Chevrolet Cruze’s success hinges on 6 features – USA TODAY
The sleek and advanced 2016 Chevrolet Cruze that debuted today could put Chevy back on a lot of Americans’ shopping lists, or it could continue GM’s largest brand’s slide toward irrelevance in the family-car business.
To win, the Cruze must grab buyers’ attention and persuade them to move away from trusted, reliable models like the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
Here’s what the Cruze has going for it:
Lightweight. The new Cruze is a whopping 250 pounds lighter than the old model, despite also being longer and having more passenger and luggage room for any compact. That’s a stunning amount of weight to remove from a car this size, especially in a new model that adds features, space and safety. Lighter weight should translate to higher fuel economy and lower costs, better handling and snappy performance.
Room and comfort. The Cruze’s longer wheelbase and roomier interior should make it a leader. An extra 2 inches of rear legroom builds on what was already a Cruze strength, as will a larger trunk. The Cruze’s 106.3-inch wheelbase is as long as a Mercedes CLA 250.
Technology. The Cruze looks like a leader out of the gates, launching with both Chevrolet’s already established 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot and adding built-in Apple Carplay and Android Auto, likely to be the two next big things for in-car connectivity. Throw in a standard 7-inch touch screen, and the Cruze is loaded for bear.
Safety. A must-win for Chevrolet, both because compacts are often first cars for new drivers — purchases financed or influenced by nervous parents — and because small Chevys were among the worst offenders in the scandal over faulty GM ignition locks. The Cruze pulls out all the stops, with available safety systems and driver aids including blind spot and cross-traffic alerts, lane-keeping to prevent the driver from wandering out of their lane, and driver alerts to avoid frontal collisions. A backup camera will be standard equipment.
Fuel economy. Chevy promises highway fuel economy of at least 40 m.p.g., but it’ll need to improve on that to be a leader in the fiercely competitive compact market. The all-new 1.4L turbocharged engine’s output of 150 hp and 177 pound-feet of torque should also deliver strong performance.
A brand new 1.6L diesel that goes on sale later aims to battle established leaders like the VW Golf and Jetta diesel and could win a few buyers who were considering hybrids. It’ll need a highway fuel rating above 43 m.p.g. to beat the VWs, established leaders among fans of diesels.
Styling. The outgoing first-generation Cruze has attractive, but conservative looks. The 2016 breaks the mold with a sleek look. It’s 2.7 inches longer and an inch less tall than the 2015 model, sporty proportions that give the car a totally new feel.
“We want to de-commodify the design of Chevrolet sedans and make it a global strength,” for the brand, Chevy design chief John Cafaro said. The car’s low nose, LED accent lights and sculpted lines should stand out in the crowded compact field.
The new Cruze should go on sale early in 2016.