Chevrolet just unveiled its totally redesigned 2016 Cruze compact car in Detroit. This C-segment offering should bring new features and efficiency to the class.
Just You Weight …
Following the all-new Malibu’s lead, this updated Cruze has gone on a major diet. The car is expected to be about 250 pounds lighter than the current version. That mass reduction is particularly impressive for a vehicle this small, and doubly so when you consider that it’s grown in size.
Overall, the 2016 Cruze is 2.7 inches longer than the outgoing model and has a wheelbase that’s been lengthened by one inch. This stretch helps improve back-seat space, which is a sore spot in the current model. Riders in the back will have a fair bit more room for their knees, though some additional noggin-space would be nice.
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To achieve this car’s remarkable weight savings, it’s built around an all-new architecture, though, one that does not feature any aluminum panels. “We’ve made use of a lot of press-hardened steel,” said Ron Arnesen, global chief engineer of the Cruze, a material that provides additional strength and reduced cost compared to more exotic metals.
A large portion of this machine’s 250-pound reduction came out of its powertrain. By switching to a fresh engine, product planners were able to cull 44 pounds of weight. An all-new 1.4-liter turbocharged EcoTec four-cylinder unit “is the base engine in all cars,” Arnesen said. It features a heavily ribbed die-cast aluminum block for strength and low weight.
This engine is loaded with many of the latest features including variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust camshafts, direct injection and a forged-steel crankshaft. An open deck reduces bore distortion when the cylinder head is bolted down, which allows them to run piston rings with lower tension, something that reduces friction.
In addition, the engine has a bed plate lower-end for maximum strength as well as reduced noise and vibration. Tom Sutter, global chief engineer for small gasoline engines at GM said, “We had some very tough targets for NVH,” adding that this new 1.4-liter powerplant is six decibels quieter than a comparably sized Volkswagen or Audi engine.
And it’s powerful, too: It’s estimated to crank out 150 horses and 177 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission that provides a 3 percent boost in vehicle efficiency all on its own.
The car’s 6T35 gearbox is more than 24 pounds lighter than the self-shifting transmission used in the current Cruze. A two-stage oil pump also reduces parasitic losses.
“We’re very confident that we’re going to get a 40 [mpg highway rating],” Arnesen said, though he cautioned this is only an estimate. Official fuel consumption ratings have not been published yet.
Further bolstering the 2016 Cruze’s efficiency is some common-sense engineering. “Every automatic-transmission car comes with stop/start technology,”Arnesen said. Beyond this, the engine has direct fuel injection and a variable-displacement oil pump, among other efficiency-boosting features like low-drag brakes and wheel bearings as well as low-rolling-resistance tires.
In addition to the gasoline engine, GM will also offer a 1.6-liter turbo-diesel in the new Cruze. This is a move to challenge German hegemony in the compression-ignition segment.
Devil in the Design Details
And just like the Malibu, Chevy’s all-new Cruze shares more than a passing resemblance to its bow-tie siblings. For better or worse, “The car is really, distinctively a Chevrolet,” said John Cafaro, executive director of Chevrolet global design. He and his team have implemented styling graphics from the Corvette and Camaro onto the Cruze’s smaller canvas.
Their inspiration for this car was supposedly “lean muscularity” and what’s interesting is how closely this car resembles the new Malibu. This is partly because they were designed close to each other in the studio, within “10, 15 feet of one another” Cafaro said.
Inside, the new Cruze looks class appropriate, with a nice blend of hard plastics and squishy-soft materials. The trunk is wide and seriously deep, appearing appreciably larger than the cargo holds of it primary rivals. This car will be offered in 10 different paint colors.
Product Offensive or Offensive Product?
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is the fifth of five all-new bow-tie cars that are launching this year. Can you name the other four? If not, this invasion includes the Spark, Volt, Malibu and Camaro.
With reduced weight, brand-new powertrains and a fresh architecture this C-segment sedan looks like it could be the small-car homerun the bow-tie brand has always wanted.
Discuss this story on our Chevrolet Cruze Forum.