The gearing plays a key role in performance, and with an extra gear ratio, better use can be made of the new engine. While the overall gearing is much taller than before, the new Cruze has pretty short first and second gear ratios for better driveability in traffic. This is evident from the moment you engage the clutch, which thankfully is far lighter now and more progressive too. The engine feels much more responsive at low revs and pulls cleanly from even below 2000rpm, a point at which the old car was still asleep. In fact, the low-speed responsiveness and driveability are the most tangible improvements, which you feel immediately. These, along with the light clutch, makethe Cruze a much more city-friendly car. You do find yourself swapping second- and third-gear cogs more frequently because there is quite a gap between the ratios, but if you’re not in a hurry, the torquey nature of the engine allows you to trundle along in third gear too.
On the highway, the new engine with its tall gearing comes into its own to make the Cruze a superb cruiser. In sixth gear, at 100kph, the engine, turning over at a lazy 1700rpm, is barely audible and the surplus of power makes long-distance driving quite effortless.
The six-speed auto complements the Cruze’s new engine too. Thanks to the newfound power and driveability, the Chevy auto accelerates in a far more linear manner than before. Upshifts arerelatively quick and make the acceleration seem all the more effortless. That said, it isn’t particularly engaging – it is still slow to respond to sharp throttle inputs and is sluggish when youwant a quickkickdown.
The Cruze’s suspension settings remain unchanged. Straight-line stability, though not as impressive as European rivals, is good and feels stable. At low speeds though, sharp bumps thud through into the cabin, the ride has a stiff edge to it and the car crashes through large undulations.
For all its power, the Cruze isn’t a particularly sporty handler. The steering is inconsistent and doesn’t weigh up in a linear fashion when you turn into corners. Grip and body control are reasonable though, but drive it hard and you get the distinct feeling that this car prefers the straights of the expressway to the twists and turns of a ghat road.