In the perpetual renaissance city of Detroit, Chevrolet has introduced a car it hopes will spark a five-door renaissance in North America: the 2017 Cruze Hatchback.
Engine: 1.4L turbo 4-cylinder
Power: 153 hp, 177 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 28 city, 37 hwy, 31 combined (LT manual)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 8.3 city, 6,4 hwy, 7.4 combined (LT manual)
US Base price: $22,115
Can. Base price: $20,595
This marks the first time North American shoppers are offered the Cruze in multiple body shapes, and Chevrolet is hoping the hatch’s 47.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity, coupled with the brand’s commitment to connectivity, will help introduce the Cruze to a new set of buyers.
The Mexican-made five-door gives the Cruze lineup a functional and sporty-ish choice that the brand hopes will appeal to a more male, more affluent and more urban-centered user base than the sedan. It’s a belief that doesn’t come without merit – according to Chevrolet, 30 percent of the 350,000+ annual hatchback sales in the U.S. (excluding performance variants) transact at an average price of more than $25,000. Meanwhile, in Canada, 38 percent of all hatchback sales take place in the urban hotspots of Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.
Further aiding Chevy’s drum for new drivers is the addition of a 1.6-liter diesel engine in 2017, which will be available at multiple price points across the Cruze family in the hopes of courting spurned Volkswagen TDI lovers.
Speaking of Price Points…
The Cruze hatchback’s price structure reinforces Chevrolet’s goals; in the U.S., the hatch starts at $22,115 for an LT manual, some $4,000 higher than the sedan thanks to slashing the spartan L and LS base trims. Tack on a further $2,700 should you want the top-shelf Premier trim.
In Canada, the LT manual starts at $20,595, jumping up to $22,045 with the addition of a six-speed automatic transmission, and $24,645 for the automatic-only Premier.
LT cars come standard with 10 airbags, seven-inch MyLink screen, 16-inch aluminum wheels, steering wheel audio and phone controls, XM Radio, LED daytime running lamps, OnStar + 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote keyless entry, rear vision camera and heated cloth seats.
Chevy gives Premier hatchbacks an upgraded Z-Link rear suspension, heated leather seats and steering wheel, 17-inch wheels, eight-inch touchscreen and keyless ignition. An RS appearance package can be tacked onto either trim.
A Driver Confidence package is available on both LT and Premier trims, which includes rear park assist, blind spot monitoring with lane change alert, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Premier shoppers can go one further and opt for the Driver Confidence II Package, which adds IntelliBeam automatic highbeam control, forward collision alert, following distance indicator, and lane departure warning with lane keep assist.
Tick all the boxes on either side of the border and you’ll barely kiss $30,000 – unless you dip into Chevy Performance offerings of unique wheels, ground effect packages, intake kits, exhaust systems and bigger brakes.
The 153-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder carries over from the sedan, as does its 106.3-in wheelbase, the biggest change – besides its new found booty — is an eight-inch shorter overall length, which conspires to change everything.
The shorter rear overhang combines with the new shape to help square the Cruze’s weight over its rear axle, in turn helping the hatchback squat better, contributing to a more planted-feeling ride than the sedan. The Z-Link suspension added to Premier models gives the car a certain crispness during cornering, though that doesn’t necessarily translate into more fun. LT models actually feel more speedy at pedestrian pace, the rear end is jumpier, and the car rolls more during ambitious cornering, torturing the low-rolling resistance rubber, offering a sensation of speed missing from the sharper Premier.
Like other competitors the steering is rather light, especially in comparison to the superb feeling Honda Civic, but it does make for a predictable and prudent driving experience.
The 1.4T in conjunction with GM’s 6T35 six-speed automatic is still a fairly smooth combination, but the undefeatable stop/start can be dizzyingly annoying in touch and go traffic. It gets confused in a rolling stop environment, sometimes it will hiccough with indecision as it tries to shut down as you’re rolling off the brake. However, you can game the system with some fancy footwork — lift your foot off the brake, near fully released and it will start back up, but quickly put your foot back down and the car will stay running. The Cruze will only shut off once per stop so to speak.
Should you take the tried and true M32 six-speed manual option, you can all but abolish the engine’s refinement, making it a much peakier, albeit fun, engine.
After a morning jaunt to the beautifully blue Lake St.Clair, we’re back downtown, hustling along Detroit’s broken roads en route to deliver supersized teddy bears to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, we had plenty of pep to pass both in town and on the highway, although its slightly spongey acceleration does force you to plan ahead.
