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It's all in the design.

Byline: JON SMITH

REMEMBER when Japanese cars were a bit tinny, overflash and just couldn't compete dynamically with their European brethren? Well, all that changed as designs improved and manufacturing techniques advanced.

The same scenario is evident with car-making in South Korea, where some Chevrolet models (nee Daewoos) are made.

The early models lacked finesse and western sophistication yet offered good value for the hardpressed family wanting cheap, reliable transport. Not only does the Chevrolet Cruze look funky, but its cabin can stand comparison alongside many European and Japanese rivals. Its handling and ride are unlikely to disappoint potential buyers ... and the price won't.

The four-door saloon range starts at pounds 12,800 for the 1.6S petrol and goes up to pounds 16,045 for the VCDI 150 LT diesel.

It was the latter I tried after having tested the basic car. The extra power - and diesel engine - make a big difference in turning this saloon into a competent drive. Unlike most cars of this size which are five-door hatches, the Cruze - GM's world car - is a conventional four-door saloon.

The hatch will be shown at the end of this month at the Paris Motor Show and go on sale next summer. The hatchback has a large boot capable of swallowing 450 litres of luggage thanks to the high tail - better than most hatches.

While the petrol versions impress, there's not huge joy to be found in the four-cylinder engines.

Thankfully, the 148bhp diesel offers better pulling power and greatly improved refinement alongside reasonable economy.

This car came as an automatic which worked out well, mated to the high-toque diesel engine.

Top speed is given at 130mph and 62mph comes up in 10 seconds. With low noise levels and ultra-safe handling, the Cruze is pleasant to hurry along without attempting to be sporty.

The ride is comfortable and compliant.

Facts and figures CHEVROLET CRUZE LT 2.0 VCDI RICE: pounds 16,045 MECHANICAL: 148bhp, 1,991cc, fourcylinder diesel engine driving front wheels via five-speed manual gearbox MAX SPEED: 130mph 0-62MPH: 10 seconds COMBINED MPG: 50.4 INSURANCE GROUP: 10 CO2 EMISSIONS: 149g/km BIK RATING: 21% WARRANTY: 3yrs/60,000 miles.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 17, 2010
Words:362
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