Just like the Cruze sedan, only better

The Chevrolet Cruze has undergone some big changes in the last two years. For 2016, the sedan moved into its second generation by hitting the gym for weight reduction and added muscle. Now for 2017, Chevy has added a hatchback version complete with all the upgrades introduced a year before. I got the chance to spend a week behind the wheel of Chevy’s new hatch, surmising the little bowtie is darn good at hauling people and their stuff.

Admittedly smitten, I’d venture to say the Cruze Hatchback is a better choice than most compact crossovers. The data proves it, at lease objectively in regards to fuel economy and interior volume. Subjectively, the Cruze Hatch feels light on its feet and doesn’t mind being thrown into a turn. No, the Cruze Hatch’s 1.4-liter turbo-four is hardly a monster, but it appropriately balances power with efficiency. It’s hard to complain about 38 mpg highway, even when the sprint to 60 mph takes nearly eight seconds. So, what’s it like to live with? Find out below.

Continue reading for the full driven review.

  • 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven
  • Year:
    2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    Six-Speed Auto
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    153 @ 5600
  • MPG(Cty):
    28
  • MPG(Hwy):
    37
  • Torque @ RPM:
    177 @ 2000
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection
  • Displacement:
    1.4 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.7 sec.
  • Quarter Mile time:
    16 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    130 mph
  • Price:
    24820
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    8.5/10

Video Review


Exterior

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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The Cruze Hatch shares its face and front doors with its sedan counterpart.

Like most hatchbacks, the Cruze Hatch shares its face and front doors with its sedan counterpart. As such, nothing changes ahead of the B-pillar in the transition to a hatchback. And since the Cruze was all-new for the 2016 model year, the design is still very fresh. It shares some character traits with its Chevy siblings, especially the Malibu. But unlike that overly dull sedan, the Cruze’s smaller size makes the athletic design really pop.

My Premier-trimmed tester came loaded with almost every option offered, including the RS appearance package. The $999 factory add-on brings a mild body kit with a more aggressive lower front bumper and RS-specific, 18-inch aluminum wheels. The power-tilting sunroof is a part of the $1,995 Sun and Sound with Navigation Package. Sadly, the smallish sunroof is required if you want the lovely 8.0-inch MyLink infotainment system with navigation. Chevy doesn’t offer either á la carte.

Regardless of trim, the Cruze Hatch comes with projector beam headlights with LED signatures and daytime running lights. Upper trims get fog lights integrated into the lower fascia. The brightwork inside the headlights carries over into the chrome trim found around the front grilles and side windows. The rear is surprisingly devoid of chrome beyond the small badges and the perpetually soot-covered exhaust tip. The lack of chrome is almost refreshing since the stuff has been a staple on Chevy sedans since the early 20th century.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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Chevy has done a good job carrying the aggressive styling of the front into the liftgate and rear bumper.

As for the hatchback end of things, Chevy has done a good job carrying the aggressive styling of the front onto the liftgate and rear bumper. Faux air diffusers bookend the bumper much like the Honda Civic Hatchback, but in a less gaudy, boy-racerish way. The tall spoiler over the rear window helps give the roofline some visual length while hiding the third brake light.

As a whole, the Chevy Cruze Hatchback is an attractively little car with plenty of visual personality. It won’t turn heads at the local Cars & Coffee, but it stands out against the sea of crossovers and SUVs flooding America’s streets.

Exterior dimensions

Height 57.70 Inches
Length 175.30 Inches
Width (without mirrors) 70.50 Inches
Wheelbase 106.30 Inches
Rear Track Width 61.5 Inches
Front Track Width 60.7 Inches
Curb Weight 2,950 pounds (est)

Outside the Competition

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Honda Civic Hatchback – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Perhaps the Cruze Hatchback’s strongest rival is the Honda Civic Hatchback. Absence from the American market for over a decade, the Civic Hatch returns for 2017 on an all-new chassis. Its appearance closely follows the standard Civic Sedan and Coupe, but includes some unique pieces around the hatch. Some might argue the Civic Hatch is too aggressive with its big, black (and fake) grilles and vents. Inevitably, others will find the Civic’s body representative of their inner quest for speed and power, even if their wallets can’t support the obsession.

Interior

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Interior High Resolution
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The Cruze Hatch’s interior doesn’t change ahead of the B-pillars.

