Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon review
by David Finlay (15 October 2012)
For those of you who haven't been following the history of the Chevrolet Cruze, it was first launched in the UK as a saloon, which was a bit of a problem since saloons aren't very popular in this part of the world. A hatchback followed last year and in due course replaced the saloon, but now Chevrolet has brought the choice of body styles back up to two by introducing an estate version which it calls the Station Wagon.
The redesign of the rear bodywork is pleasant - though apparently done by someone who doesn't care if you reverse into a lamp post because you can't see it - and loading is sensibly made easier by the wide tailgate and floor-level load sill.
Luggage capacity is 500 litres with the rear seats in place and 1478 litres when they're folded down. In each case that's a big improvement over the hatchback, but most estates of similar size (with the surprising exception of the Ford Focus) offer the same or more in the first configuration, and in the second they all do.
Folding of the rear seats isn't as easy as you might hope. The process itself isn't the problem. The problem is that the headrests, though adjustable, can't be removed (or at least I couldn't do it, and there's nothing in the handbook to suggest that it's possible), and unless the front seats are slid very far forward the headrests thud into them and prevent the folding process from being completed.
This isn't a big issue, but it does make increasing the load volume about three times as much of a bother as it ought to, and I'm surprised nobody thought to do anything about it during the car's development.
A more fundamental problem is that there's very little room for rear passengers. If you want to transport four six-foot adults in comfort, you may have to buy two Cruzes. In the front it's a different story - the seats there have an extraordinary amount of travel (except when the ones in the back are folded), and you could probably get two seven-footers in there without much difficulty.
The seats themselves, however, seem to have been designed for tiny people. They have firm padding near the top which gets me just under the shoulder blades and pushes my back forward so I don't get enough support lower down. On the launch event I didn't get to drive very far, but it struck me that a long journey might not be very comfortable.
There are fewer choices to be made in the Station Wagon range than in the hatchback one, since Chevrolet has contrived only five variants. The range starts with the £15,375 122bhp 1.6-litre petrol LS, which has steel wheels, Electronic Stability Control, traction control, air-conditioning, follow-me-home headlights, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, front electric windows, roof rails, several 12v power sockets, cargo restraint hooks, remote central locking and electronic tailgate release.
The next trim level up is LT, which includes 16" alloy wheels, front foglights, rear parking sensors, cruise control, electric rear windows and leather trim for the steering wheel and gearknob. LT models also come with the greatest range of drivetrains, namely the 1.6 petrol engine fitted to the LS, a 139bhp 1.8 petrol with automatic transmission and the new 128bhp 1.7-litre turbo diesel. Prices are £16,475, £18,075 and £18,925 respectively.
The top-of-the-range model is the LTZ is available only with the diesel engine. It costs £19,785, and included in that price are 17" wheels, satellite navigation with a 7" colour display, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic wipers, an auto-dimming interior mirror and electronic climate control.
As you can see, the diesel Stations Wagons are the most expensive by some margin, but they're also the quickest (0-62mph in 10.4 seconds, top speed 124mph), the most economical (62.8mpg, well ahead of the 1.6's 44.1mpg) and, with a CO2 rating of 119g/km, far and away the cheapest to tax at £30 year. The 1.6 will cost you £170 in Vehicle Excise Duty payments, the 1.8 auto £195, though of course if your annual mileage is low the 1.6 may be make more sense financially, and if you need an automatic the 1.8 is all you've got.
I liked the diesel engine in the hatchback I reviewed earlier this year and I like it in the Station Wagon too. It's a bit throbby at idle and under any kind of acceleration, but it provides decent if not exciting performance and pulls well from as little as 1100rpm.
If I were to buy a Cruze Station Wagon, it would be a diesel, but it definitely wouldn't be an LTZ unless I could downgrade to 16" wheels at no extra cost (or, preferably, for a discount). As with the hatchback, the 17s, or rather the low-profile tyres fitted to them, have a horrible effect, making almost every piece of tarmac feel as if it has been relaid with cobblestones and creating an immense amount of road noise. Definitely to be avoided.
Apart from that, this is a pleasant enough car to drive, with highly assisted steering which some people might feel is overly light for motorway use but certainly makes life very easy when you're manoeuvring in a tight space.
Chevrolet is a budget brand rather than a premium one, and while there's nothing offensive about the Cruze's interior you're unlikely to swoon at how lovely the design and materials are. There is, however, every reason to be impressed by the pricing, which puts the Station Wagon higher up the list of desirable family estates than its comparitively limited practicality merits.