The Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon (SW) is a new estate version of the company’s attractively priced small family car.
It takes on established rivals, such as the Ford Focus Estate and Skoda Octavia Estate, although it will also need to fend off competition from the new Kia Ceed SW and Hyundai i30 Tourer.
The SW is slightly longer than hatchback and saloon versions of the Cruze, and can swallow 500 litres of luggage with the rear seats in place – that’s more than the Focus but less than the Ceed, i30 and Octavia,
Loadspace expands to 1478 litres when you fold down the rear seats, which is comparable with the Focus, but well down on other key rivals.
What’s the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon like inside?
The SW’s boot is a practical shape with some useful underfloor storage, and a neat luggage cover – it retracts upwards on rails, so you don’t have to stretch into the boot to pull it back into place.
The boot is well shaped and there's some underfloor storage
The boot lip is shallow and the boot floor isn’t too far from the road, making it relatively easy to load heavy items.
Folding down the rear seats is simple, too – you pull levers behind the headrests and the backrests fold to leave a virtually flat loadbay.
The SW offers slightly more rear headroom than the Cruze saloon, but otherwise the interior is identical; five six-footers will fit, but a hard middle rear seat and raised floor will limit the middle passenger's comfort.
The driving position won’t suit everyone, either, because the seatback moves in fairly large steps, so it’s difficult to find the perfect setting. However, there’s plenty of steering wheel adjustment and all-round visibility is good.
The cabin plastics are hard, but they look classy
The interior plastics aren’t the last word in quality, although you do get a reasonable amount of kit as standard. Even entry-level LS models come with stability control, air-conditioning, remote central locking and electric front windows.
LT trim adds electric rear windows, parking sensors, cruise control and alloys, while the range-topping LTZ Nav adds satellite-navigation, Bluetooth, climate control and a rear-view camera.
However, LTZ models are probably best avoided; not only are they pricey, the standard sat-nav system complicates the dashboard with a confusing button layout.
What’s the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon like to drive?
The SW has quick, light steering, which is good for making tight manoeuvres around town, but doesn’t inspire much confidence at higher speeds. It also makes the Cruze feel twitchy on the motorway.
This was our first opportunity to drive the Cruze on UK roads, and it highlighted some flaws in its ride quality. Larger potholes aren’t dealt with well at all, while patchy surfaces result in too much vibration and road noise entering the cabin.
Potholes upset the Cruze SW's ride too much
This is a shame because there’s plenty grip and body roll is kept in check through bends. Wind noise is well contained at motorway speeds, too.
The cheapest, 1.6-litre petrol engine feels underpowered, especially when you consider the SW’s load-lugging pretentions. Getting up to motorway speed takes some time, and a fair amount of engine noise makes its way into the cabin while doing so.
The 1.6-litre petrol engine needs to be revved hard
The new 128bhp 1.7-litre diesel engine is better. It’s not the smoothest or quietest of diesels, but there’s plenty of pull above 2000rpm, while engine noise fades into the background when cruising.
CO2 emissions of 119g/km make this diesel by far the cheapest Cruze to run as a company car, although key rivals are cleaner and cheaper.
Should I buy one?
The Cruze SW range starts at £15,375 for a 1.6 LS, which means this model costs about the same as the Octavia 1.2 TSI, but undercuts equivalent versions of the Focus and Ceed SW.
There's a big jump in price if you want the 1.7 diesel, but the Chevrolet is still significantly cheaper than other estates with similar performance – at least for a private buyer.
The Cruze SW is worth considering as a practical, budget option then. Just bear in mind that it’s neither as classy nor as good to drive as key rivals.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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