Will the Heavily Altered Chevrolet Cruze Continue the Success of Its Predecessor?

What changes will make it different?

The model-year 2015 gets a minor facelift to hold us over until the all-new offering of this compact arrives for the ’16 model year. It turns out that there are going to be two slightly different versions for model-year 2016, one designed specifically for the Chinese market and another for the United States and other territories. The car will feature an all-new front fascia featuring Fiesta-like narrowed headlights and an imposing, large two-part grille. Additionally, the roofline will likely become more coupe-like as this popular little Chevy develops a much sportier character. From what we’ve seen of the Chinese model, the interior is also getting a big update that looks to be very appealing indeed. The model-year ’15 2.0-liter turbo diesel should carry over; Chevrolet has had considerable success and much acclaim in this area recently. However, since fuel economy is such an important factor nowadays, gasoline engines could see at least some new EcoTec models.

Why should I wait for the 2016?

If you are at the end or your normal change cycle, the model-year 2015 Cruze is a great car and you wouldn’t be making a big mistake by buying one. However, if you can wait for the ’16 model year, you’ll likely be in for a treat. This version is certainly going to have significant updates that should be a hit with buyers.

Should I buy a 2015 instead?

Chevrolet didn’t used to have a stellar reputation when it came to developing small cars, but that has changed, and the model-year ’15 Cruze has been a big part of it. If you can put up with its slightly bland exterior, you will find much to love about this model. It has a stylish and roomy interior that complements its smooth and quiet ride, and it also has excellent safety ratings.

Will the styling be different?

Chevy has got just about everything right with the model-year 2015 Cruze except the styling. It wasn’t all that exciting when the car was launched, and it certainly hasn’t compared well to the competition. The automaker’s South Korean team contributed heavily to the development of the model-year ’15 version, but operations have been moved to Detroit following reported relationship issues with the Seoul workforce. This is bound to lead to a new styling direction for model-year 2016, which has to be considered a good thing.

Any mechanical changes?

There have been rumblings of major “engineering changes” that have led to a delay of the model-year 2016 vehicle. This has produced speculation that the Cruze will be built on a whole new global platform that will form the basis of GM’s compact sedan and crossover models for the foreseeable future. Such a scenario would mean major updates, such as all-new chassis, engines, transmissions and possibly steering. For a brand that’s already successful, this type of overhaul is unusual.

Will fuel economy improve?

If a major automaker were to release an all-new model of a vehicle these days that didn’t improve on the outgoing version’s fuel economy, it would be laughed out of town. Economy is one of the most important areas of current automotive development and a major force for encouraging buyers to switch to a new car. The current turbo diesel has already won considerable acclaim for its economy, so further improvements in this area are a certainty.

Will it have new features?

The model-year ’15 version has already received significant improvements in terms of available features, with additions such as a new version of the MyLink infotainment system, an OnStar 4G LTE high-speed embedded data connection with Wi-Fi hotspot capability, a seven-inch touchscreen, extra USB ports and an AppShop. While plenty of buyers will be tempted enough by the all updated styling, it would be naive to think that the model-year 2016 Cruze won’t also see some new or improved technological goodies. There’s no word yet on features such as stop/start becoming standard, but with a number of competitors going down this road, we wouldn’t be shocked if it appeared here.

How will 2016 prices be different?

There likely will be some sort of price increase, although it could be difficult to work out if the trim levels change significantly. Overall, however, the cost of the Cruze shouldn’t rise a great deal because the carmaker wants to retain its place in this segment of cars.

When Is the Expected Release Date?

The auto-show launch is tentatively set for December 2014 or January 2015, and it could hit dealerships by the middle of calendar-year ’15.

Best competitors

Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra, Volkswagen Jetta, Mazda 3

What change would make it better?

As we said, a big change is needed in the area of styling, and there’s every reason to expect this to happen. It’s always difficult to make a car even better when the current model is so good, but Chevy seems to be following a trend of delivering more vehicle at a reasonable price. To keep up with the competition, the interior materials need to become more upscale and the exterior must feature up-to-date LED lights and sharper, more futuristic styling. The inclusion of stop/start technology and even more safety features are important to buyers, so advances have to also be made in those departments.

Quick hit

This is already a great little vehicle, and you should be able to get increasingly better deals on a ’15 version as more gets revealed about the model-year 2016 offering. Everything points to the model-year ’16 Cruze being an exceptional competitor in the compact sedan segment, with Chevrolet intent on improving upon anything that may have made buyers overlook prior versions. If the whole package turns out to be a good as we think, the automaker’s reputation for producing great small cars will continue to grow.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]