Take Cruze with this Chevrolet’s solid performance

Chevrolet's Cruze is a stylish, good-value family saloon, says Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.

Engines – With its maker's origins outside of Europe, it's hardly surprising that the initial focus was on petrol power. Modestly-powerful 1.6 and 1.8-litre units were available from launch, which did the job but couldn't match comparable units from Europe's finest. The inclusion of 2.0 and now 1.7-litre diesel engines does much to boost the car's appeal if you're a company car driver, though.

Exterior – The Cruze's clean lines and modest-size footprint help flatter the otherwise conservatively-styled Cruze. The four-door car might be outnumbered by more plentiful five-door hatchbacks, which Chevrolet offered later, but the compact saloon holds its own when it comes to looks.

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Interior – It's here that the Cruze is most obviously playing catch-up with its European rivals, although the abundance of dark, hard-to-the-touch plastics offer a reassuring level of solidity. There's also a good level of passenger space in the cabin, along with enough oddment storage to keep them happy.

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Driving – While not built to please keen drivers, the Cruze delivers a solid and measured performance on the road. It's a refined car, although pushing any of the engines can result in more noise than you'd like to hear. In general, the Cruze is an easy car to drive, with the diesel engines offering a more laid-back experience thanks to their superior torque levels.

Ownership – A practical car offering ample space for a small but growing family or as a tool for business users, the Cruze is hard to fault. It may lack the visual sparkle of more expensive European cars but Chevrolet's compact saloon should tick all the relevant boxes for those seeking a good-size car on a budget.

What to look for – It's hard to find a Cruze that's been abused, largely because it's an informed purchase for many and there'd be no reason to run it into the ground. That said, do look out for damage to the interior and the usual parking scrapes. And being a relatively new car a comprehensive service history is essential, as is the test drive for added peace of mind.

Model history – 2009, Chevrolet launches its compact Cruze saloon in a bid to corner the budget end of the market. A sliding scale from modest to generous standard kit is present depending on the model, while the petrol and diesel engines offer relatively smooth and frugal performance respectively.

Reasons to buy – Good value, compact dimensions, well equipped, stylish.

Reasons to beware – Brand image, low-frills cabin, engine refinement, not for keen drivers.

Pick of the range – Cruze 1.8 LT.

What to pay – 2009 09 �6,175; 2009 59 �6,575; 2010 10 �7,275; 2010 60 �7,675; 2011 11 �8,500. Showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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