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Chevrolet Cruze Review: Chevrolet Cruze LTZ: Cruise Missile

Chevrolet Cruze LTZ: Cruise Missile

By Quraish Umrethi; 14th March, 2011
Introduction

How many of us believe in Love at first sight? Well, my drive in the new Cruze LTZ was a Love at First Drive. Gone are the days when GM kept pumping re-badged Daewoo products into India. At least we hope that it is now the case, with the launch of the Chevrolet Cruze, which is GM's first car to be based on its new J300 platform and is slated to have a Global Presence. Plenty of effort has gone into the styling and d

How many of us believe in Love at first sight? Well, my drive in the new Cruze LTZ was a Love at First Drive. Gone are the days when GM kept pumping re-badged Daewoo products into India. At least we hope that it is now the case, with the launch of the Chevrolet Cruze, which is GM's first car to be based on its new J300 platform and is slated to have a Global Presence. Plenty of effort has gone into the styling and design of the Cruze to give it the Chevy family look along with that of an American Muscle Car.

GM has chosen to initially introduce only the diesel model in India. Its was a risk considering Indian's affinity for petrol cars, but it is a risk that has paid off for them. Gone are the days when diesel cars were noisy, clattery and un-refined with heavy maintenance costs. Fiat's Multijet engines amongst others are some of the most refined and fuel efficient units around.

We got the top of the line Cruze LTZ to test and as it was Gujarat registered, that’s where we decided to take it. It must be noted that roads in Gujarat are much better than what we find here in Maharashtra. We'll discuss more on this topic in the Ride and Handling and Performance sections.

Exterior

The Cruze is quite different in look compared to the regular sedans. I can't quite decide whether to describe the Cruze as a Muscle car or a Sports car. On one hand there are the strong Body Lines and Creases and on the other are the steeply raked windscreen, curved roofline (very much like the BMW X6), Long Headlights and a small C-Pillar. That coupled with a long wheelbase, prominent wheel arches and short overhangs gives the car a very sporty look. In fact the roofline is so sharply curved that the side profile resembles a Coupe from a few angles. It tends to remind you of the curves on the VW Beetle. This also means that you need to bend quite low to get in or out of the car.

The bonnet is long and the front bulges upward. The split front grill is made of black honeycomb mesh and is lined with chrome. Headlights are large and stretch towards the A Pillar. They light up the road well and on dark highway patches at over 160 kmph they were never found wanting.

Tail lamps though are nearly identical copies of the ones found on the Civic (only inverted as is evident in the picture). The rear bumper houses the Parking Sensors and though the system beeps when you get closer to objects, there is no display to show you how close you really are and which side the proximity warning is indicating. The system though, is pretty accurate and it was able to detect even a single grounding cable.

But the system that easily takes the cake is the segment first PEPS system which is the Passive Entry Passive Start system. The key (which is there in case of an emergency or when the battery suddenly goes dead) has a sensor and as long as you are within 5 feet of any door, including the boot, they will open by just pulling on the handles. Same applies to start the car too. Just keep the key in your pocket and hit the Start / Stop button and the car roars to life. No need to insert any key or turn the ignition. The look of the Start / Stop button is, however, quite disappointing. It would have looked much better if GM had used a nice big and round Red button as found on the BMW's and placed it a little away from the steering column in a place where it is more visible, or, if we are just hoping that it should have been some other way, why not on the steering wheel, like the ones on a Ferrari. That would have been something.

A Question that a friend asked was 'What would happen if we start the car and the remote gets left behind?' We didn't try it while in Gujarat as we were afraid of getting stranded in case the car had an immobilizer which locked all systems. So we tried it upon reaching Mumbai and my friend easily drove away leaving me standing behind with the key in my hand. No Immobilizer kicking in to turn off the engine. To lock the doors all you need to do is gently push on the handles and presto, all doors have been locked and the key has yet not made an appearance. We had over 50 people gather when one person heard that the car opens and starts without a key. As the word spread more and more people gathered around, each taking turns trying to open the car by pulling on the handle and upon failing, asking us to show them how its done. Of course we never quite revealed that we had a key in our pockets and they were left searching for some kind of Bio Metric system with which the doors suddenly opened when we pulled on the handles.The car is shod with 205/60 JK Vectra's running on 16” 7 spoke Alloys which look great.

Chrome has become one of the favourites of car manufacturers these days. There is a lot of chrome all around the Cruze too right from the Chrome Edged radiator grill, a chrome strip at the base of the windows, chrome on the exterior door handles and even between the rear tail lamps.

