The Chevy Cruze LTZ comes with Michelins on all four corners. It wouldn’t be that big a deal to have a high-end brand tire on a Euro-hauler that costs two or three times the price, but on the 2nd most inexpensive vehicle in the Chevy line-up, that’s a huge change of protocol.
The rounded roof and muscularly contoured body of the Cruze is a great deviation from the uninspired lumpish lines of the Cruze LTZ’s predecessor the Cobalt. Gone is the simplistic round of the Aveo’s hood, replaced by an almost menacing, creased and furrowed front end.
The headlights on the Cruze are wrapped tightly into the bold prow, leaving a wheel arch bulge that emphasizes the intensity of the design. Seam gaps are consistently narrow, lines are more distinct, and one can’t help but notice that the ‘whole package’ seems a lot more solid. It just looks tighter, more honed and more robustly built.
That feeling of solidity continues when you get inside the Cruze. Firm, supportive seats are surrounded by pleasantly durable, higher-grade materials in a cabin that is large enough for two full sized Americans to sit side by side without rubbing elbows.
The fit and finish easily rivals all competition in production levels on all internal surfaces.
The center stack holds the Pioneer infotainment center, which provides Bluetooth, XM radio, and a USB port beyond the regulation AM/FM/CD.
The A/C system beneath the infotainment unit is a straightforward two-zone/two dial system with integrated heated seats and a pleasantly sculpted, brushed aluminum shifter.
The dash has the speedo and tach (in real dial form) on either side of an onboard diagnostic screen. Two gauges stand atop the screen for oil pressure and fuel quantity. It’s nothing too fancy, but it is mood-lit, lightly rimmed in chrome and completely functional. Again, nothing outlandish, but nothing low budget either.
Now the Cruze seems to be making a streak towards the top of the leader board in this market segment.
The Cruze LTZ comes with a 1.4 liter, turbo-charged in-line four that pulls 138 hp. For a car this size, the little four banger provides a pretty fair amount of giddy up, but what’s really amazing is that it does so while providing nearly 36-mpg hwy.
Behind the wheel, the Cruze displays taut road handling far above its weight level. Steering was crisp, without being too tight in the corners and smooth as silk in tight parking confines. Underway, on all but the roughest pavement, the interior noise level was almost shockingly quiet.
Apparently the folks in Chevy’s design lab thought ‘quiet’ had found a place in the line-up, and in the Cruze they tested their mettle. If this was the case, then they should open the bubbly. The Cruze LTZ driven in town was nearly as quiet as a full sized Jaguar at speed. (There were no meters used for the decibel testing and the Jag was, well it was a big Jag, and they are really, really quiet at 65, so the Michelin clad LTZ should be given huge props!)
With the inherent nature of ‘small-ish’ cars it seems that Chevy also wanted to ensure the safety of their Cruze drivers with best in class safety protection. No fewer than ten airbags surround the occupants, all of them built into a steel cage that was designed to accept two and a half times the weight of the car on its roof.
Add to that the safety of the On-star Auto Crash Response System, and the Stabilitrak Electronic Stability Control System and the Cruze holds in its deck enough safety features to ensure that even if fate takes the car away, it will leave the occupants behind in all but the most extreme of vehicular events.
The Cruze LTZ Chevrolet provides more car, more comfort, better handling and better fuel economy than anything previously in their line-up. In as much as GM has had to beat the competition in the market, this time they kind of had to beat themselves as well.
The Cruze LTZ is a game-changer for Chevrolet. They’re changing the way they build a small car, but they’re also changing the way a small car is perceived.
If you want to look at a Chevy Cruze LTZ, or have any questions about the 2011 Chevrolet line-up, feel free to call Mike Riley at Wentworth ChevyTown 503-307-3502. Or take a look at www.wentworthchevrolet.com