FIRST, A LITTLE BIT OF CONTEXT AND HISTORY..... I pretty much fell in love with the Cruze when I first clapped eyes on the car. The first thing that struck me was that it had very mondeo-esque proportions, but was much chunkier. It was like a Mondeo that had been working out at the gym for a couple of years. Over the last couple of years I've kept a close eye on the C and D segments to see what caught my fancy. For a while I was pretty gung-ho about the Vento diesel, but when I drove the car the most important ingredient I look for in a car was missing.... it just didn't put a smile on my face.
Cut to January of 2012, and I decided that is the year I'm biting the bullet. My wife had been listening to me drone on and on about getting a new car for months, and finally she said... "Look, you've clearly wanted the Cruze for a while now. You've thought it through, you can afford it, and frankly if I have to go another day with you trying to justify why you want it I'm going to go crazy!!!"
What else was considered... The Laura, obviously. They're very similar in a lot of respects, but they're also very different. The Laura feels more germanic when you sit inside the car, but I felt a little underwhelmed on the test drive. No whoosh. Also, when you compare the car to the Cruze LTZ, the Laura interiors are wayyy too spartan in comparison. Say what you want, but the goodies count for a lot. The absolute best thing about the Cruze, however, is it's engine. Enough's been said about it on the forums so I won't go into it. All I will say is the power is exhilarating. Also considered was the Jetta. It's a fantastic car, but it was priced a couple of lakhs too high for comfort.
The booking and dealership experience... Not the best, to be honest. While the negotiation process was fairly typical (big thanks to GTO here for his thread on buying a new car) I was on a tight schedule for delivery because I was going to be travelling... and they missed the deadline. What was worse though that when the delivery date arrived and I went at the pre-determined time to pick up the car... I was stunned. It was filthy, the accessories hadn't been fitted, and the whole car was covered in a layer of dust. Needless to say, I raised hell. The manager of the dealership got the firing of her life. These were minor niggles, but they soured the booking experience a bit. Finally, they apologized profusely, cleaned up and polished the car, and home-delivered it wrapped in ribbons and balloons and with a cake from Birdys.
AND NOW, FINALLY, TO THE CAR...
1. What's great about it
The engine: Without a doubt, this is the Cruze's party piece. Sources inside GM claim that the turbo lag's been reduced, and I can confirm this. The turbo starts spooling and you can feel the surge building from about 1400-1600 rpm and then the it REALLY kicks in by about 1700-1800. I'm not sure why people say the Cruze MT is tough to drive in the city... I don't think so at all.
The steering and manoeuvrability: It's excellent. The Cruze is a big car, but the steering is light enough to make city driving a breeze.
The interiors are fantastic. GM seems to have improved thw quality of the plastics immensely. I haven't found a single rough or unfinished edge anywhere. The carpets and the upholstery seems plusher than on older models.
NVH is SUPERB. I'm talking about quietness and refinement by petrol car standards. With the windows are up and music off, very little road and engine noise filters through.
The AC: It absolutely chills. The climate control works exceedingly well and chills the car in minutes even if it's been parked in the sun.
The steering feel: It's the perfect diameter and it's chunky enough for most hand-sizes. Ergonomics are good, all stalks and controls fall easily to hand. Feedback is good.
Parking sensors: They're brilliant. I was parking the other day, and I knew there was a single vertical bamboo right at the corner of the bumper (3 inches from the edge)... and the sensors found it.
PEPS: It's wonderfully convenient.
Little touches: Like the fact that all the storage bins (including the little cubby holes in the door and the sunglasses-holder) are lined with soft material to prevent rattles, like the front center armrest slides forward and backwards for you to find the right driving position, like the little lights on either side of the vanity mirror behind the passenger sunshade. Like the ledge beneath the centre information display is angled and padded so you could rest your phone on it without it sliding around.
2. What's good about it
The seats: I'm 5'10 and of medium build and the seats offer the right amount of side and lumbar support.
The instrument cluster: everything is well lit, clearly visible, and looks great in ice-blue.
The gearshift:... it's slick, but not Vento-slick. The fact that it's a short-throw box is great, but it's not a rapid-action gearshift.
The center information display is informative, looks good, and easy to navigate. It's loaded with tweakable options.
3. What's just okay or not-so-good about it
The recline angle of the rear seats: It's perhaps 5 degrees too upright. Another 5 degrees of recline would've been superb.
The self-dimming OHRVM should've had a manual toggle switch like the Altis does.
ICE: It's not the best sound. It's better than most stock systems, but it's pretty low on kick and punch.
Stock JK Vectras: are pretty poor tyres. Also, the rim design's a little too bland.... but then that's a great excuse to upgrade :D
Some weird quirks: For example, if I turn the car off and open the driver's side door, it kills the music system. Why?? I could just be stepping out for a minute and someone could still be sitting in the car. Also... if you turn the the AC off, it automatically turns the blower into ventilate mode. Why???
The Clutch return action: Too strong. It takes some getting used to. Nailing perfect gearshifts is going to take some practice!! :D
4. Accessories and mods
Rims: were upgraded to Lenso ES6 17-inchers. I literally went through 100-120 designs of rims over weeks and weeks. I wanted something that would stand out, but not too flash. Something sedate and sporty at the same time.
Tyres: Yokohama Advan Sports, running 225/50 profiles. I haven't had a chance to really explore the limits of grip yet, but a big thanks to Akshay1234, Amey, Nishant Gandhi, and m4ugr8 for helping me select them.
Tints: Haven't gotten them yet... but will be getting my Vkools this week.
Tuning Box: My Swift had one, and while the power of the Cruze seems more than enough right now, I'm sure I'll be itching for some extra horses in a couple of months.