Doors are nicely weighted and close with a nice sounding thump. Boot space is also quite good at 450 litres and in case of an emergency, it is also accessible from a lever inside the boot.

Interior

Once inside the smiles continue. It feels like you have just entered a cockpit, although I wish the cockpits of the equipment I flew were half as good as the ones on the Cruze. The steering wheel with all its buttons and the blue lit chrome lined display looks fabulous.

Even better is the futuristic brushed aluminum look center console with the Blue Background Information Display Screen on top followed by the in dash 6 CD changer, the hazard blinker switch and the Climate Control A/C buttons. The LCD screen is clearly visible at all times even under bright sunshine. It displays the time, number of CD's loaded in the CD changer, Temperature set in the Climate Control A/C, Outside Air temperature, Date and Radio details. The in dash 6 CD changer plays music through 6 Speakers and 2 Tweeters located in the A Pillar. Voice clarity and bass is great throughout the volume range. There is an option for an Aux input in the front arm rest but no USB / I-Pod connectivity. The volume is speed sensitive which means that it increases automatically as the speed of the car increases.

The menu button toggles through various vehicle settings including an Auto Front and Rear Glass Defrost, Languages, Parktronics, AQS (Air Quality System) sensitivity can be set to high or low, to name a few. Below the CD Player to the right is a switch to lock or unlock the doors, the left switch is blank, followed by a funky looking hazard Blinker switch.

The Auto A/C is powerful and can chill the cabin in no time, though we were only able to test it till 36 degrees. The AQS switch circulates cabin air when it senses dust and pollution on the outside and to 'Outside Air Mode' in a clean environment.

Leather Upholstery comes standard on the LTZ. Height Adjustable Front seats are comfortable except for the lack of a lumbar support. After a few hours of driving the back starts to ache. Had to go in for some makeshift cushioning which did the trick. Apart from that after 1,430 kms in 3 days we were back to work the next day after an 8 hour sleep. No evident signs of fatigue or pain. Even after doing the 545 km Mumbai-Ahmedabad stretch (Ahmedabad being our first stop) non stop in 7 hours flat, I was still dying to get back in the drivers seat.

Rear seats again are very comfortable and have a large central armrest. Leg room is also adequate for a six footer. The same however, cannot be said for the headroom. The steeply curved roofline means that headroom all round is at a minimum, especially at the rear. Upfront too there is minimal headroom. If you are used to setting the driver seat on the higher side, your head tends to hit the oddly placed sunglass holder which is probably the only part which is of poor quality. Seat travel is excellent and you can easily set the position that you find most comfortable, no matter how tall you are.

The 3 Spoke Leather Wrapped steering wheel is adjustable for reach and rake, is perfectly sized and feels good to hold. The left side buttons control the cruise control settings while the right side have the audio controls. The steering column however obstructs the odometer reading and you have to stretch upwards to see the meter. The Chrome Lined Speedometer and Tachometer are enclosed in 2 large dials while the smaller ones show the fuel indicator (with a low fuel indicator light) and engine temperature. The square display in-between has the Multi-Information Display (MID). The switch to toggle between the readings is located on the right indicator stalk and you have to leave your hand from the steering wheel to operate it. The MID shows the Instantaneous Average, Total Average, Trip, Distance to Empty and Average Speed.

Quality of plastics and Buttons are top notch, but the two toned dashboard does not use soft touch plastics and are hard to the touch. No ugly panel gaps or sharp edges anywhere though. Indicator stalks are now correctly positioned for a right hand drive vehicle with the left operating the 7 speed wipers and the right operating the indicators and the high/low beam switch. The right stalk returns to its original position while switching between high and low beams.

In true GM style, the headlight switch is a round knob situated on the dash near the drivers right leg. It also activates the fog lamps, 3 stage headlight leveler and the display illumination setting.

The LTZ trim has an electrically operated sun/moon roof which can be controlled by switches near the front cabin lights. It is large enough to easily slide out of.

All the 4 Power Windows have a one touch auto down function, though not even the driver's side has an auto up. Switch quality is excellent. OVRM's are electrically adjustable and electrically retractable too. They are adequately sized and easily show 2 lanes. We did not have the problem of cars suddenly disappearing in the Blind Spots either. Inner door handles are also of chrome. Unlike regular cars, the rear door locks are placed at the rear of the door, closer to the 'C' Pillar.

