The popularity of hatchbacks is finally growing. Successful overseas, hatchbacks have had a hard time gaining ground in the states. Although usually cherished by car enthusiasts, most American consumers shy away from the extra cargo room a hatchback provides. However, things are changing.
Chevrolet claims there was a 9 percent increase in small hatchback sales last year. Ergo, the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze hatch. The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Premier sedan performed well in our Big Test of compact sedans by taking the silver medal behind the Honda Civic EX, out of seven compact sedan rivals. Owning many hatchbacks over the years (my favorite body style), I was excited to see what the Cruze hatch had in store, especially equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission. The boy racer inside was grateful.
Before we delve into the hatchback, let’s clear something up first. Walking up to the RS packageequipped Red Hot Cruze, I immediately thought hot hatch, thanks to the big, shiny wing and sporty-looking body kit. Then I gazed upon the 205/55R16 all-season tires, and my excitement shuddered. Those sidewalls are way too thick for anything sporty. Pulling out of the parking lot, I rowed through the gears for the first time, took a fast turn, and then came to a hard stop. I knew exactly what I was dealing with. This is not a hot hatch. The Cruze hatch is a regular hatchback with a sporty RS appearance package. By no means is this a negative. Just don’t let the RS packaging fool you into thinking that this hatchback is built to compete with the likes of the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI.
The extra cargo room is usually the determining factor when consumers buy a hatchback. The Cruze hatch is no exception. The sedan model offers up to 14.8 cubic feet of cargo room to the hatch’s 24.7 cubic feet with the rear seats up and a cavernous 47.2 cubic feet with them down. What the cubic feet numbers don’t show is the ease of putting something bulky in your vehicle. Try fitting something tall and wide such as a small sofa chair in your sedan. You can’t. A hatchback will gladly comply. Surprisingly, the Cruze hatch is 8.5 inches shorter than the sedan (the wheelbase is the same), increasing maneuverability in tight spaces. The Cruze has a smaller capacity than the Volkswagen Golf hatchback’s 52.7 cubic feet (rear seats down) but a slightly larger than the Honda Civic Hatchback’s capacity of 46.2 cubic feet. The Subaru Impreza hatchback tops all with its 55.3 cubic feet of storage (the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT comes in at 55.1 cubic feet).
The Chevrolet Cruze hatch starts at $22,115. Our tester came standard with the Chevrolet MyLink audio system that features a 7.0-inch color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot. This was my favorite feature in the Cruze. MyLink was quick and intuitive, Apple CarPlay was easy to set up use, and the Wi-Fi hot spot was simple to connect to. However, there is only one USB port. Our Cruze hatch also came equipped with the optional Convenience package, which comes with an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry, push-button ignition, and heated front seats. The previously mentioned RS package is standard on the manual Cruze hatch and includes a sporty body kit, foglights, a rear spoiler, and a red RS grille badge.
Chevrolet has done a decent job designing its new hatchback. Overlook the manual shifter (or opt for the automatic), subpar crash rating, and the nonsporty handling, and the Cruze hits the rest of the marks. The hatchback’s comfortable ride, torquey engine, spacious back seats, healthy cargo room, good outward visibility, nice interior layout, and attractive looks will make most owners happy. Just don’t let the sheep in wolf’s clothing trick you. This is a hatchback for those who want a sporty look without the usual rough ride that accompanies sharp-handling hot hatches.