Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chevy Cruze Review

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I received a Chevy Cruze to test drive on a family road trip after Thanksgiving. But that trip turned out to be a 20-minute drive away to a nearby suburb. However, a drive up to Michigan me gave me a chance to test it out. Upon my return I let my husband drive it to work one day. But then he took it the next, and then the day after that, so I made him write the review.

As an ├╝ber-commuter with a 60-mile round trip each day, comfort and mileage are critical components of any set of wheels. And no, by the way, public transportation is not a viable option between the suburban start and end of my daily journey.

Kim drove the Cruze up to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a blogger trip and I drove by myself to work for a few days, and we took a "road trip" to Schaumburg affter Thanksgiving.

Ready for the valet at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids

To be certain, this isn’t an SUV or mini-van. It’s an economy-sized four-door sedan. But comfort-wise, it was a pleasant ride each time for me. As a male of standard (5’10”) height, I had enough leg and head room to make each trip without feeling cramped.

While my visibility when checking traffic on my left side was hampered by the roof support beam, overall visibility and mirror placement was good. Compared to my beloved Honda Civic, which I drove nearly a decade ago, the Cruze offered superior cushioning and material on the seats. The Cruze was also better in letting me adjust the seat to my comfort and still have head clearance and visibility.


The Civic is long gone. I currently drive a large Infiniti with a sizable engine that burns more fuel than the Cruze. In addition to loving the better-than 30 mpg the Cruze gave me on my mostly highway drive each day, the on-dashboard feedback screen showed me mileage, range and tripmeter, which I could view at will with a twist of the headlight control wand on the left of the steering column.

Screens and Sounds

The entertainment and information systems were, by far, my favorite thing about the Cruze. Besides feedback on the health of the vehicle (like tire pressure and estimated lifespan of the most recent oil change), once I figured out how to store XM and Sirius stations, I was able to jump between 30 pre-sets (in addition to boring old AM and FM).

{Note from Kim, I headed up to Grand Rapids with my friend Beth Rosen and we talked so much on the seven hour road trip, I forgot to even turn on the radio!}


The OnStar system is always a major convenience. In addition to the added insurance of knowing somebody is available to help in an emergency if the airbags deploy or the car is stolen, it helps in those mundane situations where you’re driving in the dark in an unfamiliar town and not sure how to reach your hotel. In addition to audio commands, the screen displays the next turn direction and estimated distance.

We have had OnStar in a number of General Motors loaners over the years, and XM/Sirius radio on a few. I must say that I LOVE XM/Sirius, but it’s a luxury. OnStar, on the other hand, may someday be a lifesaver, but for us has frequently been a timesaver, replaced the hassle of an aftermarket GPS device and given us peace of mind as well as stifled arguments, tears and missed appointments. To really put a value on the convenience of OnStar’s directions feature, I only have to think of the other day when Kim got lost while driving her minivan, called me to find her location on an Internet website, but I couldn't find her intersection on my online map.

OnStar knows where you are and the quickest way to get you where you’re going. Chevy gives you OnStar free with your new car for a limited time. But once you get hooked, you may find it hard to relinquish the useful service.

{Kim's note: I am a huge fan of OnStar.}

Other features in the Cruze that were surprising in a car that size included a warning that I was about to back up into something, as well as a deceptively large trunk. The steering handled well and the key fob seemed to a feature a remote starter, although that wasn't installed on our model.

With the smaller, more fuel-efficient engine, some tradeoffs are inevitable. In the chilly November weather, the Cruze’s engine was sluggish at startup. To be fair, nobody likes waking up on a cold morning and being forced to carry four people and their luggage to a shopping mall without using too much petroleum. Additionally, it takes a bit longer to get the in-cabin heat going on those same cold days.

I’m not certain I would want the Cruze on a long wintertime road trip (that’s when it’s really nice to have the drop-down screen and DVD player). The Equinox we drove earlier this year was a great vehicle for that purpose. But for everyday driving with intermittent carpools or local family trips, the Cruze performed admirably.

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