As with the outside, the Cruze Hatch’s interior doesn’t change ahead of the B-pillars. That means the dash, center console, and front seats are all standard-issue Cruze. That’s actually a good thing these days as Chevy did a fair job with the second-generation redesign. The dash has a clean yet functional layout and switches are placed in intuitive locations. USB and 12-volt power ports are placed within easy reach and there’s space for the random odds and ends that always accumulate in this region. Chevy even provides a wireless phone charger in upper models. Heavy Internet users will love the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, especially with Chevy’s new unlimited data plan for $20 a month. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard equipment, too.

At the business end of this five-door, Chevy has injected plenty of functionality into the cargo area. The Cruze Hatch offers 23 cubic feet of room behind the second row. A removable cargo shade helps keep groceries cool and prying eyes thwarted. A simple release atop the second-row seatbacks allows the 60/40-split bench to fold flat, each side independently. Chalked full, the Cruze Hatch can swallow an impressive 47 cubic feet. As I mentioned in my articled, The 2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback is Better Than a Crossover, that’s more cargo space than the 2018 Toyota C-HR and Mazda CX-3. It also trumps its cousin, the Chevy Trax in room behind the second row. Needless to reiterate, the Cruze Hatchback is a great alternative to many crossovers.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Interior High Resolution
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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Interior High Resolution
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The Cruze’s interior isn’t perfect, however. There are a few low-buck pieces that dull the overall appearance.

The Cruze’s interior isn’t perfect, however. There are a few low-buck pieces that dull the overall appearance. For example, the piano black trim around the infotainment system and cup holders highlight every spec of dust and show more fingerprints than an episode of CSI Miami. The chrome accents around the HVAC vents and window switches have the propensity to reflect harsh sunlight. Worse of all, the Cruze is not offered with dual-zone climate controls – no matter how much money you’re willing to throw at Chevy. That’s a huge bummer in 2017.

My tester’s so-called “Jet Black and Kalahari” interior is certainly an upgrade from the two darker color options available on the Premier trim. It’s not for everybody, though. My wife hated the color and other people had mixed feelings. I found myself liking it but wondering how it would affect resale value in 10 years when peanut butter interiors are no longer in vogue. Remember the red velour interiors from the 1980s? Yeah…

Worries about the future aside, the front seats are a nice place to spend time. Three-way heaters keep buns warm on chilly days. Even rear outboard passengers have seat heaters. The front seats do lack ventilation, however, which isn’t pleasant when combined with the non-breathable leatherette and 95-degree Florida heat.

Sadly, Chevy is only offering the Cruze Hatchback in the two upper trim levels. While the sedan can be had in the budget-friendly L and LS, along with the LT and Premier trims, the Cruze Hatch only gets the LT and Premier. On paper, the makes the Cruze Hatch seem far more expensive with beginning MSRP around $22,000. The bargain basement Cruze Sedan can be had for just under $18,000. Then again, most retail customers are probably shopping LT and Premier trims anyway, leaving the L and LS relegated to rental, corporate, and government fleets.

Holistically, the 2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback’s interior is well done and thoughtfully designed. Minus a few details, it impresses with is cavernous trunk space, class-leading MyLink infotainment system, and roomy accommodations for four real adults.

Interior Dimensions

Front Rear
Headroom 38.90 Inches 37.30 Inches
Shoulder Room 54.90 Inches 53.20 Inches
Hip Room 53.20 Inches 51.90 Inches
Legroom 42.00 Inches 36.10 Inches
Cargo Volume Seat up: 22.7 cubic feet Seat Down: 47.2 cubic feet

Inside the Competition

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback – Driven High Resolution Interior
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Aside from its polarizing looks, the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback boasts a roomy and technology-laden interior with loads space for cargo. Up front, the dash has a swanky digitized cluster with a large information screen. The available infotainment screen has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with navigation and several apps. Dual zone climate control is present, though fan speed controls are hidden under the Climate button. The center console is quite deep and has tons of room for everyday items. For packing larger things, the Civic Hatchback boasts 25.7 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 46.2 cubic feet with the 40/60-split bench folded flat.

Drivetrain

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
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Chevrolet launched the 2017 Cruse Hatchback with a single engine choice: the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder also found in the 2016 Cruze sedan.

Chevrolet launched the 2017 Cruze Hatchback with a single engine choice: the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder also found in the 2016 Cruze sedan. Thankfully, customers actually have the option of a six-speed manual transmission in the “base” LT trim. The Premier trim comes exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission. But starting in mid-2017, Chevy will make available the 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, also from the Cruze sedan. It delivers 137 horsepower and an impressive 240 pound-feet of torque. And like the sedan, diesel-powered Cruze Hatchbacks will offer both the six-speed manual and nine-speed automatic.

