Full review here. I got a loaner for the day.
I just got a used 1LT Cruze for a free loaner today from a local dealer. These are my observations:
Looks-it was white and the front end looked good to me. Not crazy about the rear end but it's not that bad, but that chrome bar looks out of place. They should at least make it less shiny.
The interior looks nice but that cheesy cloth on the dash is just not needed. Blah.
The cloth seats were hard on the cushion and they were a little too narrow and too short (seems to be a Chevy thing) I'm not a big guy and I don't know how a large person could fit in them comfortably. The lack of lumbar controls is a glaring omission that even my 2006 Cobalt has. I think it's ridiculous that with the attention they paid to the interior they would leave something as necessary and obvious as this out of a brand new car that will cost around 20 grand. Ridiculous and inexcusable. (Rant over.)
The inside rear view mirror should be one inch wider to cover the entire rear window easily (my Cobalt's is wider).
The Center stack A/C vents are awkwardly placed so that the air has to pass through the steering wheel to get to your face. The lowest fan speed is worthless, can't even feel it.
The push button controls for the airflow directions are not as intuitive or as easy to use without looking at them as a simple rotary dial.
The volume knob for the stereo is a little too small. The sound was fine.
The center console is child size. Pretty worthless. What were they thinking?
The speedometer is hard to see through the steering wheel so it's a good thing they have the digital speedo in the middle on the LED screen (I like that feature, all cars should have it)
I don't like that green light that stays on when automatic headlights are used. Who needs this? I know they're on.
Side visibility is not very good because when you turn your head there is that thick pillar there. I guess that's why they're adding a side lane warning system (how about just make the car easier to see out of?) Ditto for the rear-not so bad but could have better visibility.
There seems to be no place for me to put my left foot, while the Cobalt has a dead pedal that was placed in a good spot. I also find that the center console intrudes on my right leg space.
Now for the ride-the car feels like a bigger car. It takes bumps well but kind of wallows a bit like a larger car. It glides over imperfections on the Freeway like they aren't there (unlike my Balt which gets into a groove and stays there). The steering is a little too loose for my taste but it's not bad.
The engine was a little rough at idle-was not expecting that.
The brakes are kind of mushy and not very confidence inspiring but probably par for this class.
The engine is the glaring weakness in the Cruze. While it seems to have enough pickup for everyday moves, the tranny skips too much at low speeds It's impossible to drive the car smoothly and while it speeds up fine to get into traffic if you have to slow down and then speed up again the engine complains loudly (very loudly) and takes too long to get up to speed again. Basically this feels like a good riding car waiting for a good power train.
There was a surprisingly large amount of wind noise coming from the driver's door.
I also noticed some odd actions when going into reverse and then switching to drive and taking my foot off the brake the car seemed to drift backwards even on a slight incline.
When I brought the car back I mentioned the seat comfort and wallow and they had me test drive a 2LT. The leather seats are very hard, even harder than the cloth and the seat back didn't hit my back in a good way-it didn't conform to the curve of the back like the cloth seats did. I would have to say I prefer the cloth, imperfect as they are. Very disappointed because I was thinking the leather seats would be better. The suspension was a little sportier but the erratic shifting was there on this car as well.
So, the situation as it stands is that I'm not crazy about this car. I don't hate it, I could live with it, but do I want to spend new car money on a car I'm not crazy about?
I think (my opinion only) that GM made a mistake trying to make this car behave like a midsize and increasing the size (and shrinking the engines). The Sonic cannot take the place of the Cobalt and smaller Compacts like the Elantra, Civic and Corolla because it simply is not good enough. It feels and rides like a subcompact.
For the next generation Cruze I hope Chevy makes it feel and ride like a Compact (sportier, more toss-able) and put a decent engine-tranny combo that shifts smoothly and has plenty of power to move the car without making the engine cry.
I'm going to test drive the new Civic and Forte when they come out and see how they compare.
More likely, I'm probably going to wait until 2013 and see if they're going to do a proper MCE on the car. If not, I will have to sadly look elsewhere.
Time to get new tires and a serpentine belt on my Cobalt.