The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Limited might sound like a premium trim level of this small sedan, but in fact it’s just a continuation of the original Cruze generation, which dates back to 2011. This placeholder model gives Chevrolet dealers a compact sedan to sell while production of the fully redesigned 2016 Cruze ramps up.
As such, the Cruze Limited remains a competent member of the economy sedan class, with decent fuel efficiency, sharp if aging styling and a solid roster of features for the money. It suffers a bit, though, from a cabin that’s not very spacious and an automatic transmission that’s not terribly responsive. Moreover, a standout 2015 variant, the peppy and frugal Cruze diesel, is not included in the Cruze Limited lineup.
The Cruze Limited’s pricing should be quite attractive due to its carryover status, and the same basic car earned an Edmunds “B” rating not too long ago. Still, there are better choices. The 2016 Honda Civic and 2016 Toyota Corolla each offer appealing content and superior resale value, while the 2016 Kia Forte is a real comer in the segment with solid performance and loads of standard and available features. The 2016 Ford Focus and 2016 Mazda 3, meanwhile, are sportier and more sophisticated. In this impressive company, the 2016 Cruze Limited isn’t a top contender, but it could still be worth a look if the price is right.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Limited is a small sedan offered in five trim levels: L, LS, LT, Eco and LTZ.
Standard equipment on the Cruze Limited L and LS includes 16-inch steel wheels, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, height-adjustable front seats, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, full power accessories, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar (with 4G LTE and WiFi hotspot capability) and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, USB port and an auxiliary audio jack. The LS also adds a spare tire, carpeted floor mats, satellite radio and a compass.
The LT is made up of the 1LT and 2LT equipment-level subsets. Compared with the LS, the 1LT upgrades to the 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, LED daytime running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, body-color side mirrors, chrome beltline trim, cruise control and a rear center armrest.
The Technology package available at the 1LT level gets you a rearview camera and the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system, which bundles a 7-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth streaming audio, voice controls and smartphone integration. An available Driver Convenience package includes heated mirrors, a six-way power driver seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, plus remote start for automatic-transmission models.
The Cruze Limited Eco is equipped like the 1LT, but comes standard with the MyLink system. It also benefits from aerodynamic improvements (including a rear spoiler) and has lightweight 17-inch alloy wheels, low-rolling-resistance tires and a smaller fuel tank (manual-transmission only). The Eco Driver Convenience package adds the heated mirrors, power driver seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror and rearview camera.
Move up to the 2LT to get all of the 1LT’s standard equipment, plus the power driver seat and MyLink touchscreen interface. It also comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and heated front seats. A Driver Convenience package is offered that adds the heated side mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror and rearview camera.
At the top of the Cruze Limited range is the LTZ, which comes with all of the 2LT’s standard content plus the items in the Driver Convenience package. It also features 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome door handles, keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control and premium interior trim.
The Enhanced Safety package is available for all but the L and LS models and includes rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Depending on trim level, a navigation system, a Pioneer nine-speaker premium sound system and a sunroof are also available. The RS appearance package is available on the LT and LTZ models and features restyled front and rear fascias, sporty side moldings, a rear spoiler, foglights and an upgraded instrument panel.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Limited is front-wheel drive. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque powers the Cruze Limited L and LS. The LT, LTZ and Eco are fitted with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that generates 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the L, LS, LT and Eco. A six-speed automatic is optional on the LS, LT and Eco and is standard for the LTZ.
In Edmunds testing, a first-generation Cruze with the turbo 1.4-liter engine and automatic transmission accelerated from zero to 60 in 9.2 seconds, a slightly slower than average time for this class.
The EPA’s fuel economy estimates for the Cruze Limited L and LS are 27 mpg combined (22 city/35 highway) with the automatic transmission and 29 mpg combined (25/36) with the manual. The turbocharged LT and LTZ get an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined (26/38) with either transmission. The Cruze Limited Eco gets a laudable 33 mpg combined (28/42) rating with the manual transmission, but drops a bit to 31 mpg combined (26/39) with the automatic.
All 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Limited models come with stability control, antilock brakes, full-length side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and front and rear side-impact airbags as standard. A front-disc/rear-drum brake setup is standard on all models except the 2LT and LTZ, which are upgraded to four-wheel disc brakes. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen-vehicle assistance.
A rearview camera, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic alert system are available on all Cruze Limited models except the L and LS.
In government crash testing, the first-generation Cruze earned a top five-star rating for overall safety performance, with five stars for total frontal-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the Cruze received a top score of “Good” in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact test but a second-worst “Marginal” score in the small-overlap frontal-offset test. In the remaining side-impact roof-strength and seat/head restraint (whiplash protection) tests, the Cruze earned a “Good” rating.
In Edmunds brake testing, a first-generation Cruze LTZ stopped from 60 mph in 120 feet, a slightly better than average distance for this class of car. Even with its less grippy, fuel-economy-friendly tires, the Cruze Eco stopped in about the same distance.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Cruze Limited’s cabin has a classy two-tone color scheme and looks more upscale than many of its competitors. That said, there still are a lot of hard plastic surfaces that don’t show well on closer inspection. We’re also ambivalent about the available MyLink touchscreen interface. We like its simple and straightforward menus, useful voice-command functionality and smartphone-app capabilities, but the occasional slow or missed responses to inputs can be frustrating.
Larger drivers may find the Cruze Limited’s front seats a bit narrow and overstuffed. But most folks should find them supportive and comfortable, and they offer plenty of adjustment. A low bottom cushion for the backseat diminishes comfort for longer-limbed riders, as it doesn’t provide enough thigh support. Rear seat legroom is only average for the segment and feels even smaller in person; you’ll find more space in the Civic or Corolla, for example. Considerably above average, however, is the Cruze Limited’s large trunk, which measures an impressive 15.0 cubic feet.
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze Limited combines responsive handling with a comfortable, compliant ride. The sport suspension on the 2LT and LTZ models provides better body control but still serves up an agreeable ride. The Cruze Limited’s cabin remains relatively quiet at speed for an economy sedan.
The turbocharged 1.4-liter gas engine is pretty average in terms of outright acceleration, but it’s peppier around town than the 1.8-liter, thanks to increased torque that’s available at lower rpm. The automatic transmission it’s paired to isn’t as responsive, however. Programmed for maximum fuel economy, it’s reluctant to downshift for quick acceleration and passing unless you really boot the gas pedal.