2011 Cruze- 1 month review

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11,196
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NY Capital District
Alright, it's time! It's been 1 month and 3 days since we took delivery of our new vehicles, and I think it's about time I give a review, and answer questions. The Cruze is a solidly built car, if nothing else. From the way the doors and trunk shut with a solid "ka-thunk", to the way it feels driving down the highway. It just feels SOLID. I'm 6'0" even, and weigh 210lb, I'm a big guy. The cloth seats are very comfortable, and well bolstered. You don't sink into them, they are firm, but still very comfortable. The leather on the steering wheel is high quality, feels silky to the touch. The shape of the steering wheel itself is superb, designed well for a variety of ways of holding it. The cruise control buttons are well thought out, (I especially like the button to "end" cruise, without tapping the brakes, or turning it off completely). On the other side are the Radio buttons, giving the ability to change the audio source (AM/FM/XM/CD/AUX/USB-iPod) change between tracks (USB, CD) or favorites (Radio). The gauge cluster is well thought out. The gauges are red needles with blue and black background, reminiscent of VW clusters. Easy to read. The DIC in the center can display.. -Speed (in MPH or KPH) -Fuel Range (Miles or Kilometers) -Two Trip Meters -Average MPG (Instant in addition on Eco models) -Fuel Used -Tire Pressure (gives specific numbers for each tire) -Oil Life Remaining -Electrical System Voltage It always displays the odometers, the direction of travel, and the current position of the shifter, as well as the current gear if in manual mode. Displayed as "M6" for Manual mode, 6th gear. In the LT model without the sunroof, there is tons of headroom, legroom, and shoulder room. The seat is adjustable in a million ways (I have manual driver seat). Lumbar is not adjustable, but is very supportive with the standard cloth seats as it is. Adjustments include cushion height, cushion tilt, recline. The stock radio (not the Pioneer system) is actually quite good. There are 6 speakers, each door gets a 6.5" speaker, and there are two tweeters, one on each A-Pillar. It has decent sound, much better than most stock vehicles these days in my opinion. Good bass, clear and not overwhelming or boomy. The ipod/USB function works well, though an easier to use fast-scroll function would be welcome. If you burn a CD and use the include CD text function, it will tell you the name, artist and album of the currently playing song on the CD. The Climate control. The A/C is excellent, ice cold. In my experience, if there is one thing GM cars excel at, it is ice cold air conditioning, whether at idle or driving down the highway. Obviously the latter is even colder, but idle in almost 100 degree whether, and the A/C keeps up easily, and starts blowing cold withing 10 seconds. Haven't had an opportunity to test the heat yet, have to assume for the moment that it works well. The interior as a whole, the materials feel good. The plastic used on the dash is mixed soft-touch and harder, but even the hard stuff feels decent. It doesn't feel like fisher price stuff, it feels solid and durable. The dash and doors have a swath of coarse black cloth (other colors available, and in leather on the LTZ and 2LT model) it feels good, made to last. The plastic on the doors is hard, but again is well textured. The center console cover feels nice, but there isn't much padding. Also, the center console is tiny. The dials and buttons for the radio and HVAC have a solid, textured feel to them, they just feel good, not like the cheap, hard plastic stuff we are used to. One minor niggle is they, especially the volume and tune knob, are a little shallower than I would personally make them. The headliner looks good, and has a nice pattern and actually feels decent, it's the same material used in the headliner on the equinox. As far as safety, there are 10 airbags standard. Don't even know what they all are, There is Stabilitrak, which can be turned off completely with the press of a button. (Will attempt some macro shots of the interior after I get it cleaned, it's getting a little dusty, but I'm a little bit OCD about keeping my car interior clean). The rear seat is decently spacious, not like a buick or cadillac, but big enough for the traditional 2.2 adults. Seriously though, there is room for 2 adults to fit comfortably, 3 would be a bit of a squeeze, but it's possible. Headroom is average, and obviously depends on how tall you are. Legroom is average, a little bit better than the focus, and again that is extremely dependent on how far the person in front has the seat adjusted back. The back seats are once again firm, but well bolstered and comfortable. There is a folding down armrest/cupholder in the middle. They are 60/40 split folding seats. Power: There are two 12V DC outlets. One on the back of the center console, and one next to the cupholders in the front. One more would be appreciated, but that's just me. Trunk: Large for this class of car. The focus was a bit