Plenty of storage spaces are available all around. The front door can easily hold a one litre bottle and more. There is storage place below the headlight switch and also on top of the dash for CD's. The lighted glove compartment looks large from the outside, however once you open it, you find that though it is quite deep, only half of it can actually be used for storage. The rest of the area is used for the fuse box. 

Performance

The entire stretch from Surat to Vadodara was a 6 lane, pothole free, smooth stretch of tarmac. From Vadodara onwards to Ahmedabad there is a 4 lane expressway which is again as smooth as driving on ice and has a speed limit of 100 kmph. Though being relatively empty, doing continuous speeds of around 160 kmph by night and close to 180 kmph by day seemed no task at all. The car is super sturdy at speeds and does not twitch or waver at all. The car is very well aerodynamically designed too. The long wheelbase (2685mm) and wide track means that is handles almost like a go-kart, the tyres being the only let down. Not that they are bad but they tend to screech and understeer on fast corners. Road noise is evident but this is probably due to the Vectra's. An early switch to better tyres is something that any Cruze's buyer should look to do. The chassis though, is well designed to tackle both high speed and low speed corners with ease.

The steering wheel is light at low speeds and weighs up as the speed increases. The steering is precise and accurate and directing the car exactly where you want it to go is an easy task, a good thing considering the speeds it is capable of.

The Cruze has Cylindrical Coil Springs up front and a Compound Crank Type Mini Block Coil Springs at the back. GM has done an excellent job with the Suspension setup. Bad roads are taken care of with ease and speed breakers tend to just disappear. The Tubular Stabilizer Bar System does a good job to control body roll, but it is easy to throw passengers off their seats around corners, but maybe that was because we were taking tight corners between 140-160 kmph. Made the back seaters immediately scramble to put on their seat belts. This is probably one of the best handling cars out there.

Ground Clearance stands at a mere 165mm but there was only one instance when the car bottomed out on a high speed breaker. The excellent roads also contributed in the underbelly not kissing the ground that often.

The lack of a dead pedal plays spoil sport over long journeys. Another issue is that the accelerator pedal is placed slightly behind the brake pedal and the ankle gets twisted by about 45 O while using it. It does create some amount of pain after a couple of hours of continuous driving. The hard clutch with a strong back force does not help either.

NVH levels are very low. The Excellent insulation means that you can barely hear the engine. Fire up the Engine and apart from the initial second or so, it is difficult to tell if the car is running on diesel or petrol. Even under hard acceleration it does not sound or feel like you are driving a diesel. 

 

The Cruze is powered by a 4 cylinder, 16 valve 2.0L VCDi engine that is also present on the Captiva (which is selling well itself, despite its 20 lac + price tag). The engine is Euro IV and BS IV ready. With an engine output of 150PS @ 4000 RPM and Max Torque rated at 327PS @ 2600 RPM, leaving most cars smelling your exhaust fumes is an easy task.

The Leather wrapped Gear Lever feels nice to hold and the transmission has short throws. The trouble here is that 3 rd and 5 th are quite close together and it kept going into 5 th instead of third. It did take sometime to get used to engaging the correct gear in the first attempt.

Slot the Transmission into 1 st Gear and floor the throttle, wheels spin, you get pinned to the back of your seat and then... nothing, the car stops accelerating as you have already hit max RPM. The short gearing means that in the initial stages you need to keep shifting gears quite quickly. Even in the 0-100 time runs you need to shift to 4 th before hitting the ton to get the quickest timing. The Cruze (without the aircon working) hit the 100kmph mark in 9.68 seconds, though it took a few attempts to reach that figure. The average was around 9.92 seconds. 3 rd gear maxes out at 130kmph and we managed to hit a top speed of just over 200 kmph, with the speedometer reading 208 kmph @ 4000 RPM. The Cruze hits 160 kmph with ease and it is quite easy to continuously cruise around 180 kmph with the tachometer at 3400 RPM. No wonder it is called the Cruze. Stays true to its name.

All round disc brakes comes standard across both variants. Retardation is quite amazing and the car holds its line even under extreme braking. Since the car is relatively light (kerb weight 1520 kgs) you always feel in complete control while slowing the car down and you have the option of braking later than you normally would.

