in 2011 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $11,717 - $13,853
Original MSRP: $16,525 - $22,225
MPG: 26 City / 36 Hwy
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2011 Chevrolet Cruze Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Among affordable small cars with good performance, the automotive industry says the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is almost as good as it gets. It offers a comfortable, smooth ride with good power and high fuel economy ratings. If you’re looking for something sporty, however, the industry says you should test the Volkswagen Golf or the Mazda3, which are more fun to drive.  

  • "Fire it up, and the first thing you notice is what you don't hear. A lot of engine noise. Chevy did a lot of work on NVH, or noise, vibration and halitosis. When it comes to the matter of a quiet ride the Cruze easily tops the Civic, Corolla and Sonata." -- MarketWatch
  • "Peppy yet efficient turbocharged engine." -- Edmunds
  • "Cruze feels sprightly around town and confidently merges onto the highway, but its passing response is more leisurely." -- Consumer Guide
  • "On the road, the Cruze really scores over its competition in two areas: refinement and ride quality." -- Car and Driver
  • "It's not a bad little driver, either, and the price is good. An econobox that is fun(ish) to drive is rare. This is one of them." -- AutoWeek

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze has two inline four-cylinder engines: an optional 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and a standard 1.8-liter engine. Of the two, reviewers think that either engine is fine. They say the 1.8-liter engine’s 138 horsepower and 125 torque provide more oomph than shoppers might expect. Before you upgrade to the 1.4-liter because it has more juice, you might want to reconsider. No reviewer jumps out and says it’s significantly more powerful than the base engine. In fact, the 1.4-liter also makes 138 horsepower, but produces 23 more pound-feet of torque than the base engine.

In terms of fuel economy, the Cruze’s EPA-estimated ratings are good. The 1.4-liter engine averages 24/36 mpg city/highway with an automatic transmission. The 1.8-liter engine with a manual has higher ratings of 26/36 mpg. Automatics with the turbocharged engine have lower ratings. They get 22/35 mpg. 

In terms of overall performance, the industry is impressed with the Chevrolet Cruze. It’s not as sporty as the Mazda3 or Volkswagen Golf, but they don’t think it’s supposed to be. Chevrolet designed the Cruze for shoppers looking for a comfortable, smooth daily commuter, and the industry thinks the Cruze meets those expectations.

  • "You won't mistake Cruze for a Corvette, but the 1.4-liter engine paired with the 6-speed automatic transmission provides more-than-adequate acceleration in most situations." -- Consumer Guide
  • "My tests returned excellent economy, but the mileage is somewhat fragile because you end up flogging the car just to keep pace. Thus whipped, the engine isn’t exactly loud, but it is mildly unpleasant, an effect like a swarm of bees partying inside an oak tree. Passing requires planning." -- The New York Times
  • "While power has certainly been sacrificed, the 1.4-liter turbo provides enough punch for most everyday needs. There is some minor turbo lag from a stop, and passing can be labored.” -- MSN
  • "I didn't realize this has a turbo, so that explains the lag I experienced off the line and in getting up to freeway speeds. A bit annoying, but once you are up to speed, on interstates and on neighborhood streets, there's plenty of power to move the Cruze." -- AutoWeek

Handling and Braking

Reviewers don’t say the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze has best-in-class handling or braking capabilities, but they’re still impressed. The Cruze’s brakes are strong, steering is accurate, and there’s little body lean or understeer. 

  • "The low-rolling-resistance tires don’t seem to have a similar effect on handling and braking, though; from behind the wheel, the Eco feels nimbler and more responsive than other Cruzes." -- Car and Driver 
  • "The accurate steering has good feel and little need for correction. Cruze's overall handling inspires confidence with minimal body lean in turns. Braking is smooth and strong with good pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "The Cruze takes to the curves ably, with a competent suspension and good body control." -- Chicago Tribune
  • "The steering is direct and confident." -- The New York Times

Next Steps: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze

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