Under hard acceleration the, however, the car will respond with a playful tug of torque steer from the front wheels; even so, the zero-to-60-mph time is nothing to write home about at nearly eight seconds.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the hatchback are 1 mile per gallon lower than the sedan across trims and transmissions thanks to a slight difference in aerodynamics. The LT manual hatch will return 28 miles per gallon in the city, and 37 on the highway for a combined 31 mpg. The six-speed auto ups the LT’s fuel economy by a single mile across all categories; thanks to its heavier curb weight, Premier hatchbacks will return the same fuel economy as an LT manual.
In Canada, that translates to 8.3L per 100 km in the city, 6.4L highway, and 7.4L combined for the LT manual, 8.1/6.2/7.3L per 100 km for the automatic, while the Premier posts 8.4/6.4/7.5L per 100 km.
Even with a heavy foot, the Premier RS returned a solid 32 mpg combined, although one hypermiling colleague was able to achieve a much cleaner 38 mpg under mixed driving.
Inside, the new hatchback posts its most significant gains over the four-door in carrying capacity, dwarfing its sibling by almost double with the seats up, and triple with the seats down. Gains in rear headroom are far less pronounced, with the hatch only gaining half an inch (12 mm) over its sibling, with all other interior metrics remaining identical.
I was told the sedan and hatch actually share rear doors, as evidenced in the modest headspace gains, but the five-door does add a feeling of airiness along with improved rearward visibility.
The cockpit of the Nightfall Grey Premier RS is familiar thanks to my favorite Kalahari-colored leather seats with proper French stitching, eight-inch MyLink infotainment and Chevy’s usefully cluttered steering wheel. Like the sedan, use of padded material on the dash and door panels adds a premium touch not found in typically callous compact-class interiors.
The front buckets are comfortable and capable even after several hours of seat time, although bigger drivers will likely find knee space in scant supply behind the wheel. The back seats can accommodate three adults, but I wouldn’t recommend trying for longer than a cross-town drive.
Behind the rear seats is 23 cubic feet (651 L) of cargo space, matching the class-leading VW Golf and beating both the Ford Focus and Mazda3. Fold down the rear seats and the figure jumps to 47.2 cu-ft (1,336 L), matching the Mazda and still beating the Ford, but it does lose out to the Volkswagen’s 53 cubes (1,500 L) with the seats flat.
LT cars equipped with 16-inch wheels offer a supple quietness in contrast to crash-bang nature of the Premier’s 18-inch alloys, while the larger wheels certainly look better, they also generate noticeably more cabin noise.
Chevrolet’s MyLink continues on as one of the most user-friendly infotainment systems on the market, while the optional Bose speaker system pumped out a cliché Detroit City playlist concisely, even at higher volumes. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both come standard, but the Premier’s navigation-equipped eight-inch unit rendered the mirror systems superfluous.
Pass the Piquante Please
Those hoping Chevy would dish out a bit more spice with the addition of a hatchback model will be offered the Chevrolet Performance Parts catalog instead. In the absence of a substantial performance model, Chevy will offer those with a speed tooth mild performance upgrades in the form of a Performance brake pack, a new air intake kit, an available performance exhaust system, along with a suspension lowering kit and a performance tune yet to be released.
Fans still long for a revival of the SS badge in the compact segment, and a torque-vectoring AWD equipped Cruze hatch sporting the Camaro’s hot 2.0-liter turbo would hit the spot quite right. Unfortunately, General Motors doesn’t seem to have the appetite.
The Verdict: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback
The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback isn’t a car that will make memories in and of itself, but instead, it’s a tool that Chevy hopes will offer shoppers the freedom to make new memories wherever the road may take them.
No, it’s not a Focus RS, Civic Type R, or even a VW GTI, but that doesn’t mean the 2017 Cruze hatch doesn’t have plenty of smiles-per-miles potential. It’s just a different type of smile, one that doesn’t come from the visceral thrill of driving, but from the warm and fuzzy memories of a time well had.
Even with the optional RS pack, and the Premier’s upgraded rear suspension the Cruze still isn’t a hooligan’s car, it’s a let’s-go-do-stuff kind of car. One for mountain biking with a friend, antiquing with the significant other, moving for your PhD, or cramming friends in for a run to the beach.
With a starting price north of $22,000, the Cruze does find itself at the more expensive end of the segment’s price bracket, but Chevy firmly believes the Cruze’s standard content makes a promising value proposition relative to its rivals — and if that doesn’t do it for you, the Cruze just earned Consumer Reports coveted “Recommended” rating, supplanting the Honda Civic in class.
This article originally appeared on GM Inside News