When I graduated from college, it was also a time where tech jobs were not easy to find. We were sending tons of them overseas, prompting something of a “Buy American” phase. I bought American, in the form of a 1991 Saturn SL2 sedan. It was the first competitive small car from the big three in a long time, in my opinion, and arguably even the last one, until recently. Since then, imports like Civic, Corolla, 323 and Jetta have set the trend in compact sedans. Sub-compacts were similarly dominated by European and Japanese auto makers.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much besides fuel economy and safety when Chevrolet provided a 2011 Cruze Eco sedan. Suffice to say, my expectations were exceeded. The Cruze is a very competent compact car overall; one very worthy of consideration for a small family looking for a smaller and more affordable new car.
I can’t say it was particularly fun to drive, had stellar performance or turned heads as I was driving around suburbia. As a compact sedan it is stylish, but is not pretentious in any way. I recently rented a Chrysler minivan for a road trip and thought to myself that it looked and felt like something from 1990, rather than 2010. Even my wife had the same impression. I can say, however, that the Cruze did not give me that dated impression at all. I can also say that unlike some previous generation small sedans, it looks classy, drives well and has the appearance and feel of greatly improved quality, both inside and out. In fact, it seems quite on par in almost every regard with current offerings from the competition, rather than seeming like it was a generation or two behind the times (like the Chevy Cobalt and Cavalier that preceded it). Even the fabric covered dash was a unique touch that was well done, as was the handy lift-up storage area that I used for my wallet and phone.