My tester’s 1.4-liter turbo-four generates 153 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 177 pound-feet of torque from 2,000 to 4,000 rpm. The engine might share the same displacement as the gasoline turbo-four from the first generation Cruze, but Chevy completely reworked nearly every nut and bolt for the 2016 model year. The heavy iron engine block was traded for aluminum, matching the cylinder heads. Direct fuel injection was also added for better control of fuel efficiency.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
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Chevy has programmed the gearbox for smooth, early shifts with comfort and fuel economy as top priorities.

Being a Premier trim, my tester came standard with the six-speed automatic transmission. Chevy has programmed the gearbox for smooth, early shifts with comfort and fuel economy as top priorities. This is great for the average consumer but can be a killjoy to spirited driving. The transmission is reluctant to allow high engine revs, despite peak horsepower living towards redline. Manual mode doesn’t help either. Shifts happen rather lazily in response to inputs via the gearshift-mounted toggle switch. There’s no sport mode, either.

But as long as hooning isn’t the goal, the Cruze Hatch moves well for A-to-B transportation. Independent testing shows the car hitting 60 mph in 7.7 seconds and the quarter-mile in 16.0 seconds at 87 mph. Top speed is drag limited to 130 mph. Those aren’t bad numbers for its class. Where the Cruze Hatchback really performs is with the EPA’s fuel economy estimates. It achieves 28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined. Those wanting even better efficiency should get the turbodiesel/manual powertrain combo. It’s EPA-estimated to get 30 mpg city, 52 mpg highway, and 37 mpg combined.

Suspension wise, the Cruze Hatch shares the same underpinning with the Cruze Sedan. Up front are MacPherson struts with an anti-roll bar. The rear uses trailing arms with a torsion beam welded between each side to act as an anti-roll bar. Coil springs carry the weight and conventional shocks damp the ride. The Premier trim goes a step further with a Watt’s Link system for better control of each wheel assembly. The steering system is electronic.

Drivetrain Specifications

Engine Size 1.4-liter four-cylinder
Horsepower 153 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque 177 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,000 rpm
Engine Block Aluminum
Cylinder Heads Aluminum
Fuel Injection Type Direct Injection
Transmission Six-Speed Automatic
0-to-60 MPH 7.7 Seconds
Quarter-Mile Performance 16 Seconds @ 87 mph
Top Speed 130 MPH
Fuel Economy 28 CITY, 37 HWY, 31 COMBINED

Powering the Competition

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback – Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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Under the Honda Civic Hatchback’s hood is the new but already familiar 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The all-aluminum engine uses Honda’s i-VTEC system to help generate 174 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque while still getting an EPA-estimated 32 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, and 36 mpg combined. The Sport trim boosts power up to 180 horses and 177 pound-feet. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual transmission and a Continuously Variable Transmission.

Behind the Wheel

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Interior High Resolution
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The Cruze Hatchback is a comfortable cruiser, pun intended.

The Cruze Hatchback is a comfortable cruiser, pun intended. Driving down average city streets demonstrates the suspension’s ability to soak up rough pavement and shallow potholes with ease. The same is true for the interstate. Body motions are well controlled and higher speeds don’t make the Cruse Hatch feel floaty. Road noise is also well contained for a car in this class. Rough pavement does produce a bit of tire noise inside the cabin, but that’s not unreasonable with the 18-inch wheels and 225/40-series tires found on the RS package.

Outward visibility is surprisingly good. The large front windshield and slopping hood give a great view ahead, while A-pillar windows and large side windows carry the panoramic view around. Large side mirrors and blind spot monitoring make lane changes easy. Rear visibility is good through the hatchback window and a wiper keeps the view clear. The 8.0-inch MyLink system provides a rather high-resolution backup camera, too. Rear cross-traffic alert and parking sensors also help with backing up.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Interior High Resolution
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The Cruze Hatch does a good job at managing body roll through average turns.

Handling wise, the Cruze Hatch does a good job at managing body roll through average turns. The steering is on the lighter side. The electronic steering rack has very little on-center play and loads up nicely once committed to a turn. The brakes feel responsive and the pedal travel corresponds well to braking force. As mentioned, acceleration is hardly blinding, but the Cruze Hatch moves out of its own way. Torque steer is nearly absent and engine noise is heavily subdued.

Pricing

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback carries a starting price of $22,115. For that, you get the LT trim with the six-speed manual transmission. Opting for the automatic pushes the price to $22,795. The Premier trim with its standard automatic transmission starts at $24,820.

