Chevy's turbo 1.4-litre sedan shows less can definitely be more
Breezier, better Cruze The turbo- charged Cruze 1.4 combines power with poise, and boasts some premium features. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

The Swedes did it. The Germans did it. Followed by the rest of Europe. And mostly to rave reviews too.

We are talking about turbocharging, which the Americans are beginning to embrace, starting with Chevrolet.

And what a difference it makes to the Chevy Cruze, a Corolla plus-sized sedan General Motors makes in Korea.

The 1.4-litre turbo car offers so much more usable torque, better fuel efficiency and a lower road tax than its 1.6-litre normally aspirated predecessor.

On paper, we are talking about 200Nm of torque from 1,850rpm versus 155Nm at 4,000rpm previously. The 1.4 turbo hits 100kmh in 10.4 seconds, faster than a leisurely 12.5 seconds before.

Yet, it consumes less fuel, returning 100km on 6.8 litres versus 7.4 litres.

Unlike some other cars, experience matches expectations here. The turbocharged Cruze is amazingly effortless from the word go.

Throttle response is breezy, and acceleration is quick and linear across a wide rev band.

Its driveability is streets ahead of its 1.6-litre sibling, which had lacklustre low-end torque.

The turbo Cruze impresses further by being relatively smooth, quiet and vibration-free even when driven hard, something which you cannot always expect of a small-displacement car with a biggish body.

And because of its newfound verve, the Cruze becomes a lot more confident. It merges with traffic without being flustered, it overtakes neatly and it is often the first to leave when the lights turn green.

It corners with poise too, being now able to exit more cleanly and swiftly than before.

What all that adds up to is a more relaxed and composed drive, with most tasks accomplished without the din and tension of a stretched engine and sudden and frequent gear changes.

Its superior suspension, supple yet supportive, is better appreciated too.

You would think the improved performance comes at a price. But the Cruze's fuel gauge shows otherwise. Its needle drops by only a notch after a three-day test- drive. This is without new-fangled devices such as brake energy recovery and stop-start systems. And without the driver paying any particular heed to economy.

All these make you look at the car in a new light. Its build quality, trim level and amenities - which already match those of top Japanese makes - seem to shine.

It is doubly impressive that the car boasts premium features such as keyless ignition and access (all four doors and not just the driver-side door), automatic wipers and headlights, climate control and satellite navigation.

And perhaps to reflect its heightened performance, the Cruze now comes with a button that allows you to turn off its traction control.

The difference brought about by turbocharging is so stark that the Cruze appears to be an altogether new model, with only minor similarities to its 1.6-litre former self.

Best of all, the 1.4 turbo attracts nearly 20 per cent less in road tax, saving the car owner about $1,400 over 10 years.

And you think, what is the rest of the world waiting for? Turbocharge, already.

Alas, there is at least one downside. From next year, the turbocharged Cruze will belong to COE Category B, which means it is likely to cost more than rivals in Category A.

This is because its engine output exceeds the newly announced 130bhp limit for Cat A cars which comes into effect from February.

To stay in Cat A, the Chevy dealer might just revert to the less efficient and far less attractive 1.6-litre variant. Which would be a crying shame.

 

 

CAR INFORMATION

Chevrolet Cruze 1.4 Turbo (A)

Price

:$109,999

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,362 cc

Horsepower

:

138 bhp / 6,000 rpm

Torque

:

200 Nm / 4,900 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (A)

Acceleration

:

10.4 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

204 km/h