The only issue with the performance of the car is turbo lag, and loads of it. Below 1700 RPM the lag is so bad, that you have to shift down a gear, unless of course you have a lot of patience. Why do I say that? Roll on times will answer it. 40-80 kmph in 5 th Gear takes close to 34 seconds and about 15 seconds in 4 th. Now compare that to 7 seconds in 3 rd and you realise why you have to always be in the right gear. Now consider that we always have to be above 1700 RPM to keep the engine on the boil, 1700 RPM in 3 rd gear comes up at 55 kmph, 75kmph in 4 th and 100 kmph in 5 th. That means that driving in traffic below 50 kmph you need to be in 2 nd gear and on the highways below 100 kmph you need to shift down to 4 th gear. So while slowing down for a truck to give way and then performing the overtaking maneuver, it’s a continuous change to 4 th and then back to 5 th to achieve highest economy, or else you just leave it in 4 th and get rid of the continuous gear changing bother.

There is also the cruise control feature, which I think is a complete waste most of the times. I was not able to use it for more than a few minutes, unless of course you are willing to stay around 100 kmph.

Going on to mileage, the figures returned were excellent considering the power available and our 'Get to the destination in the fastest time possible' style of driving. In the City with heavy traffic, it returned around 12 kmpl and on the highway around 13.3 kmpl. However if you drive smoothly on the highways (Yes, we did try that too, for about 150 KMs) it will return over 16 kmpl. As far as I am concerned, these are excellent figures.

The Cruze is loaded with Safety features which include ABS, Dual Airbags, all round Disc Brakes, Height Adjustable Seat belts, Crumple Zones, Collapsible Steering Column etc. It has received a 5 star ENCAP (European New Car Assessment Program) rating. Doors auto lock every time you reach 18kmph and the seat belt not worn buzzer goes off.

 

GM has chosen to initially introduce only the diesel model in India. Its was a risk considering Indian's affinity for petrol cars, but it is a risk that has paid off for them. Gone are the days when diesel cars were noisy, clattery and un-refined with heavy maintenance costs. Fiat's Multijet engines amongst others are some of the most refined and fuel efficient units around.

We got the top of the line Cruze LTZ to test and as it was Gujarat registered, that’s where we decided to take it. It must be noted that roads in Gujarat are much better than what we find here in Maharashtra. We'll discuss more on this topic in the Ride and Handling and Performance sections.

 

 

Conclusion

Every individual has their favourite car, one which they wish they could own or set their target as 'That’s my next car'. For me the Civic held that mantle since the time it was launched in India, the awesome looks, digital speedometer above the steering wheel and interiors was what I loved. It was well above my budget in India, so no prizes for guessing which car I bought when I had a chance to go the the US for a year. The Chevrolet Cruze has now taken over that position from the Civic.

The Cruze competes with the likes of the VW Jetta, the Honda Civic, the Corolla Altis, the Skoda Laura and maybe even the top of the line Honda City. It is priced well (Rs. 11,09,972/- Ex-Showroom Pune for the LT version, Rs. 12,77,571/- for the LTZ and Rs. 13,58,452/- for the LTZ AT) , has the highest power and is packed with features. If you are looking for a driver oriented car in the 12-14 lac price range, look no further than the Cruze.

Our test Cruze had been through just under 13,000 kms of being thrashed around by various reporters and we thrashed it around some more, yet there was no sign of loose panels or ugly sounds coming from any part of the car. Our test, though it included a few hundred kilometers of city driving too, was mainly conducted on highways. How the car handles over an extended period and day to day use is yet to be seen and we shall keep you posted on that if we can get the Cruze as a long termer. 

 

Pros

  • Beautiful Styling
  • Most powerful Sedan in the Segment
  • Lovely Short Throw Gear Box
  • Smooth and Extremey refined Engine
  • Feels like a Petrol Car
  • Low NVH Levels
  • PEPS (The best of the options available)
  • Engine Start / Stop Button
  • Excellent Handling, probably one of the Best Handling Cars around
  • Excellent Braking, always in complete control
  • Excellent Fuel Efficiency
  • 750 km range
  • Parts Quality and Fit and Finish up to the Mark
  • Loads of Standard Features
  • Excellent Music System, Speed Sensitive volume
  • Smart LCD Screen gives all the information required
  • Ice Blue Back Lighting
  • Good Storage Space
  • AQS
  • Sun Roof
  • Parktronics (Display would have been nice)
  • Well Priced (Just over 13 Lac on road)
  • 3 yrs / 1,00,000 kms warranty

Cons

  • Turbo Lag
  • No ESP (Traction Control)
  • Position of Acceleator and Hard Clutch
  • No Lumbar Support
  • Got to leave hands off the steering wheel to operate the MID
  • Lack of Headroom
  • Tyre Choice