A typical mid-life-cycle update on a car usually involves a new grille, lights and bumpers, but as you can plainly see, this Cruze has none of these. What it does have though is a serious engine upgrade. It’s not that the Cruze was in dire need of one-the old car’s punchy, 148bhp 2.0-litre common-rail diesel could see off quite a few petrol saloons and was one of its main selling points. So then why plonk in an all-new engine? It’s because GM has globally replaced the previous VM Motori-developed diesel with its latest ‘Family Z’ unit, which means the New Cruze 2012 in India too gets the benefit of the new motor. Another bonus is an all-new six-speed manual gearbox which replaces the five-speed of the previous model. Armed with a completely new powertrain, Chevrolet has taken the opportunity to address problems like the massive turbo lag and heavy clutch that made the earlier Cruze a bit of a chore to drive on the daily commute.
With 164 bhp on tap (a substantial 11 percent more than the old engine), the New Cruze 2012 is by far the most powerful car in its class. Torque is up as well, to a meaty 38.7kgm. But it’s not just a higher output that the new engine promises. The main focus of the engine tweaks was to improve drive ability, refinement and fuel efficiency. We tested both the manual and automatic versions of the Cruze to find out just how much of an overall improvement this engine is.
A turn of the key is all it takes to establish that this new common-rail diesel engine is significantly more refined than the previous one, be it at idle or when you’re revving it hard.
Its new found refinement (and power) comes from a host of improvement to the engine’s gust. The updates include an engine block that has been strengthened to take the extra power and torque, and a completely redesigned cylinder head to incorporate a chain-driven DOHC valve-train as against the rubber-belt-driven one on the previous car. The air intake, which used to sit far from the inlet manifold, has now been moved closer to improve airflow and help reduce turbo lag. The common-rail system has also been upgraded and runs at a much higher 1800bar (against 1600bar in the old car) with seven injections per power stroke compared to five on the old motor. Chevrolet has also employed a dual-mass flywheel to reduce engine vibrations.
While all these changes have substantially bumped up the power and torque, it’s real-world driving that paints the true picture. For starters, the New Cruze 2012 feels slower than the older one! You don’t get that violent kick like before; instead there’s a progressive build-up of power, and it’s this far more linear power delivery that masks the feeling of speed in the new car. Our data acquisition equipment reveals that the new car is actually quicker in most areas. In the 20-80kph third-gear slog, the new Cruze pips the old model by a half a second, while in the 40-100kph run in fourth gear, it’s quicker by a substantial one and a half seconds. It’s only in flat-out acceleration that the old Cruze is still quicker. The new model does the dash to 100kph in 10.22sec, where the old car managed to duck below the 10-second barrier (9.64sec), and at 160kph the new model is a good two seconds behind.
The gearing play a key role in performance, and with an extra gear ratio, better uses can be made of the new engine. While the overall gearing is much taller than before, the new cruze has pretty short first and second gear ratios for better driveability in traffic. This is evident from the moment you engage the clutch, which thank fully is far lighter now and more progressive too. The engine feel much more responsive at low revs and pulls cleanly from even below 2000 rpm, a point at which the old car was still asleep. In fact, the low-speed responsiveness and driveability are the most tangible improvements, which you feel immediately. These, along with the light clutch, make the New Cruze 2012 a much more city-friendly car. You do find yourself swapping second-and third-gear cogs more frequently because there is quite a gap between the rations, but if you’re not in a hurry, the torquey nature of the engine allows you to trundle along in third gear too.
On the highway, the new engine with its tall gearing comes into its own to make the New Cruze 2012 a superb cruiser. In sixth gear at 100kph the engine, turning over at a lazy 1700rpm, is barely audible and the surplus of power makes long-distance driving quite effortless.
The six-speed auto complements the New Cruze 2012’s new engine too. Thanks to the new found power and drive ability, the Chevy auto accelerates in a far more linear manners than before. Up-shifts are relatively quick and make the acceleration seem all the more effortless. That said, it isn’t particularly engaging – it is still slow to respond to sharp throttle inputs and is sluggish when you want a quick kick down.
To help improve fuel economy, the gearbox has been programmed to up-shift at the earliest as well, so you sometimes get up-shifts just when you don’t want them. Shifting the lever to ‘tiptronic’ mode makes it hang onto the selected ratio until you ask for a shift, but it’s still not engaging as, say, the twin-clutch unit in the Jetta and the Laura. The New Cruze 2012 auto is at its best when you’re cruising or when you’re in thick traffic.
Fuel efficiency has been one of the key priorities with the new power train and in this crucial area there is a distinct improvement over the previous model. The manual New Cruze 2012 returned a decent 10.8 kpl in the city and 15.7 kpl on the highway as compared to the 10.3 kpl and 14.8 kpl for the old car. The automatic New Cruze 2012 returned 9.8 kpl and 15.3 kpl for city and highway cycles respectively.
Power train changes apart, the New Cruze 2012 is largely unchanged. You still get the same sharp styling, which is the biggest selling point of the New Cruze (through there is a facelift on its way next year). The cabin is unchanged too, although it carries over the interior upgrades that were effected on the older model some months ago. Hence you get the same extra features like the partially powered driver’s seat and the tweaked seat cushions and headlining to improve headroom at the rear. The lumbar support on the front seats has been softened for better comfort too. It must be said, though, that fit and finish are still some way off the solidity and micrometer perfection of its German rivals, and for sheer comfort, especially at the rear, the New Cruze still can’t compete with the best in class.
The New Cruze 2012’s suspension settings remain unchanged. Straight-line stability, though not as impressive as European rivals, is good and feels stable. At low speeds though, sharp bumps thud through into the cabin, the ride has a stiff edge to it and the car crashes through large undulations.
For all its power, the New Cruze 2012 isn’t a particularly sporty handler. The steering is inconsistent and doesn’t weigh up in a linear fashion when you turn into corners, Grip and body control are reasonable though, but drive it hard and you get the distinct feeling that this car prefers the straights of the expressway to the twists and turns of a ghat road.
Chevrolet New Cruze 2012
The Cruze has always been the horsepower champion in this segment and it has now distanced itself even more from its rivals in this respect. However, while the increase in power hasn’t translated to a big jump in performance, it has made the New Cruze a more user-friendly car to own and drive. The power is more accessible now thanks to a smoother, more responsive engine, and fuel efficiency has improved too.
The mechanicals are unchanged, which means the suspension and other chassis bits are carried over from the older car. Though it’s nowhere near as dynamically accomplished as its European rivals, the Cruze’s ride and handling are quite
Acceptable, especially if you don’t push it too hard. A bigger issue is the interior, which doesn’t feel premium enough or spacious enough for the class. However, this apart, the Cruze is hard to fault, and when you factor in the price, which is expected to be in the range of Rs 14.6 to 15.5 lakh, it still undercuts its direct rivals by some margin, making it great value.
Front seats are comfy. Rear-seat space still a bit tight.
It is more responsive than before but not as quick in a straight line.
Noticeably smoother and a lot more refined than before.
Lots of equipment at a reasonably price, especially on the LTZ.
Two airbags, ABS and EBD, but rivals have more.
Low-speed ride is a bit stiff. It improves considerably at speed.
The steering is vague, the car tends to get unsettled over bumps.
BUILD & QUALITY 6/10
Build quality is decent but nowhere near some rivals.