After redesigning its front-drive compact sedan for the 2016 model year, Chevrolet launched a new hatchback body style for 2017. Less upright than the first-generation Cruze, the current model looks more modern and shapely, with a sportier demeanor.

Pricing and Equipment

Chevy offers the Cruze sedan in four trims – base L, LS, LT, and top Premier – while limiting its new, low-volume hatchback to just the LT and Premier levels. Starting at $17,850 (destination charge included) for the base L sedan, the Cruze tops out at $24,820 for a Premium hatchback. In between, the well-equipped LT trim starts at $21,025.

All Cruze models get the same powertrain. A 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 153 horsepower. In lower trim levels, a six-speed manual transmission is standard, with six-speed automatic optional. The automatic is standard only on the top-of-the-line Premier.

The Cruze LT sedan's standard features include:

  • 7.0-inch infotainment screen
  • Rearview camera
  • 16-inch aluminum wheels
  • 10 airbags
  • Six-speaker audio
  • Satellite radio
  • Space-saver spare tire
  • Manual or optional automatic transmission

An RS sport-appearance package spices up the looks of higher-trim cars.

Performance Pros

Chevrolet Cruze
  • Passengers can expect a pleasantly comfortable ride in the Cruze, regardless of trim level. Ride comfort ranks close to best-in-class.
  • Handling. Reduced weight, compared to its predecessor, makes the current Cruze more nimble and responsive. More enjoyable to drive, too, though it doesn’t rank as sporty. Steering is well-weighted at both low and higher speeds.
  • Fuel economy stands out. With the automatic, the Cruze sedan returns an EPA-estimated 30 miles per gallon city, 40 highway, and 34 combined. The hatchback dips to 29 city and 38 highway for a 32-mpg combined rating.

Performance Cons

  • In ordinary driving, the Cruze powertrain can seem indecisive, shifting sluggishly, and not quite fully responsive.
  • No other factors about the Cruze warrant a full “con” designation, but few of them – like engine noise – can't quite manage to climb above average, either.

Interior Pros

  • Generous interior space comes closer to that of a mid-size model, rather than a compact. Back-seat riders get 36 inches of leg room, as well as ample hip space.
  • Unlike some compact-car competitors that lean a bit too far into contemporary trends, the Cruze dashboard is neither especially stylized nor excessively digital.
  • Sedan trunk space, totaling 13.7 cubic feet, ranks near the biggest for the compact category.

Interior Cons

  • The hatchback’s stylish but curvy roofline cuts into interior space, which is otherwise sizable and versatile.
  • Also in the hatchback, at least if equipped with the RS option package and bigger wheels, sounds can resonate in the back seat.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

Ride comfort is the one area in which the Cruze truly excels. We’re also pleased to see that a rearview camera is installed on all models – a welcome safety feature.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Active safety features are available, at least as part of option groups, but adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking are not among the offerings. Of course, Chevrolet is not alone in limiting availability of the latest safety technology for its less-expensive and smaller models. Note, too, that the base model has only a minimum of standard equipment. Both are tough pills to swallow when Honda is selling its entire Sensing suite for just $1,000 on nearly every Civic.

The Bottom Line

Slotting between Chevrolet’s Sonic and Malibu in size, the Cruze faces a lot of competition. Even if many of its traits don’t quite stand above the compact pack, an excellent ride can make up for a few modest deficiencies. Chevrolet soon will introduce a Cruze with a turbodiesel engine, which should yield even more tempting fuel economy.