bigger I feel. It's big enough to put luggage for 4 people easily, mine has the spare tire underneath. The cargo net actually has a pocket in it which comes in handly for smaller stuff you don't want rolling/sliding all over creation. Now let's get to the stuff I know you all want to hear. Engine: I have the 1.4L Turbo. After thus far living with it for a month, and 2,000 miles, I have some impressions. The first is that there is definitely a little bit of turbo lag. It's not extreme, but it's there. This means that from a stop, when you give it the gas, it will go forward, and then it will kind of just come on all at once. Spinning tires from a stop is very easy with this car, helped by the very short first gear with the Auto Trans. The Turbo starts spooling at 1,850RPM and reaches full boost by 2,000RPM. It's a tiny turbo too. But even when the turbo isn't spooled, locked into high gear in manual mode, the engine has decent torque, starting at 1,500RPM. Then, in drive, once that turbo spools, there is just so much torque. The power band of this engine is happiest from 2,500RPM-5000RPM. Over that, it kinda loses steam (confirmed by the torque and horsepower numbers. Torque is 148lb/ft from 1,850-4,900RPM, Horsepower peaks at 4900RM and drops off after, to the redline of 6,500). This means that any time you put your foot down enough to keep it in this powerband, it just goes like you would never expect a tiny 1.4L to pull. This menas that going up hills, and accelerating under light foot means that even without downshifting, it will pull decently. It can't really be described without driving a turbo car. If you haven't driven one, you probably don't know what it feels like. You don't expect a four cylinder, especially one this tiny, to have gobs of torque at just above 2000RPM. The engine itself is pretty fantastic so far. There is a danger of turbo engines though- one that I will get to in a bit. Transmission: Ahhh, if I have one complaint, it's this. And I'm not the only one. Honestly I don't mind it that much, but it's far from perfect. It's the 6T40 transmission, like that used in the Malibu and four cylinder Equinox (6T45, same basic tranny). Most of the time it shifts smoothly, and because of the turbo engine, even when it upshifts, you are still accelerate strongly, which is a nice feeling. However, there are a few downsides. first is that it's inconsistent. Most gears are fine, the only one that is just odd is the 2-3 shift. Sometimes it will shift at 2500-3000RPM. Sometimes, it will go all the way to 4k or just a little higher before shifting. (2nd is a really short gear, so it's not as bad as you would think) It's not a deal breaker, just odd. This is also something that can be easily fixed in the future with a transmission reflash of new shift programming. Other than that, it's normally nice and smooth. One thing, every transmission to some degree shifts different between cold/warm. GM transmissions it seem this is more noticeable. When it's warm, it's generally butter smooth shifts, and I have no complaints at all, it makes the Focus 4 speed look like an ancient archaic, jerky thing. But when it's colder, especially right after starting, the shifts can be a little jerkier, and some (very rare) are downright rough. It only lasts a half mile usually, 2 miles max, but it is summer so we'll see what happens in winter. Overall I'm pleased with the transmission, the gears are well spaced to make the most of the turbo engines torque. Though- and this is rectified with the 2012 model, the final drive and 6th gear are rather short, it turns ~2900RPM at 75mph, versus the focus at 2500, and my grandmothers 2.4L Malibu at 2,000. They reconfigured the final drive and gearing for 2012 for lower RPM on the highway. Overall I like the transmission, it is much better than the old 4 speed unit the focus used, and the 3 speed in the cavalier.... Let's not even go there. There is also a 6 speed manual option for those interested. My dad test drove one, and said that it was a decent manual, the clutch was responsive and didn't require herculean leg muscles to operate, and the shifts felt crisp and direct. And now for the one you've all been wondering about I'm sure. Fuel economy. This is a bit of a mixed bag, and let me explain. Because it's a turbo charged engine, you have to be careful with your right foot, because a heavy foot will affect it much more dramatically than it would in a N/A engine. If you keep on heavy boost all the time, you will be doing terrible. For exmaple, I drive a little more spirited than most do, though I'm much calmer than I was even a few months ago. City, stop and go I'll be doing 22, 23. That's about what I did in the focus too. (My lifetime MPG on the focus was 26.8 mpg for reference) Highway driving, this is interesting. This car responds to driving slower much more than others do. Doing some experiments verifying that the average mpg is accurate (it's fairly accurate, usually not off by more than .2mpg) Crusing on the highway, I'll reset the avg and for a bit. Now, this is difficult, because the highway here is VERY hilly, which affects mpg horribly. 