The first-generation Chevrolet Cruze is set for a redesign in 2016, but for 2015, it's pretty much status quo, though the car does receive a mild facelift. Minor interior changes abound, such as the removal of the rear armrest on LS trims and the addition of standard illuminated vanity mirrors on 2LT rims. The manual transmission is no longer available on the 2LT trim. Perhaps the biggest news is that OnStar 4G LTE is now available, with Wi-Fi hotspot capability. Elsewhere, exterior colors have been reshuffled.
The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze is offered in LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ models -- all in a 4-door sedan body style. An ECO model slots between the 1LT and 2LT in pricing, while a top-of-the-line Clean Turbo Diesel model lands at the top of the lineup.
Each trim level except the 2LT and LTZ is offered with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, but the 2LT and LTZ are automatic-only. Base LS models are powered by a 138-horsepower, 1.8L Ecotec 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. All LT, LTZ and Eco models include a 1.4L Ecotec turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that also makes 138 horsepower, but generates 148 pound-feet of torque in a lower rev range. It's also smoother and earns better mileage -- 26 mpg city, 38 highway with the LT and LTZ, or 28/42 mpg on economy-minded ECO models. ECO models also include a number of functional changes that earn its better mileage, like lightweight alloy wheels, aerodynamic improvements and a taller drive ratio.
The Clean Turbo Diesel has a 2.0L turbodiesel 4-cylinder engine under the hood; it makes 148 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque -- more than some V6 engines. Thanks to an "overboost" function that pushes torque to 280 pound-feet for ten seconds at a time, it can accelerate the Cruze to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. Meanwhile, it earns an EPA highway rating of 46 mpg and passes the most stringent 50-state emissions standards (Tier 2 Bin 5), thanks to an exhaust after-treatment fluid system. Timing-belt replacement is also extended to 100,000 miles.
The diesel engine is only paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and it includes some of the same upgrades as the Cruze ECO, such as ultra-low-rolling-resistance tires, a rear spoiler and the Aero Performance Package and leather upholstery. To provide plenty of cold-cranking power there's an upgraded 800-amp battery and a 140-amp alternator as well as biodiesel-compatibility with blends up to 20-percent biodiesel (B20).
The Cruze is 181 inches long, with a wheelbase of nearly 106 inches, so it's not surprising that this amounts to one of the most spacious compact-car cabins; it almost feels like a mid-size, and there's a big, well-shaped 15-cubic-foot trunk. The twin-cockpit look to the instrument panel is backlit with LEDs, while there are soft-touch materials throughout, plus well-integrated infotainment displays.
Base LS models of the Cruze include cloth upholstery and steel wheels, plus power windows and locks, as well as Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free communication. Cruze 1LT models add a lot of popular features like cruise control, an express-up driver's window, and leather trim for the steering wheel and shift knob. On top of that, the ECO model adds Chevrolet MyLink connectivity (with streaming audio, voice recognition and compatibility with some smartphone audio apps), plus a 7-inch color touch screen and 17-inch lightweight alloy wheels. 2LT models step up to Meridian leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power driver seat. Then at the top of the line, the LTZ gets automatic climate control, a rear vision camera, vanity mirrors, heated outside mirrors, fog lamps and keyless entry, among other additions.
The Driver Convenience Package adds vanity mirrors, a rear vision camera and power adjustable mirrors to the 2LT, while a Technology Package can add MyLink to the 1LT. An RS Appearance Package brings a sporty look to either LT or LTZ models, adding rocker moldings, a rear spoiler, fog lamps, and unique fascias, as well as ice-blue backlighting and opaque instrument cluster bezels. 4G LTE Wi-Fi is also available.
The Cruze includes ten standard airbags, including front knee bags and rear seat-mounted side bags. Add the Enhanced Safety Package and the Cruze comes with features atypical in this class: Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Rear Park Assist.