Toyota Prius owners attracted by the Chevrolet Cruze

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 17, 2011

General Motors sold 24,648 units of the Chevrolet Cruze in July, making it the top-selling U.S. compact for that month. It did better than the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus. It also sold more units in June than other cars of any size. One of those customers is Mike Sussman, a systems analyst who traded in his Toyota Prius for a Chevrolet Cruze because he wanted better mileage and more pep.

He said that he felt like he was driving a “science experiment” with the Prius.

GM priced the Cruze at $16,525, which positions it between the Corolla and the Prius. The Cruze, which has a mileage of at least 30 mpg, aided in making GM the top seller of vehicles worldwide in the first half. GM had lost this ranking on an annual basis in 2008, which was the year before it had to be bailed out by the government.

GM’s turnaround is demonstrated with its rise in the small-car market, where GM hasn’t had much success before. In the first seven months of the year, the U.S. market share of GM widened to 20% from the previous year’s 19.2% share. Autodata Corp. said that 42% of GM’s sales were made up of passenger cars. Last year, GM recorded 39%.

In terms of design, the new Chevrolet Cruze features solid and taut design with attention to details both on the exterior and inside the cabin. Up front, the Cruze is marked by a two-tier grille and Chevrolet’s Bowtie logo. This is bordered on the sides by the sporty headlamp housings wrapping around the corners while sweeping upward in the fenders and its sculpted hood.

Its sporty appearance is highlighted by its athletic stance as well as by an arching roofline connecting the raked windshield on the front and the pillars on the rear. Its sportiness is also revealed by its short and front overhangs as well as by a short rear deck usually seen on sports coupes. Wider and longer than many of its rivals, the new Cruze is provided with a solid bodywork augmented by the limited use of exterior trim – resulting to high-quality and precise exterior work. This precision is made possible by Chevrolet’s move to retool the body shop at its Lordstown assembly facility with the most modern in body-framing and welding equipment that should allow it to optimize the building of a solid body structure.

As a result, the production variances have been reduced to minimal so that the repeatable gap tolerances between most exterior panels have been limited to 3 mm – making the Cruze feel and look taut and solid. On the other hand, the interior of the new Chevrolet Cruze also conveys the quality, precision and styling of the exterior. This is particularly evident in its Chevrolet Corvette-inspired twin-cockpit theme, stunning assembly tolerances and the use of high-quality materials and exceptional assembly tolerances.

For instance, the cabin uses grained, soft-touch components and low-gloss trim panels. Moreover, the Cruze is endowed with an instrument panel that is unlike many of compact cars currently. It used light-emitting diode (LED) technology to provide a crisp, ice-blue illumination of the analog instruments and for other interior controls. The panel is also home to a standard driver information center that is uncommon in the compact segment.

Meanwhile, the cabin of the Cruze comes with an integrated center stack that houses the radio controls, climate controls and the infotainment display. This center stack provides an excellent example of the Cruze’s precision and refinement – the gaps between the flush-mounted components measure less than 1 mm. Likewise, the gaps between the instrument panel and the door panel measure less than 5 mm. Interior refinement and craftsmanship are well-conveyed through the Cruze's headliner and pillar trim exude craftsmanship.

For instance, one of the five layers of the headliner and its cover are made from a knit material that helps keep the noise down inside the cabin. For an upscale look, the color and the grain of the interior pillar and other moldings are matched to the headliner. Likewise, the color of seat inserts is matched to that of the instrument panel accent trim.

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