Chevrolet Cruze SW 1.7 VCDi 2012 Road Test

The Cruze was the first of the ‘new breed’ of Chevrolet models, introduced after the US brand took over from Daewoo. It offered much improved quality, value for money and attractive styling. Unfortunately though, it was originally only a saloon, which is far from practical.

Chevrolet partially addressed this in 2011 when it introduced a hatchback version and a broader engine line-up. Now it has added the Station Wagon estate variant which makes the most sense of the three. It’s offered with 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol engines but both are a little coarse and lacklustre. Luckily the 1.7-litre VCDi diesel is altogether more appealing.

Regardless of engine, the most important consideration when buying an estate car is space and practicality. In that regard it’s difficult to fault the Cruze SW. The load area is flat, there's no lip over which to lift heavy objects, and with the seats folded, there is 1478 litres of space. That’s a little less than some rivals, like Hyundai i30 and Kia Cee'd SW, but it's still very useful.

There are some neat touches in the load area like the adjustable and removable load cover plus a neat little shelf behind the rear seats for storing odds and ends. There are also a couple of small cubby holes to the sides of the boot for keeping bits and pieces, while the floor can be lifted to hide smaller items.

The rest of the cabin is familiar Cruze. It’s attractively styled and well put together, but the materials leave something to be desired and the layout of the centre console, particularly when sat-nav is installed, is a little confusing. There are some nice embellishments though, like the fabric detail on the dashboard.

Externally the SW is handsome enough. While some estate cars look a little dumpy and awkard, the Cruze doesn’t. It’s arguably better looking than both the hatch and the saloon.

Once comfortable behind the wheel, which is fairly easy thanks to reach and rake adjustment on the steering column and height adjustable seats, driving the Cruze is a familiar experience. It’s not dissimilar to the hatch or the saloon, with a relaxed and secure nature. It’s not the last word in driver enjoyment but it’s stable and composed. There’s a little body roll in bends but it’s nothing too serious.

The steering is curiously sensitive to engine choice though. Petrol-powered models have very light, vague steering that really needs a bit more ‘bite’ when turning into a bend, but the extra weight of the diesel engine makes a difference, although it’s still the weakest point of the drive.

The ride is impressively smooth and comfortable, plus there’s not much road noise regardless of speed. Over A-roads and motorways the Cruze is fairly serene and will chug along nicely. Even over more twisting routes it's adequate if not particularly exciting.

The 1.7-litre diesel engine is versatile thanks to a decent torque figure of 300Nm from 2000rpm. Peak power is 130PS and emissions are 119g/km, while official fuel economy is 62.8mpg. The engine clatters a little at idle and when pushed hard but is otherwise fairly subdued. While it’s far from scintillating, it’s well up to the job of carrying passengers in comfort, along with whatever cargo they might need.

The Cruze SW comes in LT and LTZ trim levels, both of which are well equipped, with 12v socket in the boot, cruise control, parking sensors and air conditioning. Top-spec LTZ-NAV models also get sat nav and a reversing camera, a handy touch on estate cars, which often end up packed with visibility obscuring cargo.

Chevrolet expects the diesel to be the most popular engine, with its low emissions tempting company car drivers, but it’s also a good choice for private buyers seeking a value-for-money estate car with generous equipment levels. A five-year warranty adds to the appeal. The model we tested, a 1.7-litre VCDi LTZ-NAV, is priced at £19,785, but the range kicks off with the 1.6-litre LS, priced at £15,375.  

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