Chevy gives the hatchback a nice comeback in 2017 Cruze

 29 Oct 2016 - 11:57

Chevy gives the hatchback a nice comeback in 2017 Cruze
The Cruze hatchback is for moving people and stuff with maximum safety and reasonable economy, Warren Brown says. Chevrolet handout photo

By Warren Brown | The Washington Post

Our new location in this pleasant exurban community requires daily use of adjacent expressways for rapid access to needed urban destinations.

"Rapid" is a term of art. Speed, or the considerable lack of it, depends on the time of day and the day of week. Interstate 66 and U.S. Route 29 can become parking lots.

Anyway, we are learning much from our new travel routes.

This locale, an employment and funding beneficiary of the federal and Virginia state governments, is one of the four regions in the country that comfortably can afford the current average new vehicle transaction price of $33,865. That was what Americans paid for new cars in April - 1.9 percent more than they paid for those vehicles a year earlier.

"Comfortably" means affordability without endangering housing, medical, food or other financial needs, or assuming a six- or eight-year car loan.

The average new vehicle price keeps climbing high . . . and higher. It cannot continue, which is why vehicle leasing, ride-sharing and hatchbacks - the latter once scorned by Americans in pursuit of "prestige" - are gaining popularity.

Hatchbacks? Yeah, they make sense. You see them all over Europe and South America, where economic and transportation needs long ago trumped the desire to impress the neighbors. Here's betting you'll soon be seeing hatchbacks all over U.S. highways, too, largely thanks to Chevrolet's understanding that what makes sense in many foreign markets could also work well in the United States.

That includes hatchbacks and other modes of common-sense transportation. A morning weekday drive east along I-66 is indicative. You see more high-end European vehicles than you would almost anywhere else in America, with the possible exceptions of New York, Los Angeles or Miami. But you mostly see practical, affordable brands - Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet, trucks and utility models of various sorts, often bought more to serve transportation needs than flighty egos.

The Chevrolet Cruze hatchback, all new for the 2017 model year, fits well in that bunch. I sampled the Cruze Premier, which has the added benefits of larger-diameter wheels (18 inches), a full suite of advanced electronic safety technology and a hatchback architecture that can accommodate a Saturday's worth of shopping at a Home Goods store.

Understand what you are buying. The Cruze hatchback is for moving people and stuff and for doing so with maximum safety and reasonable economy - about 28 miles per gallon in the city and 38 miles per gallon on the highway using regular-grade gasoline. Equipped with a turbocharged (forced air), 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine (153 horsepower, 177 pound-feet of torque) and an optional (for this column) six-speed automatic transmission, the Cruze hatchback is not built for zoom-zoom speed. It moves from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 10 seconds, which is about all the acceleration you need on a traffic-jammed I-66.

I like the corporate thinking behind this one. It embraces reality. The cabin, where you will be spending most of your time, is a dual-toned, nicely done place. It is equipped with WiFi and various mobile/emergency communications needs. And it can be gotten, as equipped, for $27,680. Not bad.

Nuts & Bolts

Bottom line: Welcome back, hatchback! This is a good one for young families. Spend the money on advanced electronic safety options.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Ride and handling are suitable for most of us. Acceleration? Forget it. You'll be stuck in traffic, anyway. If not, don't forget that state troopers have those nice cruisers for a reason.

Head-turning quotient: It looks good on any church or school parking lot.

Body style/layout: The 2017 Cruze hatchback is a compact, front-engine, standard front-wheel-drive car with a rear hatch. It is based on the Cruze sedan, which remains available, generally at a lower price. The hatch was first tried, and received raves, in Europe.

Engine/transmission: A 1.4-liter, inline, four-cylinder, 16-valve gasoline engine with variable valve timing, linked to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Capacities: Seating is for five people. Maximum cargo capacity is 47.2 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds an estimated 16.7 gallons of regular-grade gasoline.

Mileage: My real-world, traffic-jam highway mileage averaged 35 miles per gallon.

Safety: Standard equipment includes ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; stability and traction control; post-collision safety system; side and head air bags.

Note: A full suite of advanced electronic safety equipment is available, usually as an extra-cost option. It's worth it. Buy.

Prices: The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze hatchback Premier edition starts at $23,945, with a dealer's invoice price of $22,987. Price as tested is $27,680, including $2,860 in options (mostly advanced electronic safety) and an $875 factory-to-dealer transportation charge. Dealer's price as tested is $26,464.