In hatchback form the Cruze currently has a choice of four engines: two petrol variants (1.6-litre and 1.8-litre) and two diesels (the 2.0-litre VCDi and the 1.7VCDi introduced in 2012).
In the autumn of 2014, a choice of four petrol engines will be available on all body styles of the Cruze (1.4-litre, 1.4-litre turbo, 1.6-litre and a 1.8-litre engine). The diesel line-up will be complemented by a low emitting 109bhp variant of the 1.7-litre diesel.
The 122bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine can complete the benchmark sprint in 11.6 seconds and has a top speed of 118mph. The 139bhp 1.8-litre petrol is a little quicker and can get from a standing start to 60mph in 9.8 seconds with a top speed of 124mph. The 1.7-litre diesel takes 9.4 seconds to get from a standstill to 60mph while the flagship 160bhp 2.0-litre diesel will get there in 8.3 seconds and then go on to a top speed of 127mph. This unit has a peak pulling power of 360Nm that gives it more than enough low-down power to complete overtaking manoeuvres safely. It does struggle a little when driving uphill and you’ll need to knock the ‘box down a cog but this is the best engine in the line-up. All three engines are coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox or you can opt for a six-speed automatic. If running costs are your concern then the manual is your best choice as it is cleaner and more economical than the automatic versions.
This is a bit of a mixed bag for the Cruze. The steering is quite vague and there is very little feedback for the driver. It’s not all a disaster, however. The chassis and suspension of the car is well set up and this means there is very little body roll when cornering. There’s plenty of grip too and the car turns in well. It may not have the driving qualities of a BMW 1-Series or a Ford Focus but it has more than enough in its armoury to rival the Vauxhall Astra, Hyundai i30 and the Kia Cee’d.
The cabin is a pleasant place with many of the features recognisable from the saloon version. The centre console has a more upmarket feel with the blue backlit instruments. The plastics are a little hard but the fabric panel which sits just above the glovebox is a nice touch. This is complemented by a silver trim that runs down the sides of the central console that gives the inside a more polished appearance than the Lacetti predecessor.
Up front the seats are supportive and offer enough bolstering to be comfortable on long journeys. There is a little road noise from the tyres but wind noise is not overly intrusive. Two adults will fit comfortably in the rear seats. You could squeeze a little one in the middle seat but the trip would have to be relatively short or else your passengers may be a little cramped.