What is it?
The more family-friendly hatchback version of the Chevrolet Cruze has been with us for a couple of months and we’ve already driven the accomplished 2.0-litre diesel variant.
This time, we’re behind the wheel of the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol LS model, prices of which start from £13,995 – some £3000 less than a similarly specced Vauxhall Astra.
What’s it like?
Inside, the dashboard is uncluttered and there’s enough leg and headroom front and back for four tall adults, but under closer scrutiny you’ll see why Chevrolet dares to undercut its rivals so boldly. The seats are overly firm and uncomfortable on long journeys and the interior plastics are tacky.
Start the 1.6-litre engine up and the car’s sound-deadening – or lack thereof – is apparent. Pull away and you’ll find yourself reaching for the controls to the wonderfully bassy radio to drown out the motor’s drone.
Take to the motorway, and noise levels become irritating, not helped by the Cruze’s lack of a sixth forward gear.
Getting up to motorway speeds also brings new challenges. The engine’s 113lb ft torque figure does little to coax the car’s 1305kg kerb weight up to speed. And worryingly – with our test car at least – power delivery is inconsistent and often hesitant under hard acceleration.
The rate at which the engine consumes petrol is also disappointing. Over a test distance of 1000 miles and six days, we clocked 34.5mpg. Considering around 800 miles were driven on motorways, that figure is some way short of the claimed 42.8mpg mark on a combined cycle. Again, with just five forward gears, the engine has to work harder at 80mph, revving to almost 4000rpm.
Through twisty Devon B roads the entry-level Cruze pitches through corners unceremoniously, not helped by the lack of twist to pull the car out of the bends. Steering, too, lacks feel and is too light to inspire driver confidence.
Around town, over potholes and speed bumps, the Cruze’s suspension isn’t up to scratch, producing an overly firm, sometimes crashy ride.
Should I buy one?
Despite its very competitive pricing, forget this entry-level model. We’d wait for the 1.7-litre diesel version coming in 2012, or go for the more pricey 2.0-litre diesel variant, which offers pleasing performance and a much more refined and well-rounded package.
Chevrolet Cruze LS 1.6
Price: £13,995; Top speed: 118mph; 0-62mph: 12sec; Economy: 42.8mpg (claimed); C02: 153g/km; Kerb weight: 1305kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1598cc, petrol; Power: 123bhp at 6200rpm; Torque: 113lb ft at 4200rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual