Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Auto Reviews & News

January 24, 2011

Compact car ups Chevy's game

— Cruze is what Chevrolet calls its newest compact car, and it makes sense that they're starting with a totally different name.

That's because the Cruze breaks ranks with the small Chevy cars that have preceded it -- most of which are easily forgettable -- and

competes directly with the Japanese stalwarts that have been eating away at American-brand car sales for decades.

How so?

For starters, there's the driving feel. It's a hard thing to describe but easy to feel when you're in the driver's seat on a country road,

when you're wrapped up in the nuances of the vehicle.

The ride is firmer than American cars have traditionally employed, although still not as rock-hard as the Honda Civic. It's enough to

give you confidence in corners, though, and actually makes it enjoyable by economy-car standards.

That good driving feel is helped by the modern-sounding whir of a turbocharged engine. It's a small engine designed more for efficiency

than power -- particularly in the fuel-sipping Cruze Eco model that is rated for 40 mpg on the highway -- but it's also surprisingly smooth

for a turbo. It's the kind of silky powerplant you would normally expect to find in something more expensive.

Another big plus is the way the Cruze looks on the outside and feels on the inside.

In older compact Chevy cars, you got the impression that General Motors wasn't giving its best effort. The bodies were blocky and uninspired, and the interiors were made of brittle plastic with crude holes for the gauges and radio equipment to reside.

The Cruze, though, is a good example of how New GM is making cars that leave a much nicer impression than Old GM. This actually started

before the bankruptcy, most notably with the latest generation Malibu, but it's continuing even on more affordable new models like this one.

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