75: ~31-32mpg 70: ~33-34mpg 65: ~35-36 turn off A/C, 65 will get about 38, 39. YMMW of course. I'm fairly happy with it, i'm doing much less highway driving than I was before, though I'm planning on going on a road trip hopefully in the next few months. We will be driving the equinox to niagra falls and back later this month, about 550 miles round trip. With this car, slow down a bit, and ease off the pedal, and it will reward you. The manual version seems to do even better, with plenty of people reporting upwards of 40mpg in Manual trim. Styling is subjective, but I think the car looks sharp, especially in black, and god help me I like the chrome accents. It looks much more "mature" than the new focus does, which I also like. The ride. Around town, the car is peppy, and the ride is composed. I've driven and ridden in many cars, and I'd most compare the ride to a VW, or some euro car, which is appropriate considering the engineering was all done in GMs Russelheim, Germany, engineering center. The handling has been described as athletic, and that's what I'd say too. It feels very european. It (to me) perfectly balances a smooth ride that absorbs the impacts, while still being a bit firmer and makes twisties rather fun, keeping it planted and solid. I was trying to describe how I thought it was compared to the focus with my mom, when she drove it the other day for the first time, on the highway to queensbury. I finally settled on that the focus had a smooth ride, but was firmer. This is still isn't luxo-boat wallowy, it's a bit firmer than some, but it's more compliant than the Focus. It's difficult to describe. It just feels like it follows the contours of the road more than the focus did, if that makes sense. Overall, I can't think how they could improve upon it really. Oh wait. I haven't gotten to the tires. Okay, I know the LTZ comes with 18" rims and michelins which are good. But mine came with 215/60/16 Firestone FR710. I'll say that they are better than the Kumho Solus KH16s that were OE on the focus, but they aren't perfect. They are smooth and quiet, but they aren't as grippy as I would like. If the handling on this car has one fault, it's because the tires will break loose and the car will understeer before it should. Haven't really had enough rain to comment on wet weather performance, and winter will have to wait a lot longer. The electric steering is very well implemented here. At low speeds, it is ultra low effort, but not quite to the level of an escape, if you've driven one, you know what I mean. That is just TOO light. This is well light at low speeds, but not crazy stupid light. As you increase speed, effort increases appropriately. It isn't quite as communicative as the focus (tires could be partially to blame here, or not) but it isn't quite as numb as some other vehicles I could name coughcobaltcough. The difference is the motor assist on the cobalt and early electric assist vehicles was they simply bolted an electric motor to the steering column, which let through very little feedback. This type has the motor on the rack, which makes it feel very much like hydraulic steering. I will go OT for a second, and say that the steering in the V6 equinox feels heavy to me, but that could be because I'm used to this, mom says it feels fine to her. The ride itself is extremely quiet, like... Lexus quiet. Every person who's ridden it on the highway has commented on how quiet it is. I suppose all that extra insulation, and double plane glass (I believe) has helped do it's part huh? In 2,000 miles, I've had zero problems, but I'll keep you all posted on that don't worry. I have 2,000 mile, and the OLM is at 81% o_o. I am likely going to change out the FF this weekend, with some QSUD 5W-30 and an ACDelco filter I got from the dealer. So, in summary. The Good: Solidly made, strong build quality, fit and finish. Interior materials are high quality, a huge departure from GM compacts of old. Ride is athletic and still comfy. Seats are extremely supportive and comfortable. Engine has plenty of torque, transmission is usually quite good and smooth. Big boot. Quiet ride. The bad: Transmission can sometimes be grumpy, when it's first woken up, but wakes up quickly. Can also sometimes be confused and take a little longer to upshift from 2nd to 3rd. Firestone Tires lack grip. Rear seat space is adequate, nothing spectacular. Center console is tiny. Gas mileage varies widely with driving style. In conclusion, a great small car, if you can get pas the fact that it is made by GM, and that it is a great little car. It's new to the US, but it's been on sale in europe for a few years, and there are no horror stories with reliability. Especially now that US production of the transmission and engine at Flint Engine is getting there, hopefully it will stay that way. Till next time, I might do something with the equinox soon. Phew! If anyone has any comments or questions, let me know. P.S. don't ask what my dad thinks of his. His response to anything he doesn't dislike is "Eh, it's okay." this applies to games, food, pretty much everything. P.P.S: I just realized I spent an hour typing this up. Wow.
 
