NO DOUBT ABOUT it, the Cruze is a modern day Chevrolet success story, being a strong seller in every market it contests it is a regular Top 10 performer in SA and ranks as the company’s current best-selling nameplate. Why, it is even a front-runner in World Touring Car racing. Up to now it has only been available in saloon form, but two hatchback versions have recently been added to the range, which will almost certainly increase the model’s popularity.
The stubbier tail means that the five-door hatch is 89mm shorter than the four-door, and boot capacity is also less, measuring 413 litres against the saloon’s 450. But that still is a lot of luggage space, and of course once the cargo cover is removed a bit more room is available. Another bonus is that the big square, tailgate aperture facilitates bigger objects being loaded than the saloon’s boot lid allows. And once you have folded down the 60:40 split rear seat backrest to liberate 883 litres, well the practicality of a hatchback is clearly evident, although to be fair the seatback folds down in the saloon too. Loading height is a sensible 710mm it is more of an effort to lift shopping out of a supermarket trolley than load goods into the Hatch’s carpeted bay.
Design-wise, adding a tailgate has done nothing to spoil the Cruze’s handsome looks. It is a fairly big and car and at just over 1.8 tonnes quite heavy (but 15kg less than the equivalent saloon). Two models are offered, a 1.6 LS and 1.8 LS both with a five-speed manual gearbox and offer the same impressive combined cycle fuel economy figure of 6.7/100km. But performance in the 1.6 is not a strong point. The motor revs freely but in the higher gears it runs out of puff as the red line approaches. However, customers of this model are unlikely to be concerned. The gear shift is an absolute delight short throws around a clearly defined gate.
Dynamically, the Cruze is light and nimble to operate with notably good Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH) control. The suspension is compliant and there is little evident body roll through the twisties. There is not enough oomph to challenge the car’s inherent neutral handling traits, which means it is utterly fail-safe. Six airbags and ISOFIX child seat anchorages are standard.
The cabin a spacious enough and the comfortable driver’s seat offers a lot of adjustment. Instrumentation includes an on-board computer but my only real gripe is that I found the instrument cluster cover carried reflections not too distracting, but noticeable. The air-con is effective and the LS spec level is comprehensive. The quality, fit and finish of the materials is good without being premium. Infotainment equipment includes radio, CD front loader, MP3, AUX, RDS, USB and Bluetooth audio streaming as standard six speakers are fitted.
A five-year/120000km warranty with roadside assistance and a three-year-60000km service plan are included in the R212400 selling price R3000 less than the 1.6 LS Saloon. (The 1.8 LS Hatch retails for R224800.) Like all Cruze models, there is a lot of spec for the money and the Hatch is welcome addition to the line-up and for me more appealing.
Chevrolet Cruze Hatch review
WHEN NEWS OF Chevrolet’s Cruze sedan first broke, it seemed like a big deal. Here was a proper bowtie-brandishing saloon, not just a badge-engineered Korean car. The Internet buzzed with excitement, but when we eventually got hold of it in the metal we were a bit underwhelmed by the aesthetics. The car hire firms, however, couldn’t be more pleased and quickly set about filling their fleets with the stuff. Even you, dear consumer lapped up the new Corolla rival, making it a local success instantly.
We ran one in our Topcar fleet for a year and came away impressed with its ride and consumption, but again had to note its lack of charm or character. Great transport, pity about the face. ‘Perhaps it will be better as a hatch?’ we asked.
Well, I’ve just spent some time driving one in Dubai and can confirm that is the exact same experience in every single department, with the only notable distinction being the obvious one out back. The rear end culminates neatly at the boot and the resultant styling feels more cohesive than other more derivative sedan-cum-hatches on the market. In this new guise you are rewarded with 413 litres of boot space and it boasts 60/40 split rear seats.
Despite sharing no hardware with its more upmarket sibling, the Opel Astra, the Cruze hatch does a good job of emulating European build and ambience. The cabin is identical to the sedan, with seating providing sufficient comfort and adequate grip. It earns a five-star Euro NCAP rating, thanks to a brimming safety feature list including ABS, ESP, EBD and a suite of airbags, with high consideration for passenger and pedestrian safety. Elsewhere, features and mod-cons abound, such as electric windows, fog-lamps, heated electric mirrors, air-conditioning and USB/MP3/AUX audio compatibility.
South Africa is not really sedan country; instead it’s the realm of the hatchback. They’re seen as more practical, more fun and perhaps even more maneuverable. Even so, driving dynamics will remain largely unchanged, with drivetrains being on par with the sedan offering of 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol engines, as well as a 2.0 diesel. The suspension, too, is unchanged with McPherson struts upfront and torsion beam at the rear, so handling will also be on par with the sedan, despite its boxier stance.
If you like the idea of a Chevy hatchback and you need C-segment space, then the Cruze delivers in spades. Just don’t hold out for a hot version in the foreseeable future.