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WAY OF THE WAGON
Published on Sunday 26 May 2013 02:52
Ten Second Review
There's no doubt that in Station Wagon estate form, the Chevrolet Cruze makes a decent fist of what it has, with 500-litres of space in the back that can be extended up to 1,500. The 1.6 petrol engine is no great shakes, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper to buy than the low-emission 1.7 VCDi diesel.
Chevrolet finally seems to be getting it. It's taken them some time but then there have been many attempts by this US brand to figure us Brits out, usually with disastrous results. When the Cruze first came to this country, it was offered as a saloon only, which virtually guaranteed it the cold shoulder. It took until summer of 2011 for the hatchback version to appear which perked up sales somewhat, but should have been there from the start. As should the variant we're looking at here, the Station Wagon estate, finally launched here in the Spring of 2012.
This is some smart thinking. After virtually deserting the estate car in favour of 4x4s and people carriers, the genre is now enjoying something of a revival. So, with a good looking, well engineered and aggressively-priced estate model thrown into a growing market, it's hard to see how Chevrolet can fail.
Like its siblings, the Cruze Station Wagon is built on the General Motors Delta platform, which is the same chassis that underpins the Vauxhall Astra. This means you get compact and effective suspension that has proven in the hatchback and saloon models to deliver a good ride/handling compromise. Factor in state of the art crash structures with the added benefit of electronic stability control on even the entry-level model and you have a very composed and safe car.
When the Cruze hatch first appeared, buyers got the choice of two petrol engines and a 2.0-litre diesel, but the Station Wagon augments that choice with a more economical 1.7-litre diesel unit. This engine is good for 130bhp, with the sprint to 60mph taking around nine and a half seconds on the way to a top speed of 125mph. A 123bhp 1.6-litre marks the entry point to the range, with a 140bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine also available. We've tried the petrol engines before and they're not overly endowed with torque. In an estate car, torque is most certainly your friend, so the 1.7-litre diesel, with its 300Nm of torque is sure to be very popular amongst those who can afford it. Compare that to the 176Nm of torque delivered by the 1.8-litre petrol unit and you'll see why it looks a better bet. If you're carrying lots of gear or towing, it's a no-brainer.
Design and Build
At 4,678mm, the Station Wagon grafts another 168mm onto the length of the hatchback and this is accounted for by rear overhang length. While this means the back seat passengers don't get any extra knee-room, it does give the Cruze Station Wagon a decent load capacity. Keep the rear seats in place and you'll be able to stow 500-litres of gear to the line of the windows. Really go to town by folding the rear seats down and there's up to 1,500-litres of space available.
The exterior styling is neat, with the extra visual weight at the back cleverly massaged into the design with the help of a tapering single arch roofline. The Station Wagon is fitted with roof rails as standard, providing convenience while maintaining a sporty look. This model sees the introduction of modified head-lamp interiors and fog lamps, as well as revised wheel styles.
For what is still a budget car, the Cruze doesn't appear instantly built down to a price. The cabin is well finished, with plenty of adventurous details, such as the swathe of fabric that runs across the dashboard, the triple-cowled instrument panel or the updated centre console. The dials emit a soothing blue glow at night, the seat fabrics are now of better quality than before and the stalks and switches move with an integrity that would shame some Mercedes models.
Market and Model
The market for compact family hatchback-based estate cars in which the Cruze Station Wagon competes has been subtly shifting. As Korean entrants like the Hyundai i30 Tourer and the Kia cee'd SW have been creeping upmarket, mainstream favourites like estate versions of the Astra, Megane and Focus have also been upping their game to attack the badge equity of Volkswagen's Golf Estate - and the spectre of cheap Chinese imports soon to be flooding the market. It's into this maelstrom that the Cruze Station Wagon is pitched and it'll need to make a strong and early impact with UK buyers if it's to succeed.
Chevrolet offers three trim levels, LS, LT, and LTZ Nav, with prices starting at under £16,000. The top trim level nets you cruise control, electric windows all round, a multi-function trip computer, parking distance sensors, Bluetooth, a USB port, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, an electro-chromatic rear view mirror, 17-inch alloys, aluminium-effect trim on the instrument panel, leather trim, satellite navigation and heated front seats. Only the 1.8-litre petrol engine is offered with an automatic gearbox and the £2,500 step up from an LT specification 1.6 petrol to the same trim but with the 1.7-litre diesel looks a little optimistic.
Cost of Ownership
Paying an additional £2,500 over a petrol engine to get a diesel might not make sense to everyone, especially if the car isn't doing big annual mileages, so don't discount the 1.6-litre petrol model out of hand. It might just be the best buy. Clearly there are advantages to having a bigger, torquier engine at your disposal but you'll only claw that price premium back in saved fuel if you're covering some serious miles in your tenure with the car. Some recompense might well come in the form of carbon dioxide emissions, which are rated at just 119g/km for the diesel model.
We've waited some time for the Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon and also for an optimum diesel engine in the Cruze line-up, something delivered here by the pokey 1.7 VCDi unit. With this estate car backing up the saloon and hatch models, the Cruze range now feels properly fleshed out, offering something for most needs. It's a decent estate car too, offering clean lines and respectable carrying capacity for a compact model. The 1.7-litre diesel engine is a far cleaner and more efficient thing than the old 2.0-litre diesel, though it hasn't offered the price breakthrough we had hoped for. In fact, the more we look at the range, the more the 1.6-litre petrol model makes sense to anyone but company car user/choosers and high mileage private drivers.
Either way, if you look at the big picture, value continues to be this car's strongest suit, as always with Chevy products. You might have hoped for the diesel derivatives to be a little more affordable but the fact remains that something like an 'LTZ Nav'-trim 1.7-litre VCDi version of this Station Wagon model represents an awful lot of car against its rivals for well under £20,000. And if you don't need all of that kit, as we've said, the 1.6-litre petrol variants are a veritable bargain.