Chevy hopes to Cruze to the top of the compact sales charts with the all-new sedan it’s launching later this year. The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze will be larger than the outgoing model, yet lighter and more fuel-efficient.
The Detroit automaker also plans to add a new hatchback version of the 2016 Chevy Cruz, reflecting a growing shift in the American market as compact buyers in the U.S. start to fall in line with more global trends.
While it might share its name with Chevrolet’s outgoing compact sedan, not much else remains the same, said styling chief John Cafaro during a Detroit preview. “The Cruze’s approach to proportion and premium details adds to Chevrolet’s elevation of craftsmanship, content, quality and a fresh interpretation on an identity that is unmistakably Chevrolet,” he proclaimed.
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Visually, the new Cruze picks up on some of the more coupe-like styling cues introduced on the latest-generation Chevrolet Malibu, which also is all-new for 2016. The wheelbase grows a full inch, the overall length by 2.7 inches. Most of the extra space goes to backseat passengers, addressing a longstanding weakness.
Many of the changes won’t be visible to consumers. But by shifting to more aluminum and super-strong steel alloys, Chevy claims it has removed as much as 250 pounds from the mass of the Cruz. Along with improvements to the sedan’s aerodynamics, that will help it get as much as 40 miles per gallon from the new powertrain package. The old model got 39, at best with the special Eco version, 35 for the standard Cruz.
But the new model will have better performance. Chevy dropped two old four-cylinder powertrains, each making 138 horsepower, with a new turbocharged 1.4-liter engine turning out 153-hp. Adding to fuel-efficiency, it now comes with auto stop-start functionality, the engine shutting off instead of idling, say, at a stoplight, then starting back up when the driver’s foot lifts off the brake. The new four-banger will be available with either a six-speed manual or a new six-speed automatic.
Chevrolet has been going high-tech, and for 2016 it will offer 4G LTE hotspot capability on virtually all of its new models. The Cruz also will be part of the broad Chevy rollout of the new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems – both included free on models equipped with touchscreen displays.
“We retained all the attributes that made the original Cruze a hit around the globe and built on them to make this car more sophisticated, more fun,” said GM’s North American president Alan Batey.
For many buyers, the added interior space could be a major selling point. Those sitting in back will get about two more inches of knee room, for example. The overall interior, meanwhile, has been upgraded, with a more refined look and the use of softer and more expensive-looking materials.
To further expand the appeal of the Cruz, Chevrolet plans to add a hatchback model to the U.S. line-up. That’s a strong seller in many parts of the world. Also on tap is a diesel version, Chevy the first Detroit-based maker to commit to putting an oil-burner back into its passenger car line-up.
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Whether that will generate much demand is uncertain. Low gas prices have hurt the overall compact segment in the U.S., sales slipping 2% during the first five months of 2014 even as the overall American market gained 4.5%. The Cruze, in particular, dipped 12% during that period, though that may have reflected anticipation for the upcoming model.
While low fuel prices have led to a shift in U.S. buying patterns, compact models are expected to regain much of their momentum over the coming years. And to underscore the importance of the Chevy Cruze, General Motors rolled out most of its top management team for the 2016 model’s debut, including CEO Mary Barra.
With Cruze one of GM’s most global models, she noted, “We’ve been able to drive efficiencies in the organization, leveraging our scale. We’re going to see an improvement in the profitability of this vehicle.”
The old compact sedan started at $16,995. GM isn’t saying what it will bring the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze in at, but considering its goals – and the competition it faces – few expect to see much of an increase despite the additional features in the new model.
“In the final year of its product life cycle, Cruze is still in the top three in compact car year-to-date sales through May,” noted Eric Ibara, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “In spite of the shift in volume from cars into utility vehicles, this is a major enhancement for the Chevy brand.”
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