The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze may best live up to the promise that its former Saturn division never did: that an American car company could design and build small cars to rival Japanese competitors for both quality and value. Calling the Cruze a top pick in the compact sedan class is no exaggeration, especially in light of safety and infotainment improvements made for 2013.
While the exterior styling is conservative, it isn’t bland. Unlike more aggressive designs, which may be more effective at luring buyers into showrooms, we’d guess that the Cruze will still look good parked int the driveway long after the final payment is transferred.
The interior is a delight, and we’d say that the Cruze gives buyers one of the most stylish cabins in the segment. Chalk it up to quality materials and a contemporary design, but the Cruze delivers an up-market feel that belies its affordable price point. It’s roomy enough to comfortably accommodate four adults inside, though five can get by for shorter trips.
Buyers can choose from two four-cylinder engines, including a base 1.8-liter that returns 29 mpg combined (25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway) when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission. Pairing this engine with the optional six-speed automatic lowers fuel economy to 27 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 35 mpg highway).
Our choice is the optional turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, which is more refined and more fuel efficient than the base engine. In Cruze Eco trim, the 1.4-liter turbo and six-speed manual pairing deliver a claimed 33 mpg combined (a staggering 42 mpg highway, and 28 mpg city) with the automatic returning 31 mpg combined (26 mpg city, 39 mpg highway). Even the non-Eco 1.4-liter turbo models are rated at 30 mpg combined, regardless of the gearbox chosen.
We like the Cruze’s ride, which is compliant but just a bit on the firm side. At speed, its cabin is a remarkably quiet place to soak up the miles, and neither engine noise nor wind noise ever become intrusive. Up front, taller drivers will likely be surprised at the amount of head room and leg room that the Cruze delivers, though the back seat is merely on par with other sedans in the class. On the plus side, the car offers up an impressive amount of trunk space, especially in light of its compact size.
Cruzes of previous years have earned an NHTSA five-star safety rating and the IIHS Top Safety Pick Award, and we expect 2013 models to score equally well. Chevrolet has upped the available safety equipment on the Cruze, which now can be configured with a rear view camera, blind spot detection, rear cross-path detection, and parking assist features.
On the infotainment side, Chevrolet’s MyLink system, which combines a touchscreen interface with voice commands, is included with upper trim levels and an available option on lower models. When paired with a smartphone, MyLink allows streaming via Pandora and Stitcher, and its Gracenote functionality will compile playlist and album-art information.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze on our sister site, TheCarConnection.