The all-new Chevrolet Cruze, globally unveiled in Detroit in June 2015, is a big deal for General Motors and there will be a lot riding on its well-sculpted shoulders when it goes on sale internationally in 2016. The Cruze is the best-selling Chevy in the world and is sold in more than 40 markets. It’s a different story in India, where the current Cruze has sold around 1,200 units a year of late and competes in the niche executive sedan segment, which has been shrinking over the years.
It possibly explains why GM India is taking its own sweet time bringing it to our market. Whilst an India reveal is expected at the 2016 Auto Expo next February, the all-new Cruze won’t go on sale till early 2017. The delay is possibly because of the lead time needed for localisation to achieve a competitive price, but the more likely reason is that India isn’t a high priority in the global rollout of the car. So, is it worth waiting for then? It’s actually got all the makings of a winner, provided GM India can breathe some life into the Chevrolet brand by the time it’s launched.
The styling is simply top class and we can’t think of an executive sedan that looks better. The chiselled exterior, replete with creases, gives the Cruze a sharper look. The front looks particularly good, with the creased bonnet, two-part grille, especially the pouty hexagonal lower half that really stands out. The sharp headlights come with LED daytime-running lights and neatly sweep up near the grille.
Not many cars look great in side profile but the Cruze is stunning even from this angle. The proportions are spot-on, the swooping roof gives a sporty coupé-like look and the 17-inch wheels nicely fill up the wheel wells, giving the car a superb stance. There are lots of nice details in the rear as well, and the sharply cut bumper and two-part tail-lights look great. A big thumbs up for the styling then, which is a huge battle won.
The interiors don’t disappoint either. Drop down past the low roof and you’re greeted by a cabin that feels quite luxurious and upmarket. Like the current car, the new Cruze’s interior gets a ‘dual-cockpit’ design and comes with a piano-black or brushed-aluminium finish, along with multiple soft-touch surfaces on the dash and other parts. A large screen sits at the centre of the dash and is surrounded by two vertical air-con vents. In terms of quality and fit-and-finish, although the new Cruze is a big step in the right direction, it still doesn’t quite match the likes of the Jetta and Octavia.
New evolution of Chevy’s ‘twin-cockpit’ design. Quality good but not class leading.
Thanks to the Cruze’s larger dimensions, there’s more space on the inside, especially at the rear, where you get an extra 51mm of knee room. Overall legroom is very impressive, even with the front seats pushed back to accommodate a six-foot driver. The rear seat is also more generous, with increased thigh support, but to compensate for the swooping roof line, the rear seats are set a touch too low. You have to contort a bit to slip under the low roof, but once you’ve settled down, headroom is surprisingly generous. Look closely and you’ll notice an indent in the roof liner above the passenger’s head, which liberates precious extra inches. Hence, six-footers at the back won’t have much cause to complain, except that the windows are a touch too small.
The front seats are supportive and heavily contoured, which keeps you snug, but again, are also set low. However, the low dashboard allows for a good line of sight and all-round visibility is pretty good.
OnStar infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
If the US model is anything to go by, we expect Chevrolet to pack the new Cruze with lots of features and equipment when it comes to India. At the unveil, the car came equipped with features like GM’s MyLink infotainment system that employs a seven-inch touchscreen and is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Also available was the MyLink radio with a larger eight-inch display that also gets navigation and Apple CarPlay. Other features include wireless phone charging, heated rear seats, and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel. The last few items certainly won’t come to India but the rear-view camera is likely. The India car might get a localised version of GM’s popular OnStar communications system which boasts 4G connectivity along with a Wi-Fi hotspot feature for higher trims.
There are big changes under the skin of the new Cruze, which is an amazing 100kg lighter than the older car. According to GM, it features one of the most mass-efficient chassis systems currently available in the market and it also gets a 27 percent stiffer body than its predecessor. So we expect the ride and handling to be much improved too.
The car is likely to come to India with two new engine options. The current 2.0-litre diesel will be replaced by a smaller, state-of-the-art, 1.6-litre variable-geometry turbo-diesel. This advanced powertrain, which features latest injection technology and new, low-friction components, is expected to be much more fuel efficient too. Power and torque figures haven’t been revealed yet, though we expect it to be a bit down on power compared to the current 164bhp 2.0-litre motor. GM engineers have hinted that figures will be in the ballpark of 135bhp and 32.6kgm.
GM also claims that this new engine will set a benchmark as far as refinement is concerned, going so far as to say that it will be ‘whisper-quiet’. With demand for petrol coming back, Chevrolet, for the first time in India, will offer the Cruze with a petrol option – the 1.4 ‘Ecotec’ with direct injection and a turbo, developing 153bhp and 24.47kgm of torque, which should offer strong performance and decent fuel efficiency too.
Indian Cruze will get petrol power for the first time with this 1.4 turbo.
The new Cruze will sport the same suspension set-up as the current car – MacPherson struts up front and non-independent torsion beam at the rear. We also expect it to get larger 17-inch rims compared to the 16-inchers in the current car.
Overseas, the Cruze gets safety features such as 10 airbags, ESP, rollover mitigation and ABS, along with disc brakes on all four wheels as standard on all trims. There are also advanced safety features like Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision Alert. If not all, we expect most of these safety gadgets to make it here.
There’s no doubt that the new Cruze, which is improved in each and every area, will be a quantum leap ahead of the car it replaces, but what remains to be seen is how effectively GM India can price it. Can this car turn GM India’s fortunes around? Not quite. But its stunning looks, state-of-the-art engine and feature-packed cabin could change the perception of Chevrolet in India.