The sedan market in South Africa is in a bit of a pickle due to the increasing popularity of crossovers and SUVs. Buyers seem to be flocking away from "bland" C-segment sedans and are opting for the greater practicality and versatility offered by compact crossovers or SUVs, which in many cases are similarly priced and are generally more hip and attractive compared to a conventional sedan offering.
Manufacturers playing in this segment therefore face a tough task convincing buyers to purchase a sedan and product packaging is more important than ever before to secure sales. The updated Chevrolet Cruze was recently launched in South Africa and I spent some time with the 1.4T LS automatic sedan to find out if it can survive in this tough market.
What’s New?This updated Cruze comes with a reworked front fascia and grille with integrated fog lamps and LED daytime running lights. At the rear, the Cruze has a new boot lid along with redesigned tail lights and buyers now also have the choice between new 16 and 17-inch wheel designs, with this test unit fitted with 16-inch examples.
Inside, the inclusion of the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system with CCR (Colour Connected Radio) is a nice upmarket touch and does a fair job of bringing all your media to your fingertips via a 7-inch colour touchscreen.
Comfortable InteriorThe Chevrolet Cruze scores big points in the comfort department and the interior is well put together. The cloth seats are comfortable with suitable side bolstering for added comfort. Rear seat passengers have more than enough leg and head room and there’s a large boot too, with a capacity of 469-litres with a full size steel spare wheel stored beneath the boot floor. The rear seatbacks can be tumbled forward when bigger items need to be transported. The steering wheel comes with mounted audio and Bluetooth controls, and is height and reach adjustable.
The Cruze MasterThis test unit is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged ECOTEC petrol engine offering 103 kW and 200 Nm of torque and is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The first thing I noticed when driving the Cruze was that it didn't like to be driven with excessive vigour. With maximum power available high in the rev range, the Cruze whines and labours with difficulty when you plant your foot flat. Admittedly, such driving is not what the Cruze was made for...
Cruising is where the Cruze excels and it demands to be driven with a more conservative approach. When driven with a lighter foot, the Cruze responds in a smooth, refined manner and the auto transmission transitions between gears smoothly. Performance isn't earth shattering or particularly exciting, but the Cruze performs well within its limits. The ride quality in the Cruze is excellent and it manages to iron out bumps with little effort. This fact, together with a comfortable interior, means that the Cruze is perfectly suited for those long distance trips with the family.
I was however disappointed to see a combined fuel consumption figure of as high as 10.6L/100 km during my time with the Cruze, especially when Chevrolet claims a figure of 6.8L/100 km. Some colleagues managed a figure of around 8,5L/100 km, which is acceptable.
Buyers will appreciate that the Cruze comes packed with features and the list includes ABS with EBD, Brake Assist, six airbags, traction control, ESC (electronic stability control), Isofix child seat anchors, air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, cruise control and USB and Aux inputs for the audio system.
Chevrolet Cruze Price in South AfricaThe Cruze sedan range starts off with R230 400 for the 1.6 L model and R247 200 for the 1.6 LS. The manual 1.4T LS is priced at R262 500 while the 1.4T LS Automatic on test here is priced at R272 400. The price includes a 5-year / 120 000 km warranty with roadside assistance, a 5-year / unlimited km corrosion warranty and a 3-year / 60 000 km service plan with services staggered at 15 000 km.
VerdictThe Cruze has lots to offer in the comfort department and delivers a smooth and refined drive. There’s lots of space too which makes it a good car to haul the family around town or on holiday. Buyers looking for value would be wise to consider the Cruze as it’s packed with features that its rivals struggle to match. It remains a fairly conservative offering, but it has nevertheless sold well in the South African market thus far and offers a solid alternative to the likes of the Corolla, Focus etc.
Although under pressure from compact crossovers such as the Ford EcoSport and Renault Duster/Captur, the Chevrolet Cruze has kept the sedan flag flying in South Africa with good sales. Its combination of refinement, comfort and spaciousness has garnered it many customers. This new model will continue in much the same fashion, but adds the right amount of tech features to perhaps attract those consumers who do not need (or want) a crossover. - Hannes Oosthuizen
We Like: Refined drive, lots of features, space
We Don’t Like: Average performance
Also consider: Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra