Mar 032015
 

A quick review update on the upgraded 2LT trim

Let’s cut to the chase, we have previous reviewed the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze with the 1LT package and compared it to a sea of compact cars’ name started with a C; Corolla, Civic, Cobalt, Cavalier…etc. We were only lukewarm about the Cruze, and brutally gave it a 3 out of 10 in the Lamzgarage Recommendation rating. We also said the Cruze is definitely not the King of Compact but its far better than those Cs. King of Compact? Not quite but far better than the lifeless Cs.” Previous review can be found HERE.

Impression – Second time is a better time

This time around we have another opportunity to drive a higher up model. We can tell you that we are quite impressed by the Cruze. Our tester this time in Silver Ice Metallic paint is the 2LT model with the same 1.4L engine 6-speed automatic transmission powertrain as the previous tester. In addition to the previous test’s 1LT package, the 2LT model includes heated leather front seats, six-way power-adjustable driver seat, more importantly sport-tuned suspension, 17” alloy wheels, and rear disc brakes. The 2LT package bumps up the MSRP to $22,475; a $2,100 increase.

In our 900 miles test route from San Francisco Bay Area to Southern California and spent quite a lot of time in the congested greater Los Angeles area to further evaluate how the Cruze 2LT copes within the urban setting.

Features & Technologies – Worth Every Penny of the Upgrade

The leather driver seat has power adjustment for fore-and-aft, and tilting positions while recline is a manual affair. The range of adjustment is German car-like. The seat can be adjusted so low that at the lowest setting, my chin is at the same level as the beltline of the car. In this class, this is like a lowrider considering most cars in this class make you sit as high as a minivan. Combined with the tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, an ideal driving position is easy to find. Having a great driving position with the seat closer to the center of gravity of the car is one of the prerequisites for a decent car.

The second prerequisite is attention to detail. The Cruze’s space planning is well thought-out. Any available spaces are utilized as usage storage. There is a perfectly sized pocket in front of the shifter for a cell phone or a pack of gum. Next to the dual cup holders by the properly located handbrake is a small pocket for a MP3 player with the USB/Aux stereo inputs conveniently located nearby in armrest compartment. In addition to the usual pockets at the door, the passenger side footwell has another pocket on the tranny tunnel for your much needed filing needs. Glove compartment size is sufficient to hold a brand new roll of toilet paper with the owner’s manual in place.

The theme of the cockpit often sets a tone for the car as well. More upscale bits and pieces are noticed in the 2LT. Dash is now partially covered in fabric. We also found the night time light blue interior illumination both welcoming and charming. All switchgears throughout the passenger compartment are illuminated including the master window switch, side mirror adjuster, and other switches on the doors.

Workmanship is above average for this class. Wind and road noise is minimal.

Handling & Ride Characteristics – Worth Every Penny of the Upgrade

The sports suspension and the 17” alloy rims with wider and lower profile tires alone are well worth the price hike for the 2LT package. The ride is more supportive compare to the 1LT. At uneven pavement surfaces the suspension is doing a great job absorbing the roughness without the abruptness. The firmness and supportiveness resemble the well sorted European cars while retaining the use of GM’s Z-Link semi-independent rear suspension.

Similar to the 1LT, despite the wider tires, the 2LT’s rack-mount electric power steering is still a bit light and inherited the associated vague on-center feel. These attributes cause the car to wander in the lane. Road feel is however improved due to the lower profile tires. Comparing to most of the cars in this segment, overall the 2LT’s steering is on-par for this market segment. It is definitely not as quick as the Ford Focus, and not as accurate as the Mazda 3.

Upon the first corner at spirited speed, we witnessed cornering is where the 2LT package shines. The 225/50R17 Continental ContiProContract just offers tremendous amount of grip and it’s a tire that we appreciate. Body roll is also minimal; a bonus in this class.

Powertrain Performance & Refinement – Well Integrated

The longer we drive the car, the more we realize the intelligence of its 6-speed automatic transmission – we rarely have to use the manual mode in attempt to outsmart the car. In “D”, the shifting is responsive, and it is willing to downshift with the demand from your right foot.

