This week Thegandra took the new Chevrolet Cruze onto the open road and gives us his feedback on the vehicle. He also chats about the history of General Motors from concept to bankruptcy to gaining market position again. He took a specific look at General Motors in SA and their involvement with the Rally to Read campaign.
Thegandra Naidoo in conversation with BizRadio’s Grant Jansen
Podcast | Click HERE to listen
On the road………..
No doubt about it, the Cruze is a modern day Chevrolet success story, being a strong seller in every market it contests – it is a regular Top 10 performer in SA – and ranks as the company’s current best-selling nameplate. Why, it is even a front-runner in World Touring Car racing. Up to now it has only been available in saloon form, but two hatchback versions have recently been added to the range, which will almost certainly increase the model’s popularity.
The stubbier tail means that the five-door hatch is shorter than the four-door, and boot capacity is also less, measuring 413-litres against the saloon’s 450. But that still is a lot of luggage space, and of course once the cargo cover is removed a bit more room is available. Another bonus is that the big square, tailgate aperture facilitates bigger objects being loaded than the saloon’s boot lid allows.
And once you have folded down the 60:40 split rear seat backrest to liberate 883-litres, well the practicality of a hatchback is clearly evident, although to be fair the seatback folds down in the saloon too. Loading height is sensible – it is more of an effort to lift shopping out of a supermarket trolley than load goods into the Hatch’s carpeted bay.
Design-wise, adding a tailgate has done nothing to spoil the Cruze’s handsome looks. It is a fairly big and car and at just over 1.8 tonnes quite heavy (but 15kg less than the equivalent saloon). Two models are offered, a 1.6 LS and 1.8 LS – both with a five-speed manual gearbox – and offer the same impressive combined cycle fuel economy figure of 6.7-litres per 100km.
But performance in the 1.6L, which we drive, is not a strong point. The engine – claimed to deliver 91kW and 155Nm – revs freely but in the higher gears it runs out of puff as the red line approaches. It will get from 0-100kph in 12.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 190kph. However, customers of this model are unlikely to be concerned. The gear shift is an absolute delight – short throws around a clearly defined gate.
Dynamically, the Cruze is light and nimble to operate with notably good Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH) control. The suspension is compliant and there is little evident body roll through the tight bends. There is not enough oomph to challenge the car’s inherent neutral handling traits, which means it is utterly fail-safe. Six airbags and ISOFIX child seat anchorages are standard.
The cabin a spacious enough and the comfortable driver’s seat offer a lot of adjustment. Instrumentation includes an on-board computer but my only real gripe is that I found the instrument cluster cover carried reflections – not too distracting, but noticeable. The air-con is effective and the LS spec level is comprehensive.
The quality, fit and finish of the materials is good without being premium. Infotainment equipment includes radio, CD front loader, MP3, AUX, RDS, USB and Bluetooth audio streaming as standard – six speakers are fitted.
A five-year/120 000km warranty with roadside assistance and a three-year/60 000km service plan are included in the R220,000 selling price – R3,000 less than the 1.6 LS Saloon.
Thegandra Naidoo? A motoring journalist. He has a decade’s experience in the automotive industry and is best known for his technical knowledge of cars. He has worked on various local television productions and co-presented a motoring feature on Kaya FM a few years back. He currently holds the position as Features & Online Editor for Automotive Business Review. He is currently completing a mid-career Honours in Journalism and Media Studies degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. Thegandra is a FULL member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.