Chevrolet Cruze 1.7 VCDi
Engine: 1.7-litre four-cylinder diesel,
Power: 130 PS at 4,000rpm
Torque: 300 Nm between 2,000 and 2,500 rpm
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 62.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
Top speed: 124mph
Acceleration (0-62 mph): 9.4 seconds
Price: from £16,725
Chevrolet's Cruze is a world car - it needs to be in order to knit together the company's traditional US range and the line-up of smaller models produced by its Korean off-shoot, the former Daewoo operations.
It's built and sold in a wide range of countries, including many emerging markets, and has certainly shown it has broad appeal. But if there's a territory that's missed out a little bit, it's Europe. The Cruze is easily good enough to compete with most small-to-medium sized European cars; in fact, it shares much under the skin with the Vauxhall Astra, a sister car in the General Motors stable. But the trim, engine and body options offered in the initial line-up weren't very Euro-friendly, concentrating on the petrol-engined saloons popular in many markets rather than the diesels and hatchbacks favoured in the UK and western Europe.
Chevrolet, though, has gradually been expanding the Cruze range so that it isn't just a convincing competitor in terms of its abilities but also matches other mid-sized cars' specifications - and British customers' requirements – more closely. First, a 2.0-litre diesel engine was added to the line-up, and a pretty good one as well. Then, last year, a five-door hatchback model was added; the hatch makes the Cruze, which has a rather staid appearance in saloon form, look somewhat younger and sportier, as well as making it a lot more practical.
Now the Cruze gets a second diesel option, a 1.7-litre power unit that's much closer to the mainstream offerings in this sector than the larger, more powerful, two-litre, allowing Chevrolet to compete on a much broader front with competitors such as the Skoda Octavia, Kia cee'd and Hyundai i30. The new engine provides 130 horsepower, still on the generous side compared with the competition, and according to official tests, emits 117g/km of CO2 and uses 62.7 miles per gallon over the combined cycle. Those are good figures in light of the top speed of 124mph and the ability to accelerate from rest to 62mph in 9.4 seconds, although not quite a match for the special eco versions of some competitors.
The new engine is smooth and quiet, with easily enough go for British roads. In particular, it is a better choice than the Cruze's petrol engines, which tend to feel a bit short on torque. For the most part, though, the 1.7VCDi models feel very similar to the rest of the range – strong on space, comfort and refinement, with fundamentally sound, but safe rather than sporty handling. Now only one gap in the Cruze range needs to be filled – and that job is already in hand. At this year's Geneva Motor Show, Chevrolet showed an estate version which hasn't yet made it into the showrooms.
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