The tranny goes into neutral automatically in idle to reduce load on engine to conserve fuel. Once the brake pedal is released, torque converter re-engages. A subtle and characteristic shock can be felt when the re-engagement happens. Like VW’s DSG, this tranny is not perfectly smooth at any given time. We prefer feeling the subtle shock and knowing the machine is trying to be efficient whether than inefficiently smooth. No downshift rev match is programed as the rest in the class.

In the prolonged decline, the tranny auto downshifts and holds lower gear to promote engine braking. It upshifts a gear with a slight touch on the gas pedal to utilize momentum from gravity to gain speed, particularly, between 5th and 6th gears.

When the brakes are applied to slow down the car to a complete stop, the transmission downshifts gear by gear which means it is always in proper gear at any given time in case you need to get back on the gas and it will instantaneously put power to the ground. The more ordinary transmission would remain in the high gear, any sudden need for acceleration will require dropping a couple gears which affects the instantaneous of the throttle input. The Cruze’s transmission tuning eliminates this embarrassing moment.

The hereditary turbo lag associated with a small displacement engine is only noticeable just off idle. Once the 1.4L engine pumps out sufficient CFM to spool up the turbo, torque is ample. As long as the engine RPM is kept within 2,000 to 4,500 rpm, the turbo is active and willing to hit maximum boost pressure. Under boost, engine feels more or less like a 2.0L engine. The low end torque is adequate for passing aggressive LA traffic thanks to its well calibrated powertrain.

Coasting at 70mph the engine revs at 2,400 rpm in top gear. Our observed fuel consumption ranged from 30.2 to 31.5 mpg with trip average at 31 mpg which fall within EPA’s 26 City, 38 Highway, and 30 combined mpg rating.

A good way to improve to car is to reduce its 3,143 lbs curb weight. The heavy weight is observed when opening up the hood. Like most GM cars, they tend to be heavier than necessary.

Brake Performance & Feel – Properly Executed

It is our believe that any car cost more than $15,000 should employ rear disc brakes whether or not it makes a difference in stopping distance or performance in a daily commuter is another subject.

The 2LT spots 10.5” solid disc rear brakes instead of the 1LT’s drums setup. The brake pedal seems to have less freeplay, properly weighted, and easier to modulate than the 1LT’s.

Scoring System (Higher the Better; 5 being the best)

Powertrain Performance & Refinement: 4

Handling & Ride Characteristics: 4

Brake Performance & Feel: 4

Comfort & Workmanship: 4

Features & Technologies: 4

LZG Recommendation Factor: 4

LZG Factual Ratings [Lower the Better]

Car Enthusiast Figures:

  • Dollar-to-Horsepower: $162.86/HP
  • Height-to-Width Ratio: 0.82
  • Curb Weight-to-Torque Ratio: 21.24 lbs/lb-ft

Soccer Mum Figures:

  • Dollar-to-Trunk Space: $1,459.42/cu-ft
  • Dollar-to-Passenger Compartment Volume: $237.58/cu-ft

Afterthought – A Substantial Competitor

The overall quality of the Cruze 2LT’s better than the rest of the “C” worded compact cars. The Cruze offers more stable ride, acceptable amount of power, and buttoned down driving experience.

At virtually the same price point as the equivalently equipped Civic and Corolla, the Cruze 2LT is definitely worth the consideration. However, despite the unintelligent conventional belief, the Civic and Corolla have no longer been the champs in the compact segment for years. They are no longer the benchmark in the segment for comparison purpose. With the driver focused Mazda 3 and Great Britain’s hottest seller Ford Focus in the mix, the Cruze does start to show its age.

What makes the Cruze unique to us is the 151 hp and 246 lb-ft of torque turbodiesel model that gets 46 mpg on the highway. Its $26,000 MSRP and the abnormally higher than gasoline diesel price are the turn offs, however. LZG

 Posted by at 4:55 AM

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