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Chevy’s Eco-Friendly Cruze: Keeping Up With the Competition

Don’t be mistaken by its moniker: Chevy Cruze is not the missing love child of Tom and Penelope, half-brother of Suri. No, it's Chevrolet's answer to the out-of-production/redheaded stepchild Cobalt. If you’re in the market for a compact car with great gas mileage, we think the Cruze is far from a bastard child, easily keeping up with the competition, in this case, the Honda Civic, the Hyundai Elantra and the Ford Focus.

Now, anyone can regurgitate specs and spreadsheets, and list options. Consider this review unique. We’re telling you exactly what we did and how the Cruze responded.

Earlier this summer, we loaded up a six-speed, manual transmission Cruze with two adults, two teenagers and a week’s worth of luggage and drove it like a rental car from Atlanta, Georgia to Washington, DC and back. The first thing that surprised us was the trunk’s roominess which efficiently held four carry-on sized suitcases, two laptops, various bags of snacks, wine for our DC host and other odds and ends, two turntables and a microphone. (Okay, that last part is just a shout out to Beck, who might’ve fit back there himself.

At 5’9” each, our teenage girls were somewhat cramped in the backseat, but we explained that their accommodations were much better than flying coach to Thailand. We decided at the last minute that Fritz the family dog proved a bit too much in the baggage department and our four-legged friend was left behind. As the primary driver clocking in at 5’2” and 110 pounds, I was not uncomfortable in the least, though my lower back could’ve used a little more support. My passenger, a 5’11” male, was slightly cramped in his seat, falling on the knife for the sake of his daughters (and any whining) in the back – a small price to pay.

In terms of performance, the Cruze accelerates, shifts, handles and stops just fine, but we experienced problems with the cruise control, a necessity for highway driving and consistent gas mileage.

Which brings us to the second thing that surprised us: There was no whining from the back and for an 11-hour drive, that’s pretty darn good. As it was late July, the temperatures outside the car topped out at a blazing 112 degrees; consequently, we ran the air conditioning for the entire trip, knowing that this would ultimately affect our mile-per–gallon ratio. To our delight, we averaged 35 mpg in spite of our cargo and Freon needs. No one broke a sweat.

We also liked the satellite radio and decided it is a must-have for long road trips. The 70s channel ran an old episode of Casey Kasem’s American Top Forty in its entirety and the “Second Wave” station satisfied the varied musical tastes of all on the trip, featuring everything from Sex Pistols to Elvis Costello to Tears for Fears. The USB port proved convenient for charging the kids’ iPods when Casey’s long distance dedications were just too much in the schmaltz department for the Arcade Fire/LCD Soundsystem snobs back in coach.

In terms of performance, the Cruze accelerates, shifts, handles and stops just fine, but we experienced problems with the cruise control, a necessity for highway driving and consistent gas mileage. When increasing the speed in cruise, it would often “slip” and default back to the previously set speed – not convenient when trying to keep your foot off the pedal. Upon our arrival, we found parallel parking the vehicle was a snap even in DC’s uber-crowded areas of Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill.

The Chevy Cruze comes standard with 10 air bags and a starting sticker price of around $16,500. We wholeheartedly recommend the Cruze to any family of four looking to cut down on their fuel costs and consumption.

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Another positive review of the Cruze.
Last modified on Thursday, 19 July 2012 16:43

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