The argument for the hatchback is best illustrated by the amount of stuff hauled in a given weekend. A portable hockey locker, basketball bag, small cooler, and a backpack can’t fit in a compact sedan as easily as a hatch. Neither can a bike or two.

What is the argument then for the hatchback over the taller, bigger crossover? There are so many crossovers that they are distinguishable as black socks. The hatch is smaller, sportier, just as versatile, and appealing more to customers (according to Chevy).

Citing a 9 percent growth in the segment last year, Chevy introduced the 2017 Cruze Hatch. As Chevy’s best-selling car around the world, the Cruze has been Chevy’s experimental car in America, determining if what sells in Europe and other places can sell here.

The Cruze was Chevy’s only mainstream American car to get a 2-liter turbo diesel entry in 2014, and a new diesel will return paired to either a new nine-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual in both the sedan and hatch.

For now, the Cruze Hatch comes with one engine, a pokey turbo four. It’s not as sporty as the Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf, or the rival Ford Focus, but it pushes at the edge of the premium segment with a host of technologically advanced standard equipment and a refined-but-versatile cabin.

Base price as tested $25,600, it comes in just two trim levels, LT and Premier, which is fortunate since keeping track of Chevy’s half-dozen L-1-something trim levels is like understanding a teen’s ever-evolving textcronyms.

With teens in mind, the Cruze Hatch Premier comes with Teen Driver, enabling parents to set limits on distractions such as radio volume and provides a report card of sorts to a smartphone on hard stops, speeding instances and more. There are multiple USB ports, including one in the rear, and the car is a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot that comes with a three-month data plan supporting up to seven devices.

Most importantly, as far as technology goes, the suite of safety features including alerts for inadvertent lane change, blind spot, rear cross traffic, forward collision, and rear park assist is only $790 extra (the Driver Confidence II Package). If all those alerts sound like a potential amusement park, it’s not; the warnings are noticeable but not obnoxious.

The turbocharger in the four-cylinder is more for economy than performance, eking out nearly 35 mpg in combined commutes. EPA estimates a conservative 31 mpg combined.

There is nothing fast about it; mash the pedal, crack the whip, chant “go car go” and the 153 horsepower engine will get you to 60 mph at some point in the near future (Chevy cites 7.7 seconds but we’re skeptical). The shifting from the six-speed automatic is quick and smooth, and turning can be fun, which is the sportiest advantage over a crossover.

What it lacks under the hood it makes up for inside the well-appointed cabin.

The Cruze hatch has an excellent dash design with spartan center stack that reminds us of how simple cars once were, yet doesn’t compromise any of the modern conveniences. There is a volume dial under the touch screen, knobs and familiar buttons for climate control, and below that a storage area with USB charge ports and a 12V jack.

In the center console between the elbow rest and cup holders is a phone holder that can only fit smartphones vertically. The rubber holder grabs the phone and won’t let go at hard stops or over rumble strips.

Rear leg room is above average, and the Cruze Hatch is a quiet and smooth ride. On the outside the Cruze Hatch has a subtle European style that is distinct from the cookie-cutter crossover.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.