Acknowledging that hand-me-down, antiquated mechanicals are not acceptable these days, Chevrolet used GM's Delta II platform when it developed the Cruze saloon – the same component set used by the current Vauxhall Astra and Ampera. So there’s little that’s backward or old-tech about this car, even under the skin.
The Cruze’s body is a welded high-strength steel monocoque frame made up of beams, pressings and box sections. Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front and a compound crank torsion beam at the rear. You could claim the Astra’s Watt’s linkage and the Focus’s all-independent set-up makes the Cruze’s look relatively unsophisticated, but it’s anything but crude. Hydraulic bushings are fitted to improve ride isolation, for instance, and the front suspension dials out lateral forces with specially designed springs.
The concave shoulder line, which runs from the front wings and along the car’s waist to blend into the rear, is a design feature of all Chevrolets, along with the crease and clutter-free lower body sides. The grille, bisected by a body-coloured strip is known as a dual-port grille and comes complete with an enlarged Chevy bow-tie badge in stippled gold.
Elongated, raked-back headlights are the most dramatic styling cue. They go a long way towards giving the Cruze a sharp, modern appearance. The LED rear lamps project the Chevrolet bow-tie shape when they illuminate, for night-time identification.
The Cruze looks inoffensive enough, but it’s bland and unadventurous in a class where the pace of change makes conservative designs date very quickly indeed. Buyers may not expect it to be as aesthetically pleasing as a Golf or an Alfa Romeo Giulietta, but the Cruze should at least be able to hold its own next to the latest Kia Cee’d and Hyundai i30 – which it singularly fails to do. However, the estate appears far more contemporary against its rivals, and is the most appealing Cruze from a visual aspect.
The Cruze hatchback, in particular, follows a well worn budget car path by offering slightly more metal than the class favourites. It’s between 100mm and 300mm longer than most family five-doors and its 413-litre boot offers between 15 and 25 percent more cargo space than the norm.
Build quality on the Cruze represents a big step forward for Chevrolet. Shut lines are impressive for being less than 3mm wide.