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.
The latest engine is perfectly competent for the job in hand, with enough flexibility to cope with town centres, flowing country roads and motorway cruising. Ride is slightly on the firm side but not excessively so, the steering is light and the car only really gets flustered if you try to push hard during cornering.
Equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, this Cruze can cover 0-60mph in 9.4sec, almost a second slower than the two-litre diesel, but this offsets that with its efficiency.
Assisted by an Eco mode (including stop-start as standard) it trounces the larger diesel engine in terms of CO2 emissions, 117g/km to 147g/km.
According to manufacturer claims, the Cruze 1.7 VCDi returns 62.7mpg on the combined cycle, whereas the two-litre engine achieves 50.4mpg. Our journey on a variety of roads between Milton Keynes and Cambridge returned 44.0mpg in the Cruze 1.7 VCDi, although our car had less than 20 miles on the clock and that figure can be expected to improve with more miles on the car.
Should I buy one?
In a hard-fought sector that includes many high-profile rivals, this Cruze 1.7 VCDi represents a sensible buying option.
Other cars offer extra pizzazz, better performance, or increased efficiency, but most are also more expensive to buy.
Comparing list prices, the top-spec Cruze 1.7 VCDi’s comes in at more than £1000 less than the cheapest version of the 128bhp Astra 1.7 CDTi.
If, like an increasing amount of motorists, you’re governed primarily by your wallet when it comes to new car purchases, the Cruze should be worthy of consideration.
We’d definitely choose this over the two-litre diesel version, unless you really can’t live without the extra poke and are willing to sacrifice the economy gains.
Chevrolet Cruze 1.7 VCDi LTZ
Price: £18,685; Top speed: 124mph; 0-60mph: 9.4secs; Economy: 62.7mpg; (combined); CO2: 117g/km; Kerb weight: TBC; Engine: 4cyls, 1686cc; Power: 128bhp @ 4000rpm; Torque: 221lb ft @ 2000-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual