2016 Chevrolet Cruze 1.4T Automatic Review

Posted on Chevrolet

A middle-school wood-shop teacher once told this author to hand-sand a wooden DVD-rack project until its surface was “smoother than a baby’s bottom.” The teacher’s name is long forgotten, but that quote stuck—the image of the business end of an infant ensured as much—and it applies as aptly to the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze as sandpaper does to wood.

The Cruze is a seriously smooth car, from its slippery shape to the way its doors shut with a muffled wumpf. In large part, the Cruze’s smoothness is derived from its impeccably compliant suspension. In car terms, it is refined. And the Cruze doesn’t come much more so than the mid-grade LT tested here, with the automatic transmission and 16-inch wheels. The available Premier model with the largest wheels available (18-inchers) may be less smooth, while the base Cruze L with its 15-inch tires and their taller sidewalls may be smoother still. Yet cut the lineup down the middle and you’re still talking baby-bottom smooth.

Dimensionally, the Cruze’s wheelbase is 0.6-inch longer than its predecessor’s while overall length is up 2.7 inches, placing it at the large end of the compact class. Yet by sanding the edges off the previous Cruze’s upright, three-box sedan shape, Chevrolet lowered the roof by 0.7 inch and reduced nearly every major interior measurement save for rear leg- and knee room. Consider it a sort of packaging coup that the car somehow feels more spacious than before. The steeply raked windshield, which is located farther from the driver at the end of a deeper dashboard, gives front-seat occupants an airier environment, while the increases in back-seat knee room (2.0 inches) and rear legroom (0.7 inch) lend the aft quarters a whiff of limo luxury. Well, there’s plenty of rear-seat space down low—headroom in back remains tight.

The Cruze’s chassis tuning contributes to the sensation of greater size, too, by mimicking the comfortable, solid-feeling mid-size Malibu. General Motors’ excellence in suspension calibration is on full display here, where humble components—front struts and a torsion-beam rear axle—are tuned to deliver uncanny stability and comfort. Sportiness clearly wasn’t a target, but neither the Cruze’s stability nor the driver’s sense of control is compromised even while absorbing ruts and bumps like a larger car. This doesn’t show up in the sedan’s ho-hum 0.82-g skidpad performance or its 168-foot stopping distance from 70 mph, but what matters is that in aggressive emergency maneuvers such as quick lane changes or panic braking while turning, the back end stays planted, and when the car gives up grip, it’s with safe, predictable understeer. In keeping with the car’s general-use mission, the steering is light but direct, with a distinct on-center zone that allows the driver to maintain straight-ahead tracking on interstates using only a thumb on the wheel. Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Michael Simari

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