A near-perfect understanding of the Canadian thirst for small cars.

The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is proof positive that General Motors has come to a near-perfect understanding of the Canadian thirst for small cars. Unlike our cousins to the south, compact sedans are far from the new hotness here: we've been buying them for decades, and we're startlingly loyal when it comes to the models we choose to make our own. That the Chevrolet Cruze - still a relative newcomer to the scene, and now entering its second-generation - can effectively do battle against the likes of perennial favourites like the Mazda Mazda3, the Volkswagen Golf, and the Toyota Corolla on the sales charts is a strong endorsement of the Bowtie brand's willingness to invest in its most affordable models.

The Cruze didn't need a comprehensive makeover, and version 2.0 acknowledges this fact by turning up the volume on everything that was good about the original model without making wholesale changes to the vehicle's standard operating procedures. The end result is a small sedan that finds itself on even firmer footing in the quest for entry-level dollars.

2016 Chevrolet Cruze

The brightest spotlight shines on the Chevrolet Cruze's new standard engine - a 1.4-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder unit that simplifies the options sheet while also upgrading on the forced-induction motor it replaces. Unlike many of its competitors - the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla, and the Ford Focus immediately spring to mind - you don't have to choose between a value-oriented base price and the power and fuel efficiency that drove you to the compact market to begin with. Every single version of the Cruze packs the mightiest, and most frugal engine to have ever been offered by the sedan.

You get a healthy 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque from the revised Ecotec 4-cylinder, which makes heavy use of aluminium to drop a few kilos compared to last year's engine. There's also the presence of direct fuel injection and an automatic engine start/stop system to thank for the 5.6 L/100 km highway and 7.8 L/100 km city that are available from the Cruze. You're reading those numbers correctly: not only does the 1.4-litre offer a 10 percent improvement in horsepower along with 29 additional lb-ft of twist, but the car's frugality at the pump has been boosted past the previous generation.

2016 Chevrolet Cruze

The extra power is nice to have, but don't expect the Chevrolet Cruze to chirp the tires from light-to-light. Regardless of whether you select the sedan's 6-speed manual transmission or its optional 6-speed automatic the Chevrolet tends more towards smooth acceleration than high performance antics. Even the car's available RS trim should be thought of as more of a 'hard parked' addition to the Cruze's styling portfolio rather than a sporty upgrade to the car's on-road personality. Handling has improved over the Chevrolet Cruze of old - thanks in part to the 110 kilos or so of fat sliced out of the new model's platform - but yet again, we're talking about comfort and competence rather than fast-twitch muscle, which is perfectly in line with what most compact car shoppers are looking for in a commuter.

The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze streamlines the corporate cues that tie the entire family of Chevrolet cars together, and from some angles there's a definite Volt-like feel to the more prominent snout of the small sedan. The longer wheelbase has gifted the Cruze's cabin with additional legroom at the rear, which will be welcome to buyers who may have been charmed by rivals like the Nissan Sentra and its copious amounts of passenger room. What the Sentra can't offer, however, is the Cruze's standard 4G LTE wireless internet hotspot and its new implementation of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, two mobile phone integration systems that work directly with the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system. We're not sold on Android Auto - there are still more than a few bugs to work out on the way to delivering the best possible user experience - but Apple CarPlay is a more promising step towards 'connectifying all the things' in your new car.

2016 Chevrolet Cruze

Another area where the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze excels is its excellent complement of available active safety equipment. Depending on how deep you want to go on the car's options sheet, you can outfit the Cruze with features such as a lane departure warning system, a lane keeping assistant that will actually steer the vehicle back between the lines if necessary, a blind spot monitoring system, and a forward collision alert feature. While several of these systems are available on other compact sedans it's rare to find all of them together, which gives the Chevrolet a leg-up on the competition when it comes to safety.

The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze certainly delivers a long list of upgrades, but don't look for any claw-back from GM in the form of a sky-high sticker price. Surprisingly, even with its now-standard turbocharged engine you can get behind the wheel of a stripped-down Cruze L for a mere $15,995, a vehicle that effectively tackles the basic transportation crowd unconcerned with alloy wheels or leather seats (although you do still get MyLink free of charge). If an automatic transmission is more your thing, then you'll need to step up to the Cruze LS Auto, which starts at $20,295 while the plushest version of the Chevrolet sedan - the Cruze Premier Auto - will set you back $23,895.

With such a firm foundation already in place, it only makes sense that the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze pick up right where the original sedan left off - only with a brand new attitude that dares to posit that people shouldn't have to pay more to enjoy the most efficient drivetrain GM has to offer in a small car. Throw in the strong safety advantage enjoyed by the Cruze, along with its aggressive pricing, and Chevrolet's sequel seems poised to snag repeat buyers and new converts alike.

2016 Chevrolet Cruze

 

ENGINE

1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo

OUTPUT

153 hp / 177 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION

6-speed manual & 6-speed automatic

0-100 KMH

6.9 Seconds

TOP SPEED

N/A

FUEL ECONOMY

7.8 City / 5.6 Highway

WEIGHT

1,338 kilograms (2,944 lbs)

SEATING CAPACITY

5

CARGO VOLUME

396 litres (14 cubic feet)

BASE PRICE

$15,995

AS-TESTED PRICE

$27,885

 

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