Chevy Cruze impresses some early drivers

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.
DETROIT -- What is the likelihood that a lowly Chevy could come close to matching the agility of the highly regarded, all-wheel-drive Cadillac CTS?

What about refinement?

We're not talking CTS vs. the legendary Corvette.

Would you believe the 2011 Chevy Cruze sedan?

The Cruze is the new front-drive compact sedan that will be positioned below the Chevy Malibu and above the Aveo. Got that? We're not talking expensive territory here. It's a five-passenger family sedan.

The Cobalt, which holds that territory today, will be dropped in 2011. The Cruze will carry a higher sticker price, the result of GM's effort to develop what it says is a best-in-class compact car.

GM held a Cruze technical presentation April 16 at its massive proving grounds in Milford, Mich. Time was provided for quick laps behind at the wheel.

These weren't production-ready cars. While tweaks continue, the engineering team said the Cruze vehicles we drove were about 85 percent of the finished product. Sales are scheduled to begin in September.

David Cole, who heads the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., was one of the participants.

Cole said his awd Cadillac CTS and the Cruze “are surprisingly similar, and I am very pleased with the CTS.”

“It really struck me that the level of refinement in the Cruze was so great. It is not a CTS which is awd, but it is closer than I would have expected, especially for a front-wheel drive.”

Those are strong compliments from a man who knows product.

That's good news for Chevy and especially the Cruze team.