Preview: 2016 Chevrolet Cruze

According to Alan Batey, Global Chevrolet Brand Chief and President, GM North America, the vehicle that consumers most readily connect with the Chevrolet brand in the global market is the Cruze. It is, in fact, Chevrolet's most popular car worldwide, and for 2016 the Cruze receives a complete makeover with the objective of leading the segment in all the markets it occupies, said the contagiously enthusiastic Mr. Batey at the beginning of Chevrolet's “Powered by Innovation” event in Detroit.

“Wow, who would have thought...?” reflected a somewhat bemused Ms. DeWylde. “Here I am singing for a car.”

On the event schedule, the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze was unveiled “Live at the Fillmore,” with warm-up band Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys recalling Chevrolet's golden years with '50s songs and a smooth rock 'n roll vibe.

“Wow, who would have thought...?” reflected a somewhat bemused Ms. DeWylde. “Here I am singing for a car.”

But soon enough GM CEO Mary Barra took over, extolling the virtues of the new Chevrolet and GM's future in general.

Expected in dealer showrooms in the first quarter of 2016, the new Cruze completes the unified design makeover of Chevrolet's sedans – Impala, Malibu, Volt, Cruze – which now feature more aerodynamic, flowing lines and a characteristic two-part grille representing the “new face” of Chevrolet.” Four trim levels will be available for the new Cruze: L, LS, LT and Premier. The sporty RS package continues with unique grilles, front and rear fascias, fog lamps, front splitter, rocker panels, rear spoiler and 18-inch wheels on the Premier model.

In addition to the new exterior design, Cruze will be available with two new engines. An all-aluminum 1.4-litre direct-injected inline-four making 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque will be the standard engine, and a 1.6L turbodiesel will be available for 2017 whose output is not yet released. We were told, however, that the new “Flüsterdiesel” already available in Europe will be “whisper quiet.”

Contributing to improved driving dynamics and fuel economy, the 2016 Cruze will be up to 113 kg lighter than the equivalent outgoing model (even though it gains 68 mm in length), and its chassis 27 percent stiffer. Cruze adds start/stop technology to further improve fuel economy. Acceleration from 0-100 km/h will require just over eight seconds and fuel consumption is estimated at 5.9 L/100 km when driving on the highway.

Inside, the aero-design theme continues with panels that flow from front to rear, more leg and kneeroom for rear passengers and a dual-cockpit arrangement up front. Leather interiors are available, as are heated rear seats, depending on the trim level. Soft-touch surfaces and finely etched trim elements are evident throughout. The overall look and feel of the Cruze interior is that materials are of a higher quality; everything seems to have gone “up market.”

Cruze is one of the first vehicles to offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as a supplement to the MyLink infotainment interface with which all Chevrolets cars will be equipped for 2016. The systems require integration of an Apple iPhone 5 or newer, or an Android phone using Android Lollipop 5.0 or above. Compatible apps will need to be downloaded to the phones and data plan rates may also apply.

Other new available features include wireless phone charging and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Advanced available safety features include Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision Alert. Other features include four-wheel disc brakes (carried over from the outgoing Cruze), heated seats standard in LT and Premier trims, and rear-view camera standard in all models.

While we only got to see the new Cruze as part of a static display, there's no doubt Chevrolet has waved a wand over this model, making it sleeker, more athletic looking and giving a solid impression of quality. The Chevrolet sedans acquire an Audi-like (or Kia-like, for that matter) commonality of design from one model to the next. Inside, Cruze is roomy and comfortable, trunk space appears generous, doors close solidly, materials indeed appear first rate.

But while Chevrolet executives wax enthusiastically about the Cruze's new design and technology (along with the Chevrolet brand's resurgence), it has to be said that the Cruze appearance is not particularly distinctive. The Honda Civic comes to mind, Hyundai Elantra maybe, Kia Forte and more... all these vehicles are sleek and aerodynamic, look similar to the untrained eye, are packed with impressive standard features and offer consumers a lot for their money.

I suspect, though, that Cruze will attract more buyers if it drives and works as well as represented. And if pricing is competitive, it could climb the ladder of best-selling Canadian vehicles, although its next conquest in Canada would be the Hyundai Elantra which, currently sells about 1,000 more per month than Cruze and also offers a very nice hatchback in the Elantra GT. So does Mazda (Mazda3), Ford (Focus) and so, come to think of it, will Honda (Civic) in 2016.

There is a global Cruze hatchback, but it's not slated for North America. And while Canadian Cruze sales might benefit from its presence here, the US market would likely remain indifferent. GM says it continually assesses the market but for the immediate future, the Cruze sedan with its many improvements will shoulder the weight of competition in this important market segment.

According to Alan Batey, Global Chevrolet Brand Chief and President, GM North America, the vehicle that consumers most readily connect... 6/30/2015 10:26:27 AM