Chev nips Cruze butt

2012-10-05 15:07

The Cruze has always been the typical family sedan, with no appeal to younger buyers.

But the new hatchback model has now been launched and it may just turn the tide for the American brand.

With a new engine line-up and fresh looks, it’s exactly what the car needed after its local launch three years ago.

The option of no trunk for your junk, has revitalised the car’s whole look.

Currently the Cruze is Chevrolet’s bestselling product and since they’re the fourth-largest car maker in the world, it’s no surprise that they’ve sold over 1 million units, with numbers reaching 670 000 in 2011 alone and over 420 000 so far this year.

The hatchback extends the Cruze line-up with two models in LS trim level, in either 1.6- or 1.8-litre petrol engines, bringing the total to five models for 2013.

The all-aluminium petrol engines are both twin-cam 16-valve units with variable valve timing mated with a five-speed manual gearbox.

I want to say the latter feels as though it has been improved, but gear changing is still not as smooth as I would like.

I was expecting the current Cruze to have a shorter rear, but a completely different model was revealed to local media in Cape Town this week instead.

It has quite a few notable nips and tucks.

The first is the redesigned dual grille that no longer carries the honeycomb mesh, but still bears the traditional Chevrolet bow tie badge. Even the headlights have been jazzed up with arrow-like sweeping clusters that meet on the front fenders, while the front bumper has space for the more prominent fog lights.

The rear end has a flush look with circular-shaped tail-light clusters.

The rest of the range has also been upgraded with new 17-inch wheels replacing the previous design on the LT high-spec trim level. The LS trim also has new 16-inch wheels.

Inside, on the LT trim there’s a new leather interior and brushed aluminium accents.

On the low-spec models, for which hatchbacks are the only option, soft material has been used on the passenger side of the dashboard.

It looks tacky and simply invites children to wipe their dirty hands on it.

All round, the car is quite roomy and allows for comfy leg and head room. There are height-adjustable driver seats despite the arching roof line that gives the car a sporty stance.

What’s even more impressive is that rear head room in the hatch is 10mm more than in the sedan.

The instrument cluster displays three circles behind the steering wheel with analogue dials backlit by white and ice-blue light.

Standard features include air conditioning, steering wheel audio controls, cruise control and plenty of little storage compartments.

On the safety side, there are three-point seat belts and Isofix child seat fitments on the outer two rear seats.

There are dual front air bags, side seat air bags and side curtain air bags for the front and rear seats.

It offers good value for money and with an affordable price tag of the low R200 000 mark, the Cruze is definitely one of the hatchbacks I’d add to my list of options.

» Follow me on Twitter: @SpeedQueen

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