For decades, automakers have been trying to win over the hearts and wallets of the all-important “youth market,” but how to do it has never been an easy question to answer. Exactly how does a faceless, multinational corporation appear “hip” to all these “young people?” Well, in the past it was done with celebrity endorsements, movie tie-ins, and of course, break dancers. But all these are starting to feel, I don’t know, a little old, maybe a little too 20th century. These are Millennials we’re dealing with here, and they’re too smart to fall for any of that. But they love their gadgets, and they love their internet, so for the new Cruze, Chevrolet introduced the car in a language that today’s youths could really understand: emoji.
In the days leading up to the car’s introduction, Chevy declared “You’re Going to Love the All-New 2016 Cruze!” Why is that, exactly? Because “It’s the best new thing since sliced bread for stylish and socially connected people.” And to put an exclamation point on it all, an unnamed Chevy spokesperson said “We had the idea that the new Cruze could change the world.”
Oh. Well, that’s a pretty tall order for the Cruze, especially as it already faces some seriously stiff competition from the Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and the truly great Mazda3, among others. But we’ve just gotten our first look at Chevy’s updated compact sedan, and it is a marked improvement over the old car, and that’s… not quite world-changing, but it is a start.
All hyperbole aside, the new Cruze does look to be a lot more competitive than the car that precedes it. It’s larger both inside and out, yet sits on new architecture that makes it over 250 pounds lighter than the outgoing model. The sharp edges of the current Cruze have been replaced with an aerodynamic, muscular design that shares a strong visual link with its larger Volt and Impala siblings, but with a liberal amount of Mazda3 and Honda Civic seemingly thrown in for good measure.
Power comes from a new 1.4 liter turbocharged inline-four, which Chevy says will put out 153 horsepower, enough take the car to 60 in a class-leading eight seconds. With the combination of a new stop/start function, improved aerodynamics, and lighter weight, you can expect to get about 40 miles per gallon on the highway, with the potential of 530 miles per tank. A 1.5 liter 113 horsepower four, and 1.6 turbo diesel round out the engine choices, and can be mated to your choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
Inside, Chevy took the Cruze upmarket with a nicely-appointed interior. It comes standard with Chevy’s new MyLink infotainment system, and is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Built around the new seven-inch touchscreen is an ergonomically designed center stack and console, with greater thought given to the placement of the shifter, cup holders, and HVAC controls. Soft-touch materials and and a mix of piano black and bright trim work are abundant, making the new Cruze look downright premium compared to the old car. Along with the interior upgrades, safety features like 10 airbags, and four-wheel disc brakes come standard, while a side blind zone alert, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert, are optional.
Worldwide, the Cruze is Chevy’s best-selling car, and it’s moved over 3.5 million of them since its debut in 2008. But as the subcompact segment has grown, the Cruze began to feel a bit behind the times. From here, it looks like Chevy has taken a major step forward with the new one. Will it really change the world? Absolutely not. Will it’s emoji stunt and grandiose statements help it attract more #youths? Who knows. But will Chevy sell a ton of them and generously add to its bottom line regardless? You bet.