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Enter the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze. No, not the Cruze Limited, but that brand-new Cruze that's been a long time coming. The 2016 Cruze is showing up at local dealers in Michigan, and potentially around the country without any major press covering the car. They've even managed to release the car without a live configurator, let alone fully informed window stickers on many models. What can we even make of this? Very frequently, manufacturers supply preproduction models to the press for testing weeks or months in advance of release, presumably to get some press feedback on the product ahead of launch, and to drum up interest in the public. Although a car can be a bit too far along in it's development cycle to get the press-approved tweaks, those will often be addressed in their early articles to point out that improvements are already on the way. Even the basic "Hey, they let us ride in the car!" piece can be enough to bring attention around on an incoming model - So, why the radio silence on the new Cruze?
First of all, it is pretty important to point out that a lot of things are riding on the new car. The outgoing Cruze was an outstanding sales success for GM, and was an important step away from the bean-counter Cobalt and Cavalier that came before it. Although GM's history with compact cars has been less-than-stellar over the past 50 years, the Cruze jumped out into a field that was thick with a European-developed Ford Focus, a refreshed Mazda 3, and an annually updated Honda Civic to much success. Chevrolet added interesting market-driven models like the Volt-influenced Cruze Eco and the Cruze Diesel. Chevrolet even continued to tweak the car well into it's twilight days, frequently adding new tech and material improvements up until the very end of the product's life cycle. The new Cruze drops into the market on a new chassis that weighs less, with an updated powertrain, and an impressive tech suite to fend off new entries from Honda and Hyundai. Chevrolet even announced a new hatchback version of the new Cruze, previously a forbidden fruit in the Land of the Free. What could have gone wrong with this new model?
The new Cruze rides on the D2XX platform, which has largely been shaken out under the well-received Opel Astra outside the United States, and has been very well accepted under the Cruze's twin sibling, the Volt. Based on that, and the track record of Chevrolet's other big releases as of late (Malibu, Camaro, Corvette), driving dynamics should hardly be an issue. The engine and transmission options are new, but don't stride too far away from what we've already come to know in the outgoing car. A revised and updated 1.4L turbo and six-speed manual or automatic are par for the course in the class, and shouldn't stir up too much trouble given the recent history GM has had with similar options before. The new tech couldn't be that big of a problem either, given that many of these bits and bobs are already available on the new Chevrolet Malibu, and some have been around in the previous Cruze as well. Fit and finish on early models I've seen at the dealer seemed to be acceptable, if not exceeding some of the main-line competition, and overall, early pricing announcements seemed to be in-line with the outgoing model.
I'm simply baffled by what's going on here. Perhaps I've fired a shot a bit too early, and, embargos are very tight for the car, but this seems to be relatively unprecedented for a major model release. Even if early reviews were bad for something like Batman v Superman, it didn't keep people away from seeing the film. Just the same, poor reviews that came early for the Dodge Dart and Toyota Corolla have hardly kept people away, either. If the old adage is true, that all press is good press, it is a fairly simple question - Where is it for the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze?