AT THE same time as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were careering towards the divorce courts, another all-American idol, Chevrolet, was busy marrying the front of its Cruze hatchback/saloon to the back of an estate car to make the Cruze Station Wagon. Here’s hoping this Cruze union is a long and happy one.
Scotsman Motoring was in Cologne to see the Cruze SW take its European bow last week and to put this mid-sized load lugger through its paces before it arrives in UK showrooms in the autumn. We were escorted, not by shadowy figures from a church we’d rather not ask too many questions about, but by Chevrolet’s people, there to shepherd us back to the righteous path, lest we get lost in the Rheinland.
Not that we did, thanks to the Cruze’s easy-to-use satnav system, which is standard issue on the higher-spec models we hooned around in.
The Cruze SW is handsome enough, arguably better looking as an estate than it is as a hatchback or saloon. The nose is dominated by Chevrolet’s golden bowtie grille badge, an indication, perhaps, of the cachet parent company General Motors attaches to the Chevrolet name.
The interior seats four adults comfortably, five at a pinch. The front seats are super-firm, but the driving position is good, with lots of seat and steering wheel adjustment. Cabin materials vary from perfectly acceptable to “I can see where savings have been made”, although even the budget-grade bits felt solid enough to survive a toddler-bashing. We liked the fabric-trimmed dash of the first car we tried (a sort of tightly-woven mesh affair), but the faux-leather covering on the dashboard of the range-topping Cruze left us cold.
Fill the boot to the bottom of the estate Cruze’s rear windows and it will carry 500 litres of luggage with the rear seats in place. Fold them away (they split 60:40) and that jumps to 1,478 litres – Ford Focus territory, in other words. Of course, capacity counts for nothing if the load bay is an awkward shape, but the sensibly-proportioned Cruze swallowed an adults’ mountain bike without having to remove the wheels or saddle.
Fans of cubbyholes (that’s everyone, surely?) will like the Cruze. There’s an odds-and-ends compartment on top of the dashboard, several under a lift-up panel in the boot floor, a couple behind the rear wheelarches and a trayful of them on a raised plinth thingy behind the rear seats.
On top of an already generous standard equipment level, the range-topping LTZ Navigation models we tested also benefited from 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a seven-inch colour touchscreen to handle satnav, audio and telephone functions, and a reversing camera.
We took two Cruzes for a whirl – a 1.8-litre petrol paired to a automatic gearbox and a 1.7-litre diesel with a six-speed manual. We’d recommend the diesel every time. The 139bhp petrol car has the edge on horsepower, but most of it seems to get lost somewhere in the innards of the auto gearbox. Consequently, it’s slower than the diesel, much thirstier, and not that nice to listen to when you put your foot down.
The 128bhp diesel, on the other hand, is well-hushed and feels eager to please in any gear, at any rpm. Performance isn’t blistering (Chevrolet makes the Corvette for that sort of thing) but it’s a capable cross-country cruiser that never felt out of its depth on the autobahn.
It’s testament to the gearshift action that I didn’t fluff a single change, even though I was sitting in a left-hand drive car, flicking between the ratios with the wrong paw. We were denied the chance to drive the 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol turbo, which might be the one to go for if diesel’s not your thing. Available in manual only, it’s torquier than the 1.8, more frugal and cleaner. A 122bhp 1.6-litre petrol and a 160bhp 2.0-litre diesel complete the engine line-up.
Ride comfort is good (despite those firm seats) and, in keeping with the Cruze’s modest performance, handling can best be described as “uneventful”. Unlike the World Touring Car Championship-conquering Cruze race car, the steering in this family-friendly wagon is light, but doesn’t offer much feedback. There’s also a bit of body roll in the bends.
Not that you should care. What matters is that this is a capable and cut-price alternative to a Focus or Astra estate, with an iconic American badge on its snout. Now that’s worth jumping up and down on Oprah’s sofa for.
CAR Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon 1.7 VCDI LTZ Nav
PERFORMANCE Max speed 124mph; 0-62mph 10.4sec
MPG (combined) 63mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 119g/km
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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