Chevrolet Cruze 1.8 16valves LT automatic Reviews

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“Disclaimer: please keep in mind that I live in Romania...”


written by MihaiScortea on 09/04/2010

Disclaimer: please keep in mind that I live in Romania and the specs for the car might differ from what is offered in the UK, U.S. or other markets.

I bought the car in July 2009 and I've clocked some 5,000 miles since then. I chose the car knowing that underneath it is based on the new Opel/Vauxhall Astra platform, with an appealing interior and funky design offered at an attractive price. The car is equipped with the 1.8 litre 16 valve petrol engine, coupled with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The first impression was rather bad, mainly because of the engine. Here I was driving my new car with lots of equipment, very well put together, with an interior and exterior design that you can simply cannot find in any competitor (including the VW Golf or Ford Focus) and I was quite upset. The engine did not have any pull, whatsoever. All I got was revs and noise, lots and lots of noise.

But with time, the engine loosened, it became less boomy and started to pull quite well. It's no fire ball mind, but you start to feel those many horses that the manufacturer claims it has. However this is not a refined engine. It is noisy between 3,700 and 4,100 revs. But at motorway/freeway speeds it "cruises" quietly, thanks to its sixth gear. Wanting a bit more performance I have tuned the engine at German specialist SKN and the result was more drivability and - wait for it - lower fuel consumption. Please bear in mind that any tuning is at your own risk, so please check your warranty terms.

My version has an automatic transmission, so that means average economy, but I'm pleased to report that it is quite smooth once the engine is warmed-in. Forget about sequential shifting, since this is quite slow, but no slower than the box fitted on a Saab 93 (my best friend had an automatic Saab Aero 93), which was also made by GM. Anyway, the option is there, should you want a degree of manual control.

The ride is smoother than, say, the previous generation Honda Accord (a company car I used to drive), while the handling is predictable and confident to an extent. It is no Ford Focus (also a previous car I drove), which seemed to run on "train tracks" ( it was that good ) but, again, it is not bad at all. Remember, the Chevy Cruze sits on the new Vauxhall Astra platform. Suspension noise is also kept in check, the car rolls-over bumps without fuss and you feel that you're driving a larger car rather than a compact. It doesn't feel restless to me, in spite of what some reviewers say. After 5,000 miles there are no squeaks and cracks from the interior trim and trust me, the roads in my country are very, very bad, much worse than you can possibly imagine.

As said before, the interior design is special, that centre console looks fantastic. With chunky and rubbery knobs it all adds to a positive feeling. However, the heating and ventilation controls are much too close to both the driver's and front passenger's knees. Occasionally the ventilation knob rubs against my knee without noticing. But this is rare and it's not that annoying.

The quality of plastics is not something to write home about, but the top dash looks nice and feels rubbery, although there are no soft plastics in sight. Go lower down the dash and the plastic is more inferior. The same is valid for the door panels. However it all seems well-screwed together. The seat trim, however, is quite disappointing. My car came with the "Mesh" trim. This provides a nice look on the dash, and door panels, which some other reviewers have also noticed. But on the seats it looks cheap and most importantly it wears fast! After just 2 months of owning the car I noticed signs of wear on the driver's seat. As a result I've purchased custom-made leather seat covers (certified to be also airbag compliant) from a specialist company. These were very expensive, but nobody could tell that these were seat covers and not an original trim. My advice? Go for the original leather trim, if your budget allows.

No complaints regarding equipment levels. In my country the "LT" trim means 17" alloys, automatic air-conditioning, automatic lights, automatic wipers, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel, 6-CD changer with mp3 capability, 4 electric windows, parking sensors, alarm-immobilizer, 8 airbags, ABS and anti-skid systems. Also of note is the intuitive software needed to configure the vehicle settings. The music sounds decent too, with a 6 -speaker system, although you have to turn-up the treble setting if you want more sparkle. Usually, I am against using bass and treble controls, but here I felt compelled to. After a bit of tweaking, the system sounds open and full, with good bass delivery and no trim squeaks. The multi-function display offers all the information you need in crystal clarity.

At night, the dash looks like it is taken from "Transformers" or something. The "ice-blue" backlit color looks a treat, and not only to me, since all my friends unanimously love it.

So, there you have it. For now, I am quite pleased with the Chevy Cruze, but keep in mind that the engine needs to be thoroughly run-in (we're talking at least 2,500 miles) to get it to perform, and stay clear of the "Mesh" interior trim. For me, the car is a pleasure to drive now, and considering these tough economic times, it seems to be a reasonable choice to consider.

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