Competitors like the Ford Focus and Honda Civic offer a full range of powertrain options, from buzzy three-cylinders to asphalt tomahawks like the RS or Type R. Compared to those thoroughly fleshed-out engine rosters, the Cruze is decidedly puritanical – the only choices are a 1.4-liter gas engine or an oil-burning 1.6-liter turbodiesel. Forgive us for letting the cat out of the bag here, but neither engine is eager or athletic in any discernible way.
It's almost guaranteed that the vast majority of Cruzes will come out of the factory with the 1.4-liter turbocharged gas engine. It makes 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. These numbers won't let the car light up a drag strip or devour an on-ramp, but it does have a refreshing creaminess to it that makes up for the lack of gusto. For those just trying to effortlessly get back and forth from work, this engine should cut the mustard. Gearshifts are now handled exclusively by a six-speed automatic unit; a six-speed manual was previously on offer, but slow sales meant it got brought back behind the barn at the end of last year. The now-mandatory slushbox doesn't help in wringing out every once of power but offers smooth power delivery. Fuel economy amounts to an EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon city, 38 mpg highway, and 32 combined.
If that kind of mileage sounds like child's play, take a look at the diesel. With 1.4 liters of turbocharged displacement making 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, the pace slackens but the economy markedly improves, with the oil-burning Cruze good for 31/48/37 mpg (city/highway/combined). A nine-speed automatic is tasked with changing the gears; the additional cogs help make the most of the limited power, giving off a better-than-expected impression of speed.
Over the road, the Cruze is refined and capable. Seasickness won't stricken passengers after a series of corners, and the classic understeer that can creep up when a front-wheel-drive car is pushed a little too enthusiastically doesn't make itself known except in the most foolish and brusque driving. Still, this is no Honda Civic or Mazda3. While those cars entice a driver to have a little spirited fun, the Cruze entices nothing but a casual browse through the FM frequencies.