The Chevrolet Cruze saloon and hatchback dont get very good carwow scores, with the experts suggesting that while they dont do anything badly, they dont do anything particularly well, either. Throw in a cheap interior and an unknown (in the UK at least) name and it seems that the Cruze wont be making many purchasers shortlists at the moment.
Which is a shame,because theyre well equipped, reasonably priced, and, to my eyes at least, quite a handsome car; they just lack that certain something that turns a mediocre car into a good one.
So, does the addition of a station wagon to the range help bolster its reputation – or is it a case of too little too late? We borrowed one for a week to find out
The overall effect is pretty discreet and sober, which is a Good Thing. The tapering side-window lines gives a sleekness and a muscularity that a lot of estate cars lack.
Scowling headlights suggest power and a lack of frivolity that is utterly undermined by the hideous gold Chevrolet badge on the front grille. Remove that and a good chunk of the bright chrome trim and most people would conclude that the car is much more expensive than it actually is. (We do, of course, exclude Premiership footballers from this group as they love a bit of bling.)
Overall, the addition of an estate boot balances the car a little, helping turn it into something that youd be proud to have on your drive. It does look faintly Vauxhall-esque, which isnt surprising as its based on the Astra, but that only helps its Euro credentials.
The interior could never be mistaken for that of an Audi or Volvo, mainly because its all a bit too shiny and crowded; think Ford or Vauxhall and you wont be a million miles away, which is a huge leap compared to Chevrolets of old.
The front seats have enormous rearwards travel and even though Im 6 3 I had to crank the seats forward quite a few notches. They are also quite heavily bolstered and hold you snugly, which makes a change. If I was being critical I might ask for a touch more lumbar support, but Im getting old and my back isnt what it used to be, so youll probably be fine.
Its also nice to see a proper handbrake in between the front seats and a proper key put into a proper ignition switch. (Both will, of course, disappear when Chevrolet find some spare change down the back of the sofa, which will be a retrograde step, so enjoy them while you can.)
Rear seat legroom is on the good side of average, as is headroom. The boot is a very good size too, with 500 litres available with the rear seats up and nearly three times that when theyre folded down.
There are plenty of spaces to store and separate your stuff, including a freestanding plastic storage box, a shallow space under the boot floor, and a full-width tray at the back of the boot cover that would be ideal for storing your umbrella, although anything put there will slide off and wallop your backseat passengers on the back of the head when you come to a sharp stop.
Problems? I couldnt see how to enter a postcode on the sat-nav (which comes with a HUGE Chevrolet logo when you turn it on), the three main dials are over-styled and hideously unattractive (although, to be fair, they are easy to read), and some of the minor controls arent as intuitive as they could be.
The Cruze drives very well, despite what you might read elsewhere. My 1.7-litre diesel fairly flew along and proved that 130-odd bhp is more than enough for a car of this size and in this class. (As regular readers will know, I dont think anyone actually needs more than this in a family car, although most of us want more.)
The suspension is supple and rides well over all but the harshest of potholes yet it contains body-roll and pitching very effectively; a quick cross-country dash along the Marches was genuinely good fun.
The steering might be a bit numb, but the gearbox was a treat and the brakes easy to modulate and powerful enough to let me indulge in a spot of late braking. Let me repeat: the Cruze drives very well.
The 1.7-litre diesel engine produces 128bhp and 221lb/ft of torque, which it does to a surprisingly tuneful melody. It is also enough to let you blat around when your inner Stirling Moss takes over and, for the more sensible and mature driver, enough to allow you to overtake safely and quickly when you need to.
Chevrolet claim that it takes 10 seconds to reach 62 mph, but it feels quicker. They also suggest that the Cruze will return up to 62.7 mpg on the combined cycle, which seems optimistic if my 46mpg is anything to go by.
Value for Money
The Cruze range starts at 15,375, but youll need to find 19,785 if you want to get yourself into a LTZ Nav Station Wagon. However, this is not the price you will pay, as deals are rife.
If you dont mind a few thousand miles on the clock you can pick up this very model for well under 14,000 – and the LT for a bit less. If you dont mind a petrol engine, youll get one with demonstrator mileage for four figures with a bit of haggling. At that price it becomes a serious bargain as long as you plan on keeping it for a few years.
The Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon is not a bad car. In fact, in places, notably the engine and chassis, its really rather good – and certainly a whole lot better than the 6.3 carwow score the hatchback receives.
The problem isnt with the Cruze per se, its that the competition includes some very, very good cars. The Ford Focus
is brilliant to drive and the VW Golf
remains the standard by which all others are judged.
But, they both cost more than the Chevy and bargains will be harder to find. If you dont mind buying nearly new (and you shouldnt), the canny motorist can pick up a very cheap Cruze Station Wagon, which broadens the appeal considerably and ensures that it should be on any familys shortlist.