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1,408
Location
NH
you sound very knowledgable like a car reviewer...i have a G5 and 2007 ford focus (37mpg 5 speed) and i see nothing wrong with them as well but all i care about is mpg...watch out for the turbo and long OCIs, i would not go past 7k just to be safe
 
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9,103
Location
MN
Nice write up! I'll stay with my 45+ MPG Saturn that I paid only $2k for and should get another 100-150k miles out of though... wink Would you have preferred the Cruze "ECO" with the Manual Tranny?
 
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47,788
Location
Everson WA - Pacific NW USA
Can you get this same exact model with a MT? Good lord I don't hate much, but do I ever hate GM AT's! Don't get me started on my Blazer S-10 AT..... Sorry - GREAT write up. I think better than some advertising paid magazines.
 
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5,153
Location
MW
If the car does not lack longevity, Cruze is going to be a major headache for the Japanese manufacturers.
 
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4,283
Location
Michigan
How many lbs. of boost does the turbo make? If a simple chip will upgrade it like it does for the VW 1.8T, this could be a sleeper. Of course, a cat eliminator and 3" piping would help drastically too...
 

pbm

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8,890
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New York
NIck....have you considered a writing job with Car & Driver, Road & Track or Motor Trend? Seriously, that was an excellent write up. I don't have 2K yet but I agree with you 100%. The A/T made a few 'confused' shifts early on but it definitely improves with some mileage. This is supposed to be because of the 'adaptive' nature of the tranny. I'm a bit disappointed that they hadn't sorted out the short final drive gearing before indroduction but I realize that it's a response to mpg complaints (compared to it's competitors). To be very honest, if all things were equal I would have bought a new 2012 Focus. I preferred Fords business model (borrowing from banks rather than the taxpayers) but the GM card deal made it hard to pass up the Cruze.
 
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22,188
Location
Colorado Springs
Originally Posted By: dwcopple
How many lbs. of boost does the turbo make? If a simple chip will upgrade it like it does for the VW 1.8T, this could be a sleeper.
"It's been a busy few weeks here at Trifecta! We purchased a Chevy Cruze LTZ a few weeks ago, and as you might expect it didn't stay stock for too long. We've been busy tuning and tweaking and managed to get a gain of about 36HP and 54TQ on an otherwise completely stock vehicle. This is a 31% gain in HP and 38% gain in torque! Check out the dyno section for the official dyno sheet! We are setting the retail price on our Cruze tune at $350, and will be offering the tune for $300 for the rest of the year as an introductory offer (includes transmission tuning)." http://trifectaperformance.com/
 

Nick R

Thread starter
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11,196
Location
NY Capital District
Originally Posted By: Drew99GT
Originally Posted By: dwcopple
How many lbs. of boost does the turbo make? If a simple chip will upgrade it like it does for the VW 1.8T, this could be a sleeper.
"It's been a busy few weeks here at Trifecta! We purchased a Chevy Cruze LTZ a few weeks ago, and as you might expect it didn't stay stock for too long. We've been busy tuning and tweaking and managed to get a gain of about 36HP and 54TQ on an otherwise completely stock vehicle. This is a 31% gain in HP and 38% gain in torque! Check out the dyno section for the official dyno sheet! We are setting the retail price on our Cruze tune at $350, and will be offering the tune for $300 for the rest of the year as an introductory offer (includes transmission tuning)." http://trifectaperformance.com/
Yeah I've heard about this. I don't know, I'm considering it but I don't want to invalidate my warranty, which that probably would do. Also, the stock turbo will develop 16PSI of boost, I believe.
 

