to qualify as a midsize sedan, not a compact.
What really sets the Cruze apart, however, is the turbocharged 1.4-liter Ecotec engine (standard in LT and LTZ models) that makes 138-hp and 148 ft-lbs of torque. Those are pretty standard numbers for this class of vehicle, but what makes the engine so impressive is that it achieves 40 mpg on the highway. A larger 1.8-liter unit will come standard on LS models and is expected to make roughly the same amount of horsepower but less torque. Both engines will be offered with either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.
With a 40-mpg highway rating the Cruze easily has the best highway mileage in its class, besting the current highway leader, another Chevy product, the Cobalt XFE.
In person the car is a bit more subtle that we at first though, although the calming silver/blue paint might have something to do with that. Style wise, it has a prominent front end, with Chevy’s corporate face that premiered on the new Malibu and can be found on vehicles like the Traverse. From some angles, the car does look like Hyundai’s Sonata – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Inside we were surprised to find that it’s actually as nice as the original press photos had us believe. Sure the leather isn’t Lexus quality, but it is reasonably good and the two tone cockpit has loads more style than pretty much any other compact car. Overall it’s very modern and more luxurious that we’d expect and there’s even a nice information center display between the two main gauges. Chevy says the interior is inspired by the Corvette and we’d have to say that overall, it’s not far off, which is both a compliment to the Cruze and a dis to the Vette.
Chevy says the Cruze has more passenger and cargo room than either the Civic or Corolla and due to significant efforts to reduce exterior noise is supposed to deliver a much more high-end driving feel than compact competitors. In addition, Chevy wants to position the Cruze as a segment leader in safety with standard equipment including ABS brakes, StabiliTrak as well as 10 airbags.
Along with some high-tech equipment like Bluetooth connectivity and an available navigation system, other optional highlights include heated front seats and available 18-inch rims.
The Cruze is set to be built at GM’s Lordstown, Ohio plant with sales scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2010.
Get more Chevy Cruze news and info at CruzeTalk.com