Chevrolet Cruze 1.8 LT Automatic
“Compact” and “Chevrolet” are two words that wouldn’t normally have gone together in the past. Since GM’s return to South Africa, we’ve seen the emergence of the bowtie badge on a range of small and subcompact cars sourced from the Far East.
What’s been lacking is a serious competitor in the space occupied by the likes of the VW Golf/Jetta, Toyota Corolla and, lately the Hyundai i30 and Kia cee’d. (GM’s own established – if not dominant – competitor, the Astra, fell victim to rationalisation earlier in the year.) To do battle against those titans, you’d better be capable, economical, reliable – oh, and don’t even think about skimping on the quality and style.
First impressions: they’ve got it right with the Cruze. The bold styling stands out from the herd without throwing convention completely overboard. The classy interior, with its leather trim in contrasting tan and black, looks tasteful. Instrumentation is not over-fussy, with elegant blue dials featuring red accents. Dynamically, let’s call it evens up; it’s at least competitive with the majority of the rivals. From Korea by way of Germany, the Cruze was engineered by Daewoo with input (and engine) from Opel. The ride, while by no means plush, is competitive with what’s on offer in this class.
Its 1,8-litre Four provides adequate performance. The Cruze moves smartly off the line, with a willing response if there’s a need to move it on up. Although it’s no roadburner, and engine noise is perhaps a little intrusive given the otherwise quiet ride, the slick 6-speed auto transmission shifts with superb refinement.
Being situated at the top end of the range, the LT comes complete with all the usual toys, plus a couple of unusual ones. Rear park distance sensors and traction control are standard.
Nice ergonomic touches on the convenience features include a steering-wheel satellite control that rotates and clicks, and a radio Favourites list that allows storage of preset stations from different bands so you don’t need to flip from AM to FM to play your preferred station.
We’d like to get our hands on a lower-level model before committing ourselves on the range as a whole. However, on the evidence of the LT, we give the Cruze a firm thumbs-up.
Price: R244 440.