The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is the first fully competitive compact sedan Chevy has ever fielded, and in some areas it outshines the perennial class leaders, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
For one, the model with the highest gas mileage—the Cruze Eco with six-speed manual transmission—is rated at 28 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, for a combined EPA rating of 33 mpg. In real-world driving, the manual Cruze Eco proved to equal or exceed that combined number, which is as good or better than the competition.
Note, though, that ratings for the automatic Cruze Eco fall to 26 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, producing a lower combined rating of 30 mpg.
The base powertrain is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, but most Cruze models (including the high-mileage Eco) will be fitted with a smaller, turbocharged 1.4-liter four that produces equal power on less fuel. Transmission choices are a six-speed automatic, which works flawlessly, or a six-speed manual for those (few) customers who like to shift their own gears.
The base 1.8-liter model with the manual is rated at 30 mpg, but only 27 mpg with the automatic, and the non-Eco 1.4-liter with automatic betters that slightly, at 28 mpg combined.
The styling of the Cruze is modern but not particularly adventurous, unlike the Ford Focus. Also unlike the Focus, Chevy chose to offer the Cruze solely as a four-door sedan, without the option of a five-door hatchback. The trunk of the sedan, however, is huge.
The 2011 Chevy Cruze holds four adults in comfort or five with adequate space. Ride quality is good, making the Cruze feel more like a mid-size car than a compact. The handling is fine, but it isn’t a sports sedan, nor is it intended to be. High-speed travel is remarkably quiet, giving the Cruze a best-in-class rating for low interior noise.
Interior packaging is good, making the most of available space, and offering a useful number of cubbies, trays, cup holders, and the like. The interior design is easy to understand, stylish, and assembled well with high-quality plastics and pleasingly tactile controls that feel distinctly upscale. The lines are very much of a piece with other Chevrolet “twin cockpit” design themes.
The Chevrolet Cruze received top safety ratings from both the NHTSA and the IIHS, and comes with no fewer than 10 airbags, as well as now-standard traction control, stability control, and the like.
Most 2011 Cruze models offer Bluetooth and a USB port for personal electronics. A navigation system is offered as well, and every Cruze is fitted standard with GM’s Onstar system, along with three months of free service.
For more details on the Cruze and Cruze Eco, see the full review of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze range on our sister site, TheCarConnection.