This time last year, my sister was shopping for a new car and was torn between the Chevy Cruze and the Mazda3. When she told the Mazda salesperson her situation, she fired back a line that sounded like she’d been waiting to use all day: “We don’t lose to Cruze.” Less than 24 hours later, my sister ended up buying the Mazda.
On paper, Mazda sales aren’t nearly enough to keep the Chevy brass up at night. The Cruze is Chevy’s best-selling car model in the world, selling over 3.5 million of them since 2009. In 2015, it sold a healthy 226,602 of them in America, while Mazda sold less than half that. But sedan sales are dwindling across the board, and hatchbacks are looking more and more like the wave of the future. Competitors like the Mazda3, Ford Focus, and Toyota Corolla (by way of the Scion iM) are all available as competitive, sporty-ish five-door hatchback versions on of their four-door models, while the Cruze to this point has remained a sedan-only model. So to protect against any potential sales losses, a five-door hatch is joining the Cruze lineup for 2017, and unveiling the car ahead of is physical debut at next week’s Detroit Auto Show.
While this is big news for Chevy in America, it’s nothing new to the rest of the world. Both a hatch and wagon variant have been available in the rest of the world for over five years now, but while Europe and Asia are full of good-looking hatches, the Chevy wasn’t one of them. Its rear design doesn’t look bad on its own, but with the front end we Americans are used to grafted on, the car’s styling looked like an afterthought. Thankfully, that isn’t the case anymore, the all-new Cruze looks like something we wouldn’t mind driving as a sedan or a hatch.
Across the board, it seems like 2016 will be the year when automakers solidify their lineups, bringing the last of their models in line with a styling direction that will lead most of them into the next decade. Chevy is no exception; the new Cruze looks like the all-new Bolt EV, which looks a lot like the Volt hybrid. They all look like the new Malibu, which in turn looks like a baby Impala. As for why Chevy decided to bring the Cruze hatch our way, the answer is simple: numbers. “With 9 percent market growth in small hatchbacks last year, it’s the perfect time to bring the Cruze Hatch to America,” says Alan Batey, president of GM North America and Global Chevrolet. “As Cruze continues to set the tone for Chevrolet globally, it articulates the brand promise of offering cars with the latest technologies, more features and greater efficiency, performance and safety with fresh, distinctive styling.”
The Cruze is the latest car to lose weight while gaining room inside. Even in hatchback form, the car is over 200 pounds lighter than the ’09-’15 model, thanks in part to a 100-pound weight loss in the body structure, and the 1.4 liter turbo inline-four’s shedding of another 44 pounds. The hatchback will be available L, LS, LT, Premier, and go-fast RS versions, but they’ll all be powered by the same 153 horsepower, 177 pound-feet mill. No word on whether or not a manual transmission will be offered yet.
Inside, the Cruze Hatch will come standard with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, as well as the latest generation of Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system. Chevy is quick to call out its competitors, listing “More standard safety features than any other compact car – including Corolla and Civic,” and “two inches greater rear legroom than Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra.” On sale this fall, Chevy seems raring to jump into the five-door fray. From this far out, it looks like it may have fielded a serious contender.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.