Sunday, November 17, 2019

Stylishly Functional

Disclosure: I am a fan of hatchbacks.

Sure, hot hatches like a Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus RS or Nissan Juke Nismo RS get all attention for their outstanding performance and thrilling handling. This does not mean a hatchback has to be a road screamer to be interesting. Which is the case for the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback—a versatile, good-looking five-door that is knocking on the door of 40 mpg on the highway. Oh, and if that was not enough to get your attention, the Cruze Hatchback is scheduled in 2018 to come as a turbodiesel model where should be a possibility.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The front-wheel drive 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatch is powered by a smooth, turbocharged 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, producing 153 horsepower and 177 pounds-feet of torque. While a six-speed manual transmission is available, Smarticd’s Cruze Hatch LT, with the optional RS Package, was equipped with a six-speed Hydra-matic automatic. The EPA rates the Cruze Hatch automatic at 29 city/38 highway/32 combined. The sedan version hits 40 mpg highway in the EPA tests. In 286 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving, Smarticd averaged 33.2 mpg. However, in a 125 mile highway run, with the cruise control set at 70 mph, we achieved 39.6 mpg. Helping with the fuel economy is the , where the engine shuts off when coming to a stop and then restarts when you release the brake pedal. Chevrolet’s system is quiet and barely noticeable when the engine kicks in, offering a near smooth process of saving fuel when idling.

The business end of the newest Cruze

It is important to note that the fuel economy numbers reported by Smarticd are non-scientific. They represent the reviewer’s driving experience, but should be similar to most drivers living in our reviewer’s cities. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains, spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

The Cruze Hatch with the automatic will not be confused with one of the hot hatches mentioned earlier. The acceleration is so-so. At times there was some hesitation at low speeds. Not sure if this is a turbo or transmission gremlin, but it was not severe enough to cast a pall on buying this car. The Cruze Hatch shows its stuff on the open road, where it cruises along at-or-above posted freeway speeds (in California that will be either 65 or 70 mph). Once out of traffic the Cruze Hatch had no issues keeping up with, or being the leader, on the racetracks that are Southern California freeways. Again, the anticipated turbodiesel should make open road runs even more fun and economical.

The Cruze Hatch feels more like a size-up (a midsize car) from its compact class classification. This is most noticeable with the confident and solid feel when driving, especially on long stints of open highway. Starting with stability and traction control, MacPherson struts and electric power steering, coil springs and sway bars, there is nearly no body roll even on the tightest corners or high-speed freeway onramps. Smarticd’s LT model had 16-inch alloy wheels and 215/60R16 all-season tires. Seventeen and 18-inch wheels and tires are available as options or on other trim levels.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Cruze Hatch is identical to the Cruze sedan from the rear doors forward. Up front you will find a clean design, starting with the sharp-featured nose where the grille meshes cleanly with the fascia. Sweptback dual-projection LED headlamps sit above deeply set fog lights. The slope from the front “bowtie” Chevrolet emblem rises to a high point at the B pillar, and then drops to the integrated spoiler above the rear solar-absorbing liftgate glass and wiper. A tasteful shark fin antenna on the rear roof and a single, subtle RS logo on the front grille finish off the look of this stylish car. It drew more than a few comments.

The styling starts here

Driving Experience: Interior

Chevrolet spent a considerable amount of time and thought redesigning the Cruze interior, especially the dash, making it a driver-focused cockpit. The gauges are not overly digital, soft touch materials abound and the restrained use of chrome accents give the dash, door panels and center console a feeling of quality. The overall impression is one of a finished look and feel.

Smarticd’s 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback included the $1,150 Convenience Package that had heated driver and passenger cloth seats, with the driver getting eight-way power adjustments. The flat-folding 60/40 split rear seat also had a fold down armrest with cup holders, when two were riding out back. The rear USB charger was a convenient touch.

4G LTE, wireless charging and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are all here

The six-speaker Chevrolet MyLink infotainment (information and entertainment) and audio system controls the seven-inch color touchscreen for the AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX radio. Features include an USB input, SiriusXM (three-month free subscription), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for Bluetooth that offers hands-free telephone and voice control. General Motor’s handy and helpful OnStar system is included for five years with the basic plan and three months for the automatic accident response and navigation service.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly GM representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader. After the five-year basic and three-month plans expire, it is well worth renewing for the peace of mind you (or maybe your child or spouse) will always have when driving your Cruze Hatch. For faster Internet speeds, the Cruze comes has a 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot, with a limited period subscription. If your kids are sitting in the back gaming, then continuing the subscription is a must-do.

Our Cruze Hatch came equipped with cruise control, power windows with one-touch up and down, rearview camera, keyless start and entry, passive entry system, power and heated side mirrors, remote start, carpeted floor mats, climate control and tilt and telescopic steering column.


Our test 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback had the optional Driver Confidence Package that included rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change alert with side blind zone alert. Chevy wants you to be alerted in case another car is getting too close! For $495, this is an excellent package to add when buying a Cruze. Additional safety features are 10 airbags, four-wheel power disc ABS braking system and a tire pressure monitoring system.

In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2017 Cruze received (the highest rating) for overall crash protection, while the Insurance

Still includes a spare

Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Cruze its

Pricing and Warranties

Base MSRP for the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback is $21,240 for the six-speed manual and $21,290 with the automatic transmission. Smarticd’s 2017 Cruze Hatch, with $2,850 in optional equipment, had a MSRP of $24,770. All prices exclude the $875 destination charge.

The 2017 Cruze comes with these warranties:

Powertrain                      Five years/60,000 miles

Bumper-to-Bumper      Three years/36,000 miles

Roadside Assistance     Three years/36,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

The new for 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback joins its sibling, the Cruze sedan, which was all-new in 2016. As Chevrolet’s best-selling car around the world (with more than 3.5 million units sold since going on sale in 2008), the Cruze is vitally important to Chevrolet and General Motors.

Chevy adds a new twist to its best-selling car

As noted earlier, I like hatchbacks, and the Chevrolet Cruze Hatch does not disappoint for fans like me. Its versatility for cargo and passengers, exterior and interior design, fit and finish and fuel economy—all packed into a car with a base price hovering around $21,000—creates a car worth your attention. When the turbodiesel hits showrooms, tentatively in the end of 2017, the on the highway will set the Cruze apart.

If a sports utility or crossover vehicle might be too much for your lifestyle or needs, the Cruze Hatch just might do you nicely.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].

John Faulkner is Road Test Editor at Smarticd. He has more than 30 years’ experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent’s 1950 Studebaker. He is a journalist member of the Motor Press Guild.

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