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October 01, 2010

Safety Features Prominent in Chevrolet's New Cruze

OK, I will admit it. A few years ago, when I heard the words "Chevy" and "economy car," I pictured images of tiny vehicles that looked like they might crumple upon impact.

That was then.

Now, with the American launch of the 2011 Chevy Cruze, economy is no longer something to be feared.

I was privileged to get a sneak peek at the Cruze, and was pleasantly surprised at what I saw: A stylish sedan that could be mistaken for a European model, but with the Chevrolet logo. That's no wonder, as the new generation of the Cruze has been on the market in Europe and Asia for a couple of years and is making its US debut with the 2011 models.

Our time in the Cruze was short;  just as long as it took to get from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills (less than 10 miles). So it's impossible for me to weigh in with a full review. However, we didn't need a huge amount of time to agree that its interior felt roomy and luxurious. Our leather seats were comfortable and it had a pretty good sound system (we cranked it up, just to hear).

The bottom line was there was nothing about our Cruze that made us think we were driving an economy car.  Yet GM states that some models will achieve up to 40 mpg on the highway... and the suggested retail price starts at just $16,995.

I have a teenage daughter who is chomping at the bit to get her driver's permit (another year, Heaven help me!), so we will soon be in the market for another car. The list price automatically puts the Cruze on our short list... and after interviewing John Zinser, Chevrolet's program manager for the vehicle, I'm thinking of slotting it in at number one. That's because the Cruze is not just stylish and economical. It was designed with safety in mind:

All of those "passive safety features" Zinser mentions in the video are standard, even in the Cruze's base model. This includes Stabilitrak, Onstar, "smart" seatbelts that can sense if the vehicle is rolling over, rollover protection, antilock brakes and a whopping ten airbags.

Chevrolet's John Zinser had a lot to say about those airbags. We're all aware of the ones embedded in the steering wheel and passenger-side console, but the Cruze also protects the front seat driver and passenger with a couple of bags for their knees to protect them from a front collision. There are also side curtain airbags and a roof-rail curtain to protect against a side impact or rollover. The second row seats also have rear-impact and side-curtain airbags.

At the time our drive, the Cruze had not yet received its NHTSA safety crash rating, but GM's spokespeople are confident that the presence of all of those standard features will earn it five stars, even under 2011's more stringent criteria. That's because the Cruze has already received similar safety ratings in Europe and Asia.

I was pleased to learn that all new Cruze models sold in the United States are being manufactured in America, at a plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

Zinser also pointed out that GM has made some upgrades to its OnStar service, so you can now check on all of your vehicle's information remotely by using your smartphone. As my daughter and I are both kind of absent-minded, this sounds like a great app for us... as long as we don't lock both our keys and our phones in the car!

Find out more about the new Cruze's fuel economy features at and The Future is Electric.

2010 by Donna Schwartz Mills
Contributing Editor

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