What is it?
It’s a new diesel option for the Chevrolet Cruze, which since launch has only been offered with a two-litre oilburner under the bonnet, in addition to 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrols. It’s an important addition to the line-up, too: although the existing two-litre diesel offers adequate performance, its CO2 emissions figure of 147g/km leaves a fair bit to be desired compared to its class rivals.
Chevrolet hopes the new engine option will enable it to further expand Cruze sales by appealing to more fleet customers. The new unit emits a more competitive 117g/km of CO2, which means it qualifies for free road tax in the first year and attracts a benefit-in-kind taxation of 17 per cent.
Part of Chevrolet’s success in Europe has been down to its keen pricing strategy. As with the other cars in the Cruze range, three trim levels are available but even the entry-level LS – which is priced at £16,725 – gets an attractive selection of standard kit, including electric front windows, electrically adjustable wing mirrors, air-con, remote central locking and follow-me-home headlamps.
The mid-range LT costs £1100 more at £17,825. By comparison, the current list price for the Cruze 2.0 VCDi in the same LT specification is £17,195 and the 1.6 petrol variant comes in at £14,895.
The range-topping Cruze 1.7 VCDi LTZ, as tested here, features cruise control, 17in alloys, anti-dazzle rear mirror, automatic headlights, climate control, rain-sensing wipers and aluminium-effect interior detailing for a cost of £18,685.
The five-door hatchback we tested will be initially offered with the new engine and is available now, with deliveries beginning in May. The Cruze Station Wagon will also get it later this year, but this 1.7 VCDi lump won’t appear in the saloon variant of the Cruze in the UK. Although the Cruze launched as a saloon in this country back in 2009, the hatch has eclipsed it as the more popular body style in the range.
What’s it like?
From the outside, the latest Cruze hatchback is an appealing-looking car, although it’s bold, large-featured face divides opinion.
Front passengers settle into a very spacious cabin that benefits from a logical and clear layout of all the key controls. The rear passengers get enough leg space, although the sloping roofline of the hatchback could compromise headroom for taller backseat occupants.
The Cruze 1.7 VCDi’s luggage capacity is 413 litres – significantly more than a five-door Astra that’s based on the same GM Delta platform as the Cruze, and more than a Focus too. With the 60/40 split rear seats down, however, the Cruze’s 883 litres capacity lags behind both rivals, which offer 1101 litres (Focus) and 1216 litres (Astra).
The overall ambience in the Cruze is of a well-made vehicle, although if you poke around the cabin for long enough and a few cheap-feeling materials and finishings can be found.
Dynamically the Cruze 1.7 VCDi is not a match for the Focus or Astra, but sporting capabilities are unlikely to be at the very top of the list of priorities for prospective buyers, who are more likely to consider the Cruze 1.7 VCDi for its economy, practicality and competitive kit-to-price ratio – and it scores very highly on all three counts.