Chevrolet Cruze RS Hatchback: Desperately in Need of an SS Badge
Sharp European styling, and feature-rich, this Red Hot Chevy just needs to be more red hot under the hood.
Yes, the handsome European-looking hatchback is a Chevy. This is the Chevrolet Cruze RS hatchback, a car Chevrolet is hoping will win over consumers cross-shopping against the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. Initial impressions are important here, and the Chevy takes the cake. We couldn’t stop ogling the design in the office. The Red Hot paint job certainly isn’t the hurting the cause here.
But there’s more to selling cars than just getting the looks right, so let’s dig into it. The Cruze comes in a variety of trim levels, and to truly explain how à la carte the Cruze is, I will direct you to Chevy’s online configurator. Good luck getting out of there alive.
Under the hood
That said, the two big things that differentiate any given Cruze hatchback are the engine choices. The standard engine is a turbocharged 1.4L inline-four cylinder engine, which produces 155 horsepower, and a 177 lb-ft of torque. The optional upgrade is a 1.6L turbo-diesel four-cylinder, which offers 137 horsepower, 240 lb-ft of torque, and big MPG figures. Either engine can be paired with a 6-speed automatic, or 6-speed manual transmission. This test car had the gasser, and the automatic.
The engine is a fighter, offering massive spunk in the mid-range, and pulling pretty well up to its 6,500 RPM redline. There is an optional ($1045) performance exhaust available that would likely further add to the personality. The standard pipes are clearly not going to set car alarms off in the local parking structure, but it sounds fruity enough. We’re guessing the extra exhaust note would work great here. Though, cost-conscientious enthusiasts will likely look elsewhere for increased decibels over the standard pipes.
The 6-speed automatic transmission, however, is a miss. While the engine is buzzy and frenetic on-throttle, the transmission can’t be bothered to play along. Upshifts, and downshifts require ample time to allow the transmission to figure out what’s going on. The “manual mode” doesn’t help, either. In fact, there were half a dozen instances where after pouncing off the line from a light, the car would bump into the rev limiter while the transmission tried to interpret why I asked for an upshift three seconds prior. If your daily commute allows for a clutch pedal, look to the manual, its a much better match here.
But the interior
Simply put, it’s excellent. This Premier trim hatchback is nearly fully-loaded when it comes to interior goodies, and it shows. Front and rear heated seats, Chevrolet’s MyLink system with the 8″ screen, automatic climate control, it goes on ad infinitum. Most everything falls to the hand naturally, and the buttons are where you would expect them to be.
Though, the volume and radio controls on the back of the steering wheel are wacky. I know most every Chevy does this, it’s just hard for me to wrap my brain around. Oh, and ‘piano black’ interior trim always shows smudges and fingerprints, and this Chevy is no exception. It’s a minor nitpick.
And speaking of content, this Premium trim car has a large suite of driving aides and active safety tech. Forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning and lane change alert with side blind zone alert in the mirrors, are all part of this package. It all seems to work pretty well, too. After getting perhaps, a bit too close to the car in front of me in traffic, the forward collision alert went off, saving me from certain demise. Of course, when you’re inching along at 2 MPH in L.A. traffic, its best to turn the system off, as it doesn’t always understand the local driving style. Welcome to Los Angeles, Chevy.
When it comes to passenger comfort, again, the Cruze hatchback does no wrong. The leather seating feels nice to the touch, and the driving position is very good, offering great adjustability for a range of driver sizes and seating positions. That hatchback shape also means that rear seat occupants will be comfy for the long haul. And it has a big trunk. Very little to gripe about here.