Nick R

Thread starter
Messages
11,196
Location
NY Capital District
Originally Posted By: Pablo
Can you get this same exact model with a MT? Good lord I don't hate much, but do I ever hate GM AT's! Don't get me started on my Blazer S-10 AT..... Sorry - GREAT write up. I think better than some advertising paid magazines.
Yep. I didn't personally drive the manual, but you can get one. I wouldn't want one myself. I would want it about 10% of the time, the other 90% I would be annoyed with myself for getting it, lol.
 
Messages
22,188
Location
Colorado Springs
Originally Posted By: Nick R
Originally Posted By: Drew99GT
Originally Posted By: dwcopple
How many lbs. of boost does the turbo make? If a simple chip will upgrade it like it does for the VW 1.8T, this could be a sleeper.
"It's been a busy few weeks here at Trifecta! We purchased a Chevy Cruze LTZ a few weeks ago, and as you might expect it didn't stay stock for too long. We've been busy tuning and tweaking and managed to get a gain of about 36HP and 54TQ on an otherwise completely stock vehicle. This is a 31% gain in HP and 38% gain in torque! Check out the dyno section for the official dyno sheet! We are setting the retail price on our Cruze tune at $350, and will be offering the tune for $300 for the rest of the year as an introductory offer (includes transmission tuning)." http://trifectaperformance.com/
Yeah I've heard about this. I don't know, I'm considering it but I don't want to invalidate my warranty, which that probably would do. Also, the stock turbo will develop 16PSI of boost, I believe.
Eventually someone will come out with a tuner system similar to those available to Subaru and VW owners where you can store several different tunes on a handheld device, so if you need warranty work, you just reload the OEM tune. If you blow it up with a "hot" tune..........well, that's a different matter!
 
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10,008
Location
Upstate NY
Originally Posted By: Pablo
Can you get this same exact model with a MT? Good lord I don't hate much, but do I ever hate GM AT's! Don't get me started on my Blazer S-10 AT..... Sorry - GREAT write up. I think better than some advertising paid magazines.
IIRC the LT does now come standard with a MT. Otherwise the Cruze Eco was the only Cruze with the 1.4t and the 6MT. Thanks again for the review! It's pretty well firmed up my decision to get a Cruze Eco 6MT as a replacement for my Buick. I enjoyed rowing the gears in the Eco, as it was a bit more responsive than the AT-equipped models when I test-drove one. Being 200 lbs lighter with lighter wheels also helps matters. I've been saying my next car will be a MT, so time to put my money where my mouth is.
 
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1,098
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MO
Nick- Thanks a ton! That write up was way better than the ones I see on edmunds or msn autos. Way quality stuff for sure. My wife has been eyeing the chevy cruze for a littel while, I think im going to hold off on it for now though, that bit about the transmission was a huge letdown to an otherwise excellent car. Thanks a lot for the time and effort!
 
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11,380
Location
Phoenix
I am seeing everyone complain about how autos are shifting. I wonder if people just aren't used to 6 speeds, or if the automakers really need to work on their programming.
 
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10,008
Location
Upstate NY
Originally Posted By: dishdude
I am seeing everyone complain about how autos are shifting. I wonder if people just aren't used to 6 speeds, or if the automakers really need to work on their programming.
Probably both. Getting an affordable, durable 6 speed AT into a less expensive car has to cut corners somewhere. And folks are used to an AT holding a gear longer without shifting. More shifts means more chances for a wonky shift to occur. Couple that with automakers trying their best to game the EPA testing with their AT models, and complaints will be heard.
 
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