With the additional bump in power, the Chevrolet Cruze is now more user-friendly to own and drive

When you first lay your eyes on the new Cruze, you might find it difficult to differentiate it from the old Cruze. Not surprising as, Chevrolet has not made any changes to the car’s styling and has only concentrated on the inside. The Cruze has been given a substantial bump in power and now produces 164bhp with the torque swelling to a meaty 38.7kgm. The primary focus of the engine tweak has been to improve driveability, refinement and fuel efficiency. As a bonus, the Cruze also gets a new six-speed manual gearbox in comparison to the five-speed unit that does duty in the old car.

Although still a 2.0 litre, the new engine has a strengthened block to take the extra power and torque, and a completely redesigned cylinder head to incorporate a chain-driven DOHC valve-train as against the rubber-belt-driven one on the previous car. The air intake, which used to sit far from the inlet manifold, has now been moved closer to improve airflow and help reduce turbo lag. The common-rail system has also been upgraded and runs at a much higher 1800bar (against 1600bar in the old car) with seven injections per power stroke compared to five on the old motor. Chevrolet has also employed a dual-mass flywheel to reduce engine vibrations.

Our data acquisition equipment reveals that the new Cruze pips the old model by half a second in the 20-80kph third-gear slog, while in the 40-100kph run in fourth gear, it’s quicker by a substantial one and a half seconds. It’s only in flat-out acceleration that that the old Cruze is still quicker. The new model does the dash to 100kph in 10.22sec, where the old car managed to duck below the 10-second barrier (9.64sec), and at 160kph the new model is a good two seconds behind.

The engine feels much more responsive at low revs and pulls cleanly from even below 2000rpm, a point at which the old car was still asleep. This, along with the light clutch, make the Cruze a much more city-friendly car. You do find yourself swapping second- and third-gear cogs more frequently because there is quite a gap between the ratios, but if you’re not in a hurry, the torquey nature of the engine allows you to trundle along in third gear too.

On the highway, the new engine with its tall gearing comes into its own to make the Cruze a superb cruiser. In sixth gear at 100kph the engine, turning over at a lazy 1700rpm, is barely audible and the surplus of power makes long-distance driving quite effortless. However, the steering doesn’t weigh up in a linear manner when you turn into corners, and the grip and body control are reasonable until you push it hard enough, making you realise that the Cruze is more comfortable out on the expressway than it is on the ghats.

The six-speed auto complements the Cruze’s new engine too, resulting in acceleration that is far more linear than before. Upshifts are relatively quick and make the acceleration seem all the more effortless. That said, it isn’t particularly engaging — it is still slow to respond to sharp throttle inputs and is sluggish when you want a quick kickdown.

To help improve fuel economy, the gearbox has been programmed to upshift at the earliest as well, so you sometimes get upshifts when you don’t want them. Shifting the lever to ‘tiptronic’ mode makes it hang on to the selected ratio until you ask for a shift. The Cruze auto is at its best when you’re cruising or when you’re in thick traffic.

Besides a raft of changes made to the powertrain, the Cruze remains largely unchanged in other departments. This means that the new Cruze is still some way off the fit and finish that its German rivals boast of.

The manual Cruze returned a decent 10.8kpl in the city and 15.7kpl on the highway as compared to the 10.3kpl and 14.8kpl for the old car. The automatic Cruze returned 9.8kpl and 15.3kpl for city and highway cycles respectively.

The Cruze has always been a powerful car, but now with the additional bump in power, the Cruze is more user-friendly to own and drive. The other mechanicals have been carried over from the previous car, and hence the ride and handling are good enough to ensure a smooth day-to-day drive. With prices starting at Rs. 13.85 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi), it is ahead of its rivals in terms of value for money.

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