Chevrolet Cruze SW - car review
You've probably heard of Chevrolet, an American car manufacturer, which Don McLean mentioned during his eight minutes of mourning in American Pie. And beyond that? Well, nothing really.
This is surprising, as the company is more than a century old and has operations across the globe.
It is part of the mighty General Motors corporation and one of the few brands under that umbrella to survive the bean counters' cull at GM three years ago. More than that, Chevrolet thrived, becoming part of a two-pronged attack on the world market, alongside Cadillac.
The company has slowly increased its presence over here, taking over Daewoo's operations and rebadging cars such as the diminutive Matiz and family-sized Lacetti.
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Still, it hovered around the peripheries of UK buyers' minds, taking only small bites of a diminishing market place. New cars and a stronger presence were needed.
Aveo, Spark, Cruze and Captiva and, more recently Orlando, replaced the ageing models and then a deal was done that Chevy hopes will send its brand into every home, without you even noticing. That deal was with Manchester United, where better to stick your name than on the shirts of some the planet's most recognised footballers? Don't look for the logo this season, the deal kicks off in 2014.
Along with the shirts, the deal extended to the players' transport: the Manchester United squad also picked a car each from the range.
And seeing as Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly banned the younger players from picking Corvettes, perhaps someone plumped for the Cruze SW, the latest edition to the line-up and a close relation to Vauxhall's Astra.
It sits atop the same Delta II platform and borrows from the engine line-up.
As a result, the Cruze is quite a performer, it turns quickly, handles uneven surfaces without too much fuss and the 1.7-litre diesel engine on test here pulls strongly and consumes little.
Going diesel will cost you a premium over the petrol-powered models, though. The 1.6-litre petrol alternative costs close to £2,500 less.
The fact the Cruze shares much with the Astra is well disguised. Stand the two cars side-by-side and there's little clue to their shared heritage.
Considering its middle-of-the-road standing, the Cruze SW has an ample interior. The load space, which is what should draw many to this car, has a wide access and the floor itself is flat, with little in the way of intrusions.
To dismiss the car for that minor oversight would be churlish, though.
As I've said, the cabin is ample, and that applies for those in the front and rear seats. Although five can travel in the Cruze, it would be advisable to avoid being the passenger perched in the centre of the rear bench.
A raised tunnel means sharing foot space with the more fortunate passengers either side of you.
Three models are available: LS, LT and LTZ. Our test car, the mid-spec LT model, features includes 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, rear parking sensors and leather steering wheel and gear knob. As trivial as it may appear, I hate stitched leather gear knobs.
Chevrolet has worked hard to make the Cruze cabin a modern environment, full of useful gadgets and stylish design and then some bright spark has suggested a stitched leather gear knob would be the cherry on the Bakewell tart.
Unnecessary dressing aside, the Cruze SW is a pretty good attempt at a larger car for the family. It doesn't sparkle in any one area, but does most things pretty well. If you're prepared to pay the premium for the 1.7-litre diesel, you'll get plenty of oomph for your buck. Priced against much of its direct competition the Cruze SW makes financial commonsense, even if it doesn't quite match them for quality.