As expected, the range-topping Premier trim offers the most content. Option packages include the Enhanced Convenience Package, Sun and Sound with Navigation Package, Chrome Appearance Package, Driver Confidence Package, Driver Confidence II Package, and the RS Package. My tester had all but the Chrome Appearance Package. These options add quite a bit to price tag, making my tester’s grand total reach $29,605, including the $875 destination fee.

2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback LT Manual $22,115
2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback LT Automatic $22,795
2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback Premier Automatic $24,820
Available on LT Trim
Redline Edition $995
Convenience Package $1,150
Sun and Sound Package $1,495
Chrome Appearance Package $230
Driver Confidence Package $495
RS Package $695
Available On Premier Trim
Enhanced Convenience Package $865
Sun and Sound with Navigation Package $1,995
Chrome Appearance Package $230
Driver Confidence II Package $790
RS Package $995

Pricing of the Competition

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback starts at $19,700 for the base LX trim and manual transmission. The Sport trim offers more content at $21,300. The mid-range EX has the upgraded infotainment system and offers a slew of active safety features for $22,800. The EX-L Navi adds leather seats and other niceties for $25,300. The range-topping Sport Touring trim includes all the available goodies, including Honda Sensing and a premium audio system for $28,300.

Other Competition

Volkswagen Golf

2018 Volkswagen Golf High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Volkswagen Golf High Resolution Exterior
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In a sea of sporty hatches with aggressive styling sits the Volkswagen Golf, buttoned up like a well-intentioned Ivy League graduate who just landed that first big gig. The Golf is wrapped in the typical Volkswagen conservative styling that’s often praised for its minimalist approach. The same continues inside the five-door hatchback. The interior shares many qualities with Audi, including spectacular fit and finish.

Powering the standard Golf is a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. Regardless of trim level, the Golf can be had with a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Fuel economy for the manual is estimated at 25 mpg city 36 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined. The automatic is estimated at 25/35/29 mpg respectively.

While the Golf comes in many different flavors, including the SportWagen, Alltrack, GTI, e-Golf, and lovely Golf R, the standard version only comes with two trim levels. The base S starts at $19,895 while the Wolfsburg starts at $21,595.

Read more about the Volkswagen Golf here.

Mazda3 Hatchback

2016 - 2018 Mazda3 High Resolution Exterior
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2016 - 2018 Mazda3 High Resolution Exterior
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Airing on the conservative side with the Volkswagen Golf is the attractively curvy Mazda3 Hatchback. Its Kodo design theme gives the five-door hatch a more athletic yet refined appearance with a wonderfully styled six-sided grille. The low beltline gives the 3 a planted look that adds to its visual performance credentials. The interior is also lovingly sculpted with welcoming lines and intuitive button placements. Technology wise, the Mazda has an available 7.0-inch infotainment screen that’s both touch-sensitive and controllable via the console-mounted rotary dial. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are soon coming, too, with retroactive upgrades possible. The main attraction for the 3 Hatchback is its cargo room. It offers 20.2 cubic feet behind the second row and 47.1 cubic feet with the 60/40-split bench folded.

Despite its muscular appearance, the Mazda 3 isn’t a sports car. Both of its naturally aspirated engine options provide only adequate power, though it’s delivered with the upmost smoothness. A six-speed manual is available in all but the 2.0-liter Touring model, while every trim can option for the six-speed automatic. The standard engine is that 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder making 155 horsepower and getting 37 mpg highway. The optional 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder makes 184 horsepower and still gets 35 mpg highway.

Pricing for the 2017 Mazda3 Hatchback starts at $19,095 for the Sport trim. The auto-equipped Touring trim starts at $22,245. Moving to the 2.5-liter, the manual-equipped Touring starts at $22,395 and the Grand Touring starts at $23,895. Opting for the automatic adds $1,050 to the bottom line.

Find out more about the Mazda3 Hatchback here.

Conclusion

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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Despite having some stiff rivalry, the 2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback holds its own. A sporty yet not overplayed exterior is complimented by a welcoming and voluminous interior, all paired with decent on-road manners. The Cruze’s weak points of a non-sporty powertrain and a few quibbles about the dashboard are all that keep the car from being an absolute standout. I imagine the torquey turbodiesel (especially with the six-speed manual) is the best choice for thrill-seekers and hypermilers alike. Now if Chevy would just add dual-zone climate controls…

Quirks aside, I can’t complain too harshly about my time in the Cruze Hatch. It provided plenty of room for people and stuff with a good feel from behind the wheel. That’s a combination rarely found in the crossover and SUV segments, perhaps the Cruze’s biggest rivals in terms of sales.

  • Leave it
    • * Somewhat underpowered
    • * Dual-zone climate not available
    • * Needs an SS version!
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