2011 Chevrolet Cruze Review

2011 Chevrolet Cruze - Impressive new compact from Chevrolet cruises to the front of the class.


Vehicle Tested
2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ
Base Price  $22,225
At-Tested Price: $22,945
Built in Lordstown, Ohio.


Engine: Turbocharged 1.4-Liter I4
Six-Speed Automatic

Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive

Chevrolet comes to market with an all new subcompact car for 2011. Called the Cruze, it replaces the Cobalt in the bow-tie brand's lineup and competes with vehicles like the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jette.

The Cruze is the first "global" car from General Motors and is already on sale in more than 130 countries world wide. It goes on sale in late September of 2010 and is available only as a front-drive, five-passenger sedan.

With prices ranging from $16,995 to $22,695, Cruze will initially be in LS, 1LT, 2LT, and top-line LTZ trim. Chevrolet plans to add an ECO model in late November that it hopes will carry a, EPA highway rating of 40 mpg. Also available is an RS package on LT and LTZ models that adds unique front and rear facias, rocker moldings, front fog lights, and a rear spoiler.

The LS comes with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 136 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. Standard on all other models is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Standard with the 1.8-liter engine is a six-speed manual transmission. Optional with that engine and standard with the 1.4-liter turbo is a six-speed automatic. When the ECO model arrives in May, it will be available with either the manual or automatic transmission.

Standard safety features include antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, and ten airbags, including dual-front, front and rear side, curtain side, and dual front-knee airbags. Rear park assist is optional.

The LS lists for $16,525 and includes air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt/telescope steering wheel, OnStar assistance system, height-adjustable front bucket seats, center console, split-folding rear seat, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with media player connection, satellite radio, trip computer, variable-intermittent wipers, rear defogger, automatic headlights, 215/60R16 tires and wheel covers.

In addition to the turbocharged engine and six-speed automatic transmission, the $18,425 1LT adds power mirrors and floormats. The $20,925 2LT adds to the 1LT leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, six-way power driver seat, iPod adapter, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, remote engine start and alloy wheels.

The line-topping LTZ lists for $22,225 and adds to the 2LT four-wheel disc brakes, rear-obstacle-detection system, automatic climate control, heated power mirrors, automatic day/night rearview mirror, illuminated visor mirrors, sport suspension and 225/45R18 tires.

Major options include navigation system with 40GB hard drive, sunroof, nine-speaker audio system, and rear park assist. The Cruze is built in Chevy's Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant and has a destination charge of $720.

Get Up and Go  So far, we've only had the opportunity to evaluate models with the turbocharged 1.4-liter four, which Chevy quotes at 9.1 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. That's certainly not quick, but better than class competitors Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

Around town the engine feels quite lively and easily keeps up in cut-and-thrust driving. Once up to speed the Cruze doesn't have much passing oomph, though. This is especially evident above 60 mph, where there's more noise than acceleration. Again, this isn't unusual for cars in this class.

Where the Cruze does excel is in powertrain smoothness. The engine doesn't buzz or bog and cruises quite serenely. Also, the automatic transmission is well suited to the turbo four's powerband and does a good job of mitigating shift shock in gear changes.

Official EPA numbers peg the Cruze LTZ at 22 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. Those number trail some other compact vehicles, but both the 1.8 and the Eco model have better EPA numbers. According to Chevrolet, both engines will run fine on regular-grade gasoline.

Based on the trip computer results, Cruze is likely to average about 26 mpg in an equal mix of city and highway driving. If your commute includes lots of highway driving, you could average as high as 30 mpg overall.

On the Road  Cruise sports a sophisticated, euro-feel suspension that does a good gob of soaking up small pavement imperfections and softening large bumps. It doesn't float or bound over wavy roads and maintains its composure in quick maneuvers. The body is extremely rigid feeling and helps to impart a large-car feel when navigating bumpy roads.

Cruze feels confident when the road grows twisty. The electric steering feels quite natural and accurate and the brakes responsive and powerful. There's some body lean in quick turns, but nothing objectionable. Models with the sport suspension and 18-inch wheels are the most athletic, but even the base LS model has more twisty-road composure than many competitors.

Noise levels are exceptionally low for the class. While other compacts buzz and drone on the highway, the Cruze sails along with the quietness of a midsize or large car. Yes, the turbo motor is quite vocal in hard acceleration, but it's also very quiet when cruising.

Overall, Cruze strikes a great balance between providing a controlled and comfortable ride and allowing hot shoes to exercise their emotions.

Behind the Wheel  Inside, Chevrolet designers wanted to give Cruze a big-car feel. They mostly succeeded. Materials are a cut above the class average and the functional layout is appealing without being overly stylized.

Driver's face a deeply set instrument panel that houses a large tachometer and speedometer. Centered between the two is a useful driver information center that's uncommon in this class. Audio controls are placed high in the center of the dashboard and feature large and clearly marked buttons and knobs. Climate controls are positioned slightly lower than expected, but are simple to use and uplevel models feature an "auto" setting, again unusual for the class. Most other controls are placed within easy reach of the driver. About the only complaint is a center-mounted switch for the door locks--an obvious cost-saving move that forces driver and passenger to hunt for the switch each time.

Front-seat occupants are treated to very firm seats that are unusually wide for the class. Head and leg room are generous and the seat has a tremendous amount for fore and aft travel. The driving position is quite natural, aided by the height-adjustable driver seat and standard tilt-telescope steering wheel. The cabin has an airy feel that promotes good outward visibility.

Unfortunately, the rear-seating area isn't as commodious or upscale as the front. Materials are just class average as are leg and knee room. If you're more than six-feet tall, you'll be asking front-seat passengers to push their seats well forward. There's a small driveline hump that precludes seating three across for long trips.

At 15.0 cubic feet, Cruze has one of the largest trunks in the class. The split-folding rear seats fold flat, but there's a slight height difference between the trunk floor and the flattened seatbacks. Interior storage is class average, but the center-console cup holders are somewhat awkward to reach.

Bottom Line  Providing comfortable, affordable, reliable and economical cars like the Civic and Corolla, Honda and Toyota have been cleaning up in the compact car class for more than two decades. Changing public perception and buying habits is going to take more than a new name and some nice features.

Thankfully, the new Cruze is more than just a pretty face. It's a thoroughly sorted compact that's got the European pedigree to standout among me-too cars in the class. The turbocharged engine is as refined and powerful as any in the class and interior noise levels are midsize-car low.

With Cruze's impressive list of standard safety features, upscale interior and reasonable base price, there's no reason for compact-car buyers to shy away from the bow-tie brand any more. Best bet is probably a 2LT at just about $20,000, however the LTZ appeals to the enthusiast with its upgraded brakes, larger wheels and tires and sport suspension.

Specifications, 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ
4-door sedan
Turbocharged DOHC I4
Wheelbase, in.
Size, liters/cu. in.
1.4 / 83
Length, in.
Horsepower @ rpm
138 @ 4900
Width, in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm
148 @ 1850
Height, in.
6-Speed Automatic
Weight, lbs.
EPA Estimates, mpg
22 city / 35 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.

Fuel Capacity, gals.
Manufacturer's Warranty
Seating Capacity
3 years / 36,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
5 years / 100,000 miles
Front Leg Room, in.
6 years / 100,000 miles
Second-Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside
5 years / 100,000 miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.