Cruzing through

Vikrant Singh        Print Edition: November 15, 2009

Presentation is everything. General Motors seems to have taken this philosophy quite seriously with its latest sedan, the Cruze. With its bold front, coupe-like profile and the classic long-hood-stubby-tail design, it has a street presence that other cars in its segment cannot rival.

Inside, the dashboard is styled exquisitely and the execution of the design is alluring. The three-pod instrumentation, the tapering central console housing the stereo, the climate control and the multi-plane dashboard with the sporty looking steering wheel all give the Cruze’s interiors a contemporary feel. It has good seats, too, just in case if you were wondering. These hold you well in place and are quite comfortable for long haul drives.

But, the Cruze’s party trick and its USP is the “keyless entry and start function”. It’s usually something only cars that cost more than twice the price of the Cruze feature. All you have to do is to keep the key fob in the pocket and the car unlocks the moment you pull the door handle. Once seated, push on the “Start-Stop” button and you are off. And touching the sensor on the door handle is all it takes to lock the car. It’s both convenient and fascinating.

There are more features to the car; there’s Cruise Control, a multifunctional steering wheel, Trip Computer and ABS and airbags as well. Our only grouse here is the quality: the finish is an issue and so is the look and feel of the plastic used.

The engine is impressive, though; it’s not one of the most refined or quiet engines out there, especially when revved hard, but it is quick and quite efficient. The 150 BHP diesel engine is from GM’s SUV the Captiva, but by tweaking the gears, with a different ECU setting and, of course, the reduction in weight compared to the SUV, it is now peppier and more drive-friendly.

It still has some turbo lag, which is evident when one floors the throttle to make swift progress. But when driving within the city, while making measured progress and progressive throttle inputs, the lag is much less bothersome. The 5-speed manual transmission isn’t bad either. It’s notchy and a tad imprecise, but at least the throws are short and the degree of vagueness is lesser than GM boxes of yore.

The ride, however, is like any other Chevy; it isn’t overtly soft, but remains absorbent at both slow speeds and high. The Cruze does tend to wallow a bit at higher speeds over undulating roads, but things rarely get irksome. The same can’t be said about the car’s handling. It is great in a straight line—stable and measured—but quick direction changes and hard braking make it nervous and twitchy.

The Cruze is definitely one of the better cars rolled out of GM’s stable in India. Its passenger room might not be overwhelming and the quality of plastic used might need a relook, but it offers class leading comfort and equipment and outstanding performance with acceptable fuel economy. It’s also practical with a big boot and good assortment of cup and bottle holders and stowage areas inside the cabin. And at Rs 12.45 lakh, it’s fabulous value for money in its segment, too.

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