Chevrolet like Ford, is looking to downsize on costs by introducing one model globally. First in their global range of cars is the Chevrolet Cruze, which is named so in most of the countries it is sold in. The supposed successor to the Chevrolet Optra or the Lacetti (for you Top Gear fans), bears no resemblance to the Daewoo platform the car replaces. In reality, the Cruze comes to you courtesy of GM’s Delta II platform seen in the 2010 Opel Astra.

Design is courtesy of Daewoo and it looks like they have done a good job, though its not hard to get inspiration from your own model line up when it includes the Camaro SS. Nevertheless, you are treated to a front grill that makes you proud for once to own a non-American Chevrolet. The muscular face extends to the side, which is smoothened out to a more conventional look, finished off with a redesigned Optra-like posterior. Overall, it is a handsome looking thing.

Look for the full report and high-res images after the jump.

GM have livened things up on the inside too by featuring a two-tone fabric on the dashboard and around the interior. This, especially in regards to the dashboard, is very unlike other cars in this price range which choose to stick with the drab design that they are comfortable with. The word ‘unique’ definitely comes to mind when thinking about the Cruze’s interior.

Backlight for the panels, dashboard and meters feature a light blue hue that is tasteful and matches the interior really well. I have seen many other cars featuring blue lighting, often causing an eye sore. Not the case for the Cruze. The instrument panel alone makes your feel good about the car, with it’s well-positioned dials and chrome rings. A trip display is also evident in the instrument panel, nestled between the speedometer and tachometer. Settings of the car, including the radio are all displayed on an LCD screen placed on the centre dash. Apart from looking good the interior is also practical with generous compartments including those must-have cup holders. There is also a compartment that pops out on the dashboard.

In regards to the tactility of the interior, the Cruze offers a good feel, for it’s segment of course. Its no BMW 7-Series but despite featuring lots of plastics, the interior does not feel cheap. Tactility from the buttons and gaps on areas such as the dashboard are acceptable. The steering wheel also feels solid and it’s rim is anything but too thin. There are also enough support from the seats, it would not make you feel too tired after long hours of driving.

Sitting in the Cruze, I find that there is a respectable amount of space available for both the front and rear passengers. A simple space test was also done with yours truly (6ft 1′) and another male passenger (5ft 9’). It passed the space test satisfactorily. In the back you will get a luggage capacity of 450 litres with the rear seats up. Overall the interior hits the spot just like it’s exterior.

Other features of the car include front and rear disc brakes, ABS, EBD (electronic brake force distribution) while our local model comes with just two airbags. The local-spec Cruze also sports a traction control system, something that is rare in other cars from the Cruze’s price range. It has to be said that the Euro-spec Cruze managed a successful five-star Euro NCAP rating, which usually takes into account full safety equipments, including all airbags.

Lets move on to the drivetrain. The local-spec Cruze is only offered in one variant which is the 1.8 LT, fitted with the 1.8 litre Ecotec engine producing 140hp and 176Nm of torque at 3,800 RPM. The engine features a twin-cam 16-valve configuration with DCVCP (Double Continuous Variable Cam Phasing) and VIS (Variable Intake System). I had a taste of this engine in the Vauxhall Astra Sports Coupe 1.8 SRi, which felt underpowered. Unfortunately I have to say that this is the same case with the Cruze.

The car feels rather heavy with this engine, especially during heavy-footed driving. You would have to make the engine work hard during overtaking or if you are on a rush. The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic and to be honest, the transmission does not help improve the driving experience. At times it felt like it was taking it’s own sweet time to plug into the next gear, while the engine revved away aimlessly. Basically gear changes, whether up-shifts or down-shifts were anything but snappy.

However the manual shift function is a godsend in this case as it comfortably allowed me to get into the right gear at the right time. Considering everything, the 1.8 litre does offer adequate power for everyday driving and the driving experience got better when I was cruising at higher speeds on the highway. While we are talking about high-speed cruising, I should also note that wind noise at speeds of about 110km/h is acceptable as well. Using the Cruze to commute to work, to the grocers or drive 300 kilometers up north for your occasional “balik kampung” trips isn’t a problem, as long as you don’t bring it to Sepang!

Lets move on to the other mechanical bits. The Cruze uses MacPherson struts for the front and a Torsion beam for the rear. This is more of an expected arrangement for a car from such a segment. I am happy to report that that the Cruze does have good bump-absorbation qualities, hence offering a respectable ride comfort. It soaked up those nasty pot holes evident on most of our local roads. There was nothing hard or stiff about it, even on the highway during high-speed cruising. The Cruze’s noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels were within tolerance as well.

However to make way for a supple ride, it looks as though the handling of the Cruze has been slightly compromised. There are hints of understeer and the feeling that you are not fully connected to the road when you push the car harder. At higher speeds on the highway, say at about 160km/h, the car tends to feel a little floaty. Nevertheless, you will only feel the negative aspects in regards to the Cruze’s handling when you drive closer to the car’s limits but the Cruze is not a car that you would take to a time attack event.

The Cruze behaves well in it’s element, meaning during normal day-to-day driving. During the test we took the Cruze on various driving environments which included sedate and throttle-happy affairs. With that in mind we recorded an average fuel economy figure of approximately 9.2 litres per 100 kilometers, which is not great yet not that bad.

Thanks to Naza and their joint venture with Chevrolet, we get the Cruze for RM98,767 OTR without insurance. This as you would probably notice is much cheaper than Japanese cars such as the Toyota Altis, Honda Civic and the Mitsubishi Lancer. It’s most obvious competitor is the Kia Forte 2.0 which comes in at a slightly cheaper price of RM93,800 OTR plus insurance. Apart from the cheaper price tag, the Forte 2.0 offers more power with it’s 154hp/194Nm of torque 2.0 litre engine. In my honest opinion the more potent Forte looks as good and drives slightly better, if not similar.

I must admit that the Cruze has an upper hand in the interior design department. Talking about the interior, the Cruze has 16mm less headroom at the front but 8mm more at the back as well as 26mm less leg room up front having 27mm more at the rear compared to the Forte. However the Cruze loses out in overall headroom by 24mm in front and 20mm at the back. At the end of day the Cruze may be slightly expensive and offer less power compared to it’s Korean competitor but overall it still performs well as a package.

You may also read our previous report by Danny Tan.

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