2011 Chevrolet Cruze Review

2011 Chevrolet Cruze - Bring cool to the compact segment.


I really like the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. In theory.

This all-new car replaces the Cobalt for the 2011 model year, and it brings a much-needed "cool" into the compact car segment. The interior is stunning with nice touch points and an attractive, curving design. The exterior far surpasses its predecessor--from the headlights all the way to the taillights.

The 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine delivers 138 horsepower, and it's just enough pep to move you through traffic and keep you competitive off the start from red lights.

The test vehicle was a top-of-the line LTZ model ($22,695) and included standard features like leather seats, OnStar Directions and Connections, XM Radio, Bluetooth connectivity for your cell phone, steering wheel audio controls, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, USB port and (my favorite) heated front seats.

All that combined with high fuel efficiency numbers, an affordable price tag and a cute, compact package, it should have made it a perfect 10.
That's where the "in theory" part comes in.

During the test week, I couldn't get more than 24 mpg to save my life. And we're talking mostly highway driving. Sure, it was cold during the test week. And, yes, I did use the remote start a couple times. But still. I had 5 days of 50 miles a day at 65 mph. And I still couldn't bring those numbers up. So, either something was wrong with the trip computer (which I hope is the case) or the EPA estimates of 24 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway are off. Way off.

Outside of the whole MPG thing, the only other complaint I have about this car was with the 6-speed automatic transmission. As one of my fellow auto colleagues said: It's kind of wonky. In more precise terms, what that means is it sometimes feels like it slips out of gear before it gets into the right one. I noticed this especially when trying to pass at highway speeds, but it would sometimes kick in between 2nd and 3rd gears when the speed was just at that almost place.

Ride and handling is what you'd expect for a compact entry level car. It had an excellent turning radius, and it was nice and steady at highway speeds. I particularly liked the interior quietness. You could tell Chevrolet did a lot of work to separate the engine noise and road noise from the interior cabin. It worked.

While there were a lot of nice up-level features on this $22K car, I have to say my new favorite is the OnStar Directions and Connections. Who needs in-car navigation when you can talk to an actual person, who understand and repeats what you're saying and then sends the directions to the car. No distracting map to mess with -- just verbal commands and written instructions delivered to the gauges behind the steering wheel. I loved it. This is standard in all Cruze models, but there is a monthly fee to maintain the service (first 6 months free).

Though the test car was the top-of-the-line model, don't think you'll get bare bones cheap if you opt for the entry level LS model. At a base level, the Cruze comes equipped with tilt/telescoping steering wheel, traction control, anti-lock brakes, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, XM Satellite Radio and OnStar. Though I should point out the base LS comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, and it will cost you $925 to upgrade to the automatic.

The Cruze also has the following additional models: the 1LT ($18,895), 2LT ($21,395), LTZ ($22,695) and the Eco ($18,425). All in all, nice bang for your buck.

I really do like what the Cruze represents. From the base price to the available up-level features. You can get a lot out of this car for what you put into it. If only they could get that fuel economy thing figured out.

Jill Ciminillo

Jill has been writing about cars for more than 15 years, representing the female point of view amongst her predominantly male colleagues. And since something like 80 percent of all car-buying decisions are either made by or influenced by women, that's nothing to sneeze at. Formerly the online automotive editor for the Chicago Sun-Times, the print auto editor for Pioneer Press Newspapers and the automotive editor for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, this 5th percentile (aka petite) female tells it like it is from the fun to the functional. Jill recently served as the first female president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and currently sits on its Board of Directors as President Emeritus. Jill is a syndicated automotive writer and acts as the managing editor for the Pickup Truck + SUV Talk website.