The 2017 Chevy Cruze is No Missile
Somehow it feels slower than the first-generation Cruzeby Mark McNabb, on
This week finds a 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback sitting in my driveway, which is honestly exciting. Sure, it’s no supercar or attention-grabbing luxury barge, but it’s the successor to my wife’s car, a 2012 Chevy Cruze LT. Being slightly self-serving, the wife and I went for a drive to see how the new Cruze stacks up. Who knows, perhaps the new Cruze Hatch could satisfy her craving for a crossover with more room. Things were going well, but it didn’t take long to discover the new Cruze feels doggishly slow.
How can this be? Chevy reengineered the Cruze from the lugnuts up for 2016 with a lighter chassis and lighter drivetrain components, including the supposedly more powerful 1.4-liter EcoTec four-cylinder turbo. Those changes carry over to the new-for-2017 Cruze Hatchback, including the all-aluminum EcoTec’s 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Her Cruze’s iron-block 1.4-liter turbo only makes 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Chevy says the Cruze Hatch weighs roughly 2,900 pounds. That’s a big reduction from the 2012 Cruze’s curb weight of 3,126 pounds. So what gives?
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Putting roughly 50 miles on the car (so far) has me thinking the power issue stems from the new 1.4-liter’s dread of revving. For whatever reason, the new direct-injection, turbo-four takes forever to gain rpm, making it feel like a lumbering diesel. Compounding the issue is the six-speed automatic’s hesitancy to downshift. Passing on the highway is an exercise in patience and planning. Also adding to the issue is new Chevy’s isolation from any torque steer. Yeah, this is actually a good thing for NVH and driving comfort, but it somewhat dulls the illusion of power. Our 2012 Cruze has a mild case of torque steer when burying the throttle, regardless of speed or the direction of steering. Noise levels inside the 2017 Cruze are also far quieter. Still, the old iron-block feels far more potent than its all-aluminum replacement.
For whatever reason, the new direct-injection, turbo-four takes forever to gain rpm, making it feel like a lumbering diesel
You’d think the upside would be better fuel economy in the new Cruze, and you’d be right, so long as you were talking about the Cruze sedan. The 2017 Hatchback’s EPA-estimated numbers aren’t as good. The 2016 Cruze sedan in the Premier trim is rated at 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. The 2017 Cruze Hatch only musters an EPA-estimated 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. Compare that to our 2012 Cruze LT’s EPA-estimated 26 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. That’s almost a wash.
The lack of power aside, I really do like the 2017 Cruze Hatchback. Loaded out in the Premier trim, it’s got all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a more expensive car. The mocha brown leather seats and accents panels give the cabin a rich feel, while the benefits of a hatchback mean more room in back for stuff. It’ll be an interesting week, for sure.