At the front, the Cruze SW follows the styling of its saloon and hatchback sisters: the bold two-part grille and huge gold badge mean it will stand out in any car park or high street. Perhaps inevitably on such a car, the design of the rear end isn’t as adventurous, but the estate body has certainly been grafted on quite neatly. It’s not too boxy, and the standard roof rails give it quite a sleek look. The only word of caution is that the basic LS models don’t have the alloy wheels fitted to the LT and LTZ
The Cruze’s interior looks more upmarket than its budget price tag would suggest. There’s a centre console which swoops between the seats, and much of the switchgear is shared with the more expensive Vauxhall Astra. Fabric coverings on the dash are an unusual touch, and the dials are illuminated in a relaxing blue. It’s a shame Chevrolet hasn’t followed this flair with the materials used; some of the trim feels cheap and it’s not in keeping with the car’s more upmarket aspirations.
The cabin offers enough room for general family use, with space for four adults to sit in comfort. There’s the usual array of storage spaces in reach of the driver, and rear passengers can use a fold-down armrest with twin cupholders in the centre seat. With the rear seats in place, the boot provides 500 litres of space, and that expands to just under 1500 with the rear seats dropped. These figures are on a par with most of the Cruze’s rivals’, although a little below those in the Kia Cee’d Sportwagon. On the other hand, the Cruze’s boot is a nice, square shape, long and easy to load, while it’s no problem to lower and raise the rear seats when you need more space.
Ride and handling
Sadly, the Cruze SW isn’t as smooth and comfortable as the saloon and hatchback. In particular, we found the ride to be too firm, the steering too vague at higher speeds, and the wind and road noise excessive. Overall, the Cruze simply isn’t as accomplished as the Kia C’eed and Hyundai i30. On the other hand, at least there’s not too much body roll when cornering, and the light steering makes low-speed manoeuvres easy.
Chevrolet offers two petrols and two diesel engines in the Cruze SW, but we have only driven the 1.7-litre diesel. There’s no problem with the performance it gives, pulling strongly across the rev range, but its refinement is rather less impressive: it’s noisy when you rev it and the noise never fades into the background, even at the motorway limit. We’re yet to try the other engines, but experience in the hatchback suggests that the 1.6-litre petrol unit will struggle in this larger model.
The Cruze SW is priced in line with the Kia Cee’d Sportswagon and Hyundai i30 Tourer. That means it undercuts similarly sized models like the Ford Focus, while its five year-warranty matches Hyundai’s, and will help reduce running costs over the first few years of ownership. However, buyers can expect the Cruze to shed value more quickly than the others, and road tax could be fairly costly: no petrol-engined model emits less than 150g/km of CO2, and specifying an automatic gearbox increases emissions by around 20g/km. The 1.7 diesel is more attractive, though, averaging more than 60mpg, and insurance is about average for this kind of car.
Much of the Chevy’s mechanicals have been borrowed by Vauxhall for the Astra, so although the Cruze is a comparatively rare sight on the roads, buyers can take heart from the Astra’s build quality. Our time with the Cruze suggests that its interior trim is robust and the car should prove reliable. A five-year warranty gives added peace of mind.
The Chevrolet Cruze saloon scored maximum marks in the Euro NCAP crash test programme, but the SW is yet to be tested. The organization praised the model for the way it protects adult and child occupants, with only its pedestrian protection returning marginal marks. Standard equipment includes collapsible pedals to reduce leg injury, six airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution.
Three equipment grades are available: LS, LT and LTZ. LS comes only with the 1.6-litre petrol engine and a manual gearbox, but brings air-con, electric front windows and door mirrors and remote central locking. LT models add rear parking sensors, 16-inch alloy wheels and steering wheel-mounted audio controls, while LTZ models also feature sat-nav, cruise control, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, automatic wipers and lights, 17-inch alloys and interior aluminum trim.
The Chevrolet Cruze SW is well equipped, has plenty of space inside, and is cheaper to buy than many rivals. The 1.7 diesel engine may not be the best engine in some respects, but it’s the most sensible one to choose in this range.