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2011 Chevy Cruze: Changing Impressions

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It’s a new day for Chevy.  Some people thought that the majority of cars coming from General Motors were, well, rather general.  If you had driven one it was pretty much just like driving any other car they made.  Now, the 2011 Chevy Cruze is going to change that impression.  I know because it has completely changed mine.

After recovering from the effects of the economic downturn I wanted to test drive the Cruze with an open mind to see what the recent changes at Chevy had produced.  I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised with what greeted me.  The styling of the Cruze may not stop you in your tracks but has a very strong silhouette with bold lines that feed into wide wheel arches that hint at a performance experience that’s delivered across all Cruze trim lines.

While this car has a rather average 0-60 time, it is impressive for being such a large compact car.  When presented with the opportunity we were able to get the Cruze from 30 mph to 80 in just 3.5 seconds.  I was surprised by the pick-up in performance and decided to dig a little deeper.  I found that while the turbo charged 1.4 liter in-line 4 produced only 138 HP, it delivered every bit of the 148 lb-ft of torque at just 1,850 rpm and held an absolutely flat plateau all the way to 6,000 rpm.  What a flat torque curve means to the every-day driver is that the Cruze is deceptively quick when it matters.  When merging onto a highway or needing to overtake quickly and safely, the Cruze is more than able to get the job done while maintaining great fuel economy thanks to its 6-speed automatic or available 6-speed manual gearbox.
Out on the winding country roads of Northern Virginia, I was also very happy to see how nimble and responsive the Cruze was in corners.  Compared to the Honda Civic, which is tuned for a firm and quick response, the Cruze comes out on top by delivering the same capable handling with a much more comfortable and forgiving ride.  Chevy’s all new “Z-bar” rear suspension allows the Cruze to keep the chassis very composed in the turns, feeding the cornering forces to the suspension in just two directions, limiting the amount of movement you feel in the car, leaving you with a real sense of confidence and comfort.

The Cruze is being offered in LS, LT, LT2 and LTZ trim packages with the base model starting at $16,995 with a range of available options that can bring the price to over $23,000.  A six thousand dollar range may seem a bit steep, but when you compare it to just a few of the options and packages you start to see the value immediately.  The LT2 and LTZ models we tested came with a variety of equipment but most noteworthy was the available OnStar system, heated and power driver and passenger seats and navigation.  But the pampering doesn’t stop there.  A dedicated smart phone application allows the Cruze’s information display to relay tire pressure for all 4 wheels to your Droid, Blackberry or iPhone.  Fuel quantity, average fuel economy, your oil level and how long you have before you need to change it…you guessed it, right to your smart phone.  While we’re at it include the ability to lock and unlock the car, receive notification of an alarm and even a panic button built into the same app.

Speaking of fuel economy, the Cruze delivers up to 40 miles per gallon.  Very impressive for it’s class!
As Chevrolet gears up to start selling this replacement for the Cobalt, you can tell that they have designed the Cruze for a more mature and sensible driver who also likes to have a bit of fun.  With 10 airbags standard on all models and having achieved the highest NCAP 5 star rating, the quality and durability of the Cruze is sure to deliver that driving experience while keeping you and those you love safe.


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