Chevrolet’s compact Cruze sedan, which became an almost instant hit after it was introduced in 2008, got a complete makeover for 2016, moving it into its second generation.
As it returns for 2017, there is an addition to the Cruse lineup: the first hatchback version.
Prices begin at $20,965 (plus $875 freight) for the base LT model with a six-speed manual transmission, and $21,920 for the LT with a six-speed automatic.
The uplevel Premier model is $23,945, and comes only with the automatic.
Under the hood of the Cruze Hatch is the same turbocharged 1.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine from the sedan, rated at 153 horsepower and 177 foot-pounds of torque. It’s connected to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
EPA ratings are 28 mpg city/37 highway with the LT manual or Premier automatic, and 29/38 with the LT automatic.
Along with the regular Cruze sedan, the Hatch has segment-exclusive technologies such as 4G LTE with a Wi-Fi hotspot, the Teen Driver system, and available wireless charging of compatible smartphones.
Standard features include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility for full integration of smartphones with the onboard audio system.
Adding a hatchback model is a logical step for the Cruze. Many of the Cruze’s competitors in the compact sedan class also have hatchback versions, including the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra.
While hatchbacks have never been as popular in the United States as they have been in Europe and the rest of the world, they are now on the upswing as more people embrace small SUVs/crossovers, which essentially are hatchback vehicles. Americans are starting to enjoy the extra utility they get from a vehicle with a rear hatch rather than just a trunk.
The Cruze Hatch has the same 106.3-inch wheelbase as the sedan, but comes with a unique roof and rear end. It features wraparound taillights, an integrated spoiler at the top of the liftgate, and 22.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. With the rear seat folded, you’ll get the full 47.2 cubic feet.
Cruze already is Chevrolet’s best-selling car around the world. More than 3.5 million have been sold since it was introduced eight years ago. Adding the hatch version is expected to help grow its sales numbers significantly, the automaker believes.
With the 2016 makeover, the Cruze rides on an all-new, more rigid chassis, which is more than 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The engine itself is 44 pounds lighter.
In North America, the 2017 Cruze sedan is offered in five trim levels: L, LS, LT, Premier and RS, with prices starting as low as $17,965.
Cruze Hatch also offers a host of standard and optional safety features, such Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Park Assist.
Our test vehicle was the Premier model with the automatic transmission, and had a base price of $24,820 (including freight). With $5,040 in options, total sticker price of our car was $29,860.
An RS (Rally Sport) package ($995), included on our car, brings a sport body kit, RS lettering, 18-inch aluminum wheels with all-season black-wall tires, fog lights, and a rear spoiler.
The Teen Driver feature, included on our Premier, helps parents enforce safe driving habits in their teenage drivers. It also provides the parents with driving statistics for the time when the teens are at the wheel by themselves.
The 153-horsepower Ecotec engine comes with direct injection and stop/start technologies, electric power steering and, on Premier models, a Z-link rear suspension.
We drove the Cruze on a variety of streets, highways and country roads, and had no complaints about the power – there was even enough for easy passing on some two-lane back roads. The automatic transmission shifted smoothly.
Although marketed as a compact, the Cruze Hatch has as much interior space as many midsize vehicles, including two inches more rear legroom than the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra hatchbacks. The rear seat is designed to hold up to three people.
We found the front seats to have plenty of knee and leg room, and there was sufficient headroom up front even for taller people. We didn’t have the opportunity to put three people in the back seat, but two adults sat there for an evening out dining, and said they had plenty of space. A pull-down center armrest is provided for when no one is riding in the middle position.
There is a 60/40-split-folding rear seatback to help expand the cargo space.
Among premium options are a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, Athens leather seating surfaces with French seams, and halogen projector-beam headlights with LED signature lighting.
Included in the Premier price are heated front bucket seats, power windows with express down in front, keyless entry and pushbutton start, heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, 17-inch aluminum wheels, automatic headlights, rear wiper, rear lip spoiler, rearview camera, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power rear hatch release, cruise control, illuminated vanity mirrors, and the standard MyLink radio.
Besides the RS package, extras on our tester included the Sun and Sound Package with Navigation ($1,995), which added a power sunroof; the Chevrolet MyLink audio system with navigation and eight-inch touch screen Bluetooth connectivity; Bose nine-speaker premium audio system; and a multi-color driver-information center above the steering column.
We also had the Enhanced Convenience Package ($865), which tacked on automatic climate control, power windows with express up and down for the driver, heated rear outboard seats, self-dimming rearview mirror, wireless smartphone charging, and a 110-volt power outlet.
Our vehicle also included the Driver Confidence II Package ($790), which brought automatic high beams, rear parking assist, following-distance indicator with forward collision alert, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, side blind-zone alert, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The exterior paint on our tester was the special Kinetic Blue Metallic, which cost $395 extra. The two-tone interior was Dark Atmosphere/Medium Atmosphere, which was primarily medium gray with light gray trim.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatch
The package: Compact, five-door, five-passenger, turbocharged four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive hatchback.
Highlights: New for 2017, the hatchback joins the sedan in the Cruze lineup. The Cruze is Chevy’s compact car, introduced in sedan form in 2008 and redesigned for 2016. Besides having great fuel economy, this is a surprisingly delightful car and it seems more like a small luxury vehicle than an affordable compact.
Negatives: No lower-priced base version of the hatchback is offered.
Engine: 1.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder, turbocharged.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 153 HP./177 foot-pounds.
Length: 175.3 inches.
Curb weight: 2,917 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Cargo volume: 24.7 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 47.2 cubic feet (rear seat folded).
Air bags: Front; front knee; front seat-mounted side; roof-mounted side-curtain for both rows.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Fuel capacity/type: 13.7 gallons/unleaded regular.
EPA fuel economy: 28 mpg city/37 highway (manual; Premier automatic); 29/38 (LT automatic).
Major competitors: Volkswagen Golf, Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus.
Base price range: $20,965-$23,945, plus $875 freight.
Price as tested: $29,860, including freight and options (Premier 1SF model).
On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.