On a Cruze

Road test: Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon LT 1.7 VCDi

I wrote about the Chevrolet Cruze about a year ago and the overriding memory is that it felt good to drive. The Station Wagon version has just been released so it’s time to go Chevy once again.

Behind the wheel, I am taken straight back to the enjoyment of driving the saloon. Chevrolet has worked hard on a stiff shell, good handling and keen performance and it certainly delivers in spades. The Cruze has been out three years yet the driving feel is still up-to-date. Ride is on the firm side over almost-smooth surfaces but absorbs the bigger lumps and bumps very well. This is helped with the sensible 16” wheels on our press car, sporting fairly tall side-walls.

Pulling at the leash

This 1.7 diesel also has a good turn of speed, managing eager get-aways and pulling at the leash even at 70mph in sixth gear. It has ample torque, and I was surprised the 0-60mph time is only 10.4 seconds – it feels faster than this. It’s not all straight-line competence, either; even with its bigger bottom, this Cruze SW is eager to change direction, demonstrating a reasonable front-to-rear weight ratio. Steering is well-weighted with good feel. With the torque on tap, it isn’t necessary to explore the upper realms of the rev range – it’s all very accessible. The six gear ratios are well chosen and a delight to select with the easy clutch and positive lever action.

Is it all roses, then? Mostly, but a few things stood-out. I spotted a couple of panels weren’t as lined-up as they ought to have been and a one-or-two switches had a numb feel about them. Although attractive, I’m not sure the fabric dashboard capping would be particularly resilient to damage or stains either. In the boot, the runners allow the parcel shelf to ride-up the D pillars for easy access which was handy, rather than having to crawl in to re-cover the load. However, the clips to lift the boot floor are rather fiddly.

The Cruze is roomy and comfortable with ample seat adjustment and an inviting, blue-lit dashboard. The main instruments are clear and easy to use, although the central digital display is almost impossible to read in the day time with headlights on (sensible in low sun or fading light) because it dims for night-time. A simple light sensor would sort this. One unusual display option in the main binnacle is to view what’s using power (0.04 gallons/hour just for the internal fan, apparently).

As far as exterior styling goes, the Cruze SW doesn’t push the boundaries but is certainly neat and tidy. We are seeing many manufacturers explore bending the shoulder, swage and sill lines much more at the moment; the Cruze’s merely follow the length of the car. I’d volunteer that without the corporate nose, many would struggle to identify what brand the car is. The best bit really is the front end, with the bold horizontal stripe across the grill to house the italicised Chevrolet cross, the deep-set lights and the clam-shell bonnet. It’s a shame really, because there isn’t anything aft of this to hint at how good the Cruze is to drive. Whatever the merits of the Cruze, Chevrolet will have its work cut out here in the UK, with the competent Ford Focus estate offering a similar specification at about the same price.

Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon LT 1.7 VCDi, tested costs £19,370 (incl. £445 for metallic paint). The SW range starts at £15,375

Power: 130 PS (4,000 rpm), torque: 300 Nm (2,000 rpm), emissions: 119g/km CO2 (band C), 0-60 mph: 10.4 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○

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