Poor Chevrolet hasn't had much success with building great compact sedans...up until now. With the recently redesigned Chevrolet Cruze, cars like the Cavalier and Cobalt are nothing but a few dark pages in the automotive history books. There's no denying the inherent goodness of the popular four-door variant, and the recent addition of the five-door hatchback only broadens the appeal of the 2019 Chevy Cruze.

Best Value

Hatchbacks seem to be an anathema here in the US. It's unfortunate – these practical runabouts are automotive Tupperware, swallowing up far more than their tiny footprints might suggest. For those who don't have the luxury of keeping another car around, a five-door becomes a handy jack-of-all-trades, and it's why we'd take one over the frumpier-looking four-door every day.

Of the four available trims, we're most smitten with the LT, as it's the happiest marriage of creature comforts and affordability. To the ample list of standard features, we'd add the Convenience Package. All told, here's the skinny on the Cruze we'd be, ah, cruising in:

  • Model: 2019 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LT
  • Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 153 hp / 177 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Six-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 28 City / 38 Hwy
  • Options: Convenience Package ($1,200, heated front seats with eight-way power adjustment, keyless open, keyless start, heated mirrors), Driver Confidence Package ($0, rear park assist, lane change alert, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring)
  • Base Price:$22,995 (including an $875 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$24,195

Performance

Chevy Cruze

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.

Style

The year 2018 brought a full-bore redesign; the 2019 model receives a new front-fascia. We commend Chevrolet for being so vigilant on keeping the car fresh – perhaps they're atoning for their past sins, such as letting their compact Cavalier soldier on for over two decades with just one major refresh. More likely is they've finally realized that the compact segment isn't the afterthought they once treated it as. It's now incredibly competitive, and thanks to a few category standouts, we walked away from the Cruze with a hint of disappointment in the new styling. It's not that it isn't modern or disproportional or anything like that. It's just lacking in character. Like vanilla ice cream or unflavored chicken, it goes down without eliciting any sort of emotional reaction from the consumer. The worst anything can be is bland, and we're afraid that the Cruze has inadvertently committed this sin.

Luckily, there's an RS appearance package available that help bring a little more verve to the sheetmetal. The improvements include unique wheels, grille, emblems, and trim bits; the overall effect helps sprinkle the car with a little originality.

Inside, the interior is well laid out, logical, and comfortable. Space is ample for passengers both front and back, and the hatchback boasts 22 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, though some of that is wasted thanks to the sloping roof line. Still, it's a big improvement over the sedan's 14 cubes of trunk space. Materials are generally nice, though the available leatherette looks a little too much like imitation leather for our liking and the cloth-equipped cars could have a nicer swath of material covering the dashboard.

The Best and Worst Things

The stellar fuel economy and smooth powertrain offer a compelling argument for car shoppers.

However, the styling is just a little too milquetoast for our tastes, and we wish the diesel were more affordable.

Right For? Wrong For?

Chevy Cruze

Young, single commuters will find the comfortable and unassuming Cruze a good workday shuttle for getting to the office.

For those trying to exploit the hatchback's cargo space, it's sloping roofline is decieving, giving the car less useful space than the numbers allude to. If you're planning on hauling a lot of stuff in your small car, look at something like the Volkswagen Golf. Its strictly upright design makes for a more practical hatch compared to the Cruze.

The Bottom Line

Undaunted by the fierce competition in the compact segment, the 2019 Chevrolet Cruze makes a strong case for itself. Quiet, smooth, and unpretentious, it's the kind of car that should be as reliable and loyal to its owners as a Golden Retriever. No, it's not too exciting, and it certainly won't win any races, but in this class, buyers want dependable and comfortable transportation, and in that regard the Cruze is a winner.