The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is a step in the right direction

Cruze TFL1 
The last front-drive, economy minded Chevrolet I drove (before my Cruze test drive) was the 2010 Aveo – which was not a particularly memorable experience. I know General Motors can do better; fortunately, the Chevrolet Cruze is better. Sure, the Chevrolet Cobalt was unsophisticated the moment it was produced – with the exception of the awesome SS, but it had some merits, the main one was affordability.

I was a bit concerned that the Chevrolet Cruze priced itself out of the game with $16,275 being its starting price. Then, after doing some research, I found most of the competition was priced about the same. The competition in this case is definitely the Ford Focus. As wonderful as that car may be, I can not attest to any of the Focus’ merits as Ford has not allowed me to so much as touch one.

Fortunately, I have driven the Chevrolet Cruze. It was during a press event in Southern California. I had less than an hour behind the wheel, but it was enough time to get the gist of what this small Chevy is. 

Cruze TFL2 

Here’s what you need to know about the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze:

1. The turbocharged 138 horsepower 1.4-liter engine makes 148 pounds-feet

2. The base model’s 1.8 liter puts out 136 and 123 lb-ft of torque

3. 24 cty/36 hwy mpg 1.4 liter except for the Eco which gets 28 mpg city and 42 mpg highway mpg

4. The 1.8 liter is supposed to get Up to 26 mpg city and 36 mpg hwy

5. I was impressed with the brakes which stopped the LTZ I was testing from 60 mph to 0 in 123 feet.

6. Road noise was well muted, it felt like a larger sedan’s level of quiet.

7. The base LS and ultra efficient Eco come with a six-speed manual transmission and have the option for a six-speed automatic transmission. The rest of the line has the automatic as standard equipment.

8. Headroom is good enough for my fat melon, but I had to lean the driver’s seat way back for optimum sight lines. At least the pillars are relatively thin. 

Cruze TFL3 

9. The base model LS starts at $16,275 while the 1LT and Eco start at $18,175. The 2LT’s base is $20,675 and the top of the line LTZ starts at $21,975.

10. 0 to 60 mph in the LTZ took about 9.5 seconds and that was nearly at sea level – mediocre for a turbocharged car. Fortunately, it’s downright zippy around town.

11. Highway ride was excellent (in the LTZ). It could be best in class.

12. This is a car that looks better in person, almost sporty given its sharp lines. Still, there are better looking competitors. 

13. Handling was okay with good grip and moderate body lean. Steering feel is low but the steering effort is good.

14. The seats are comfortable and legroom is quite good.  The trunk is roomy with 15 cubic feet of cargo room.

15. The interior looks good, with a modern, clean design and excellent ergonomics. Unfortunately, some of the plastics are brutally cheap and there is WAY too much silver/metal-like paint on plastic throughout.Cruze TFL4

All in all, I was very impressed with my brief time in the top of the line Chevy Cruze. It’s not a street scorcher, but it was never intended to be. It is a well made, well executed commuter with just a hint of fun. It’s much better than Chevy’s past efforts.

There is one BIG problem for the Chevrolet Cruze (and Ford Focus) – the $14,830 Hyundai Elantra. Seriously: hit the “panic” button now boys; Hyundai is one badass competitor. Hopefully the Chevrolet Sonic will steal some of the cheaper competition’s thunder (read the Chevrolet Sonic’s preview HERE).

Stay tuned for a full review soon!

Here’s a video spotlighting the Curze’s high mileage brother: the Cruze Eco.

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