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Chevy rolls out a Cruze hatchback model for 2017.

Across the pond, small hatchbacks have more friends than a pop star on Facebook. However, we big-rig-loving Americans have traditionally resisted little five-door cars.

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The Cruze hatchback offers a maximum 47.2 cubic feet of rear cargo space. Chevrolet

No matter. They keep coming. And Yankee resistance seems to be fading somewhat.

Car companies from Audi to Volkswagen offer a compact hatch to U.S. car buyers — a trend not lost on Chevrolet.

Throw in the fact that Chevy’s cross-town rival, Ford Motor Company, has had considerable success with the hatchback version of its Focus compact — roughly 40 percent of Focus sales were hatches at last check.

Result: the first hatchback version of the Chevy Cruze.

Based on the second-generation Cruze sedan, which was new in 2016, the 2017 Cruze hatchback rides the same 106.3-inch wheelbase as its four-door counterpart, but casts a slightly shorter shadow. And while the sedan can be had in L, LS, LT, and Premier trims, the hatch goes strictly highbrow, offering only LT and Premier raiment.

I drove a Premier, which seemed like a five-door economy car that was longing to be thought of as a luxury ride.

For $26,475, including the optional Convenience and Driver Confidence packages, the Premier hatch featured full power equipment (save the manual front-passenger seat), heated steering wheel, heated seats front and rear, manually shiftable six-speed automatic (notably, this economy car’s automatic transmission is not a CVT, or continuous variable transmission), touch-screen infotainment with smartphone friendliness, forward collision and lane-departure warnings, backup camera, rear park assist, and keyless entry and start.

The cabin is stylish, with textured finishes dressing up the plastic, bright metal-look trim adding class, and leather seats showing contrasting stitching in the finest Euro style. Oh, we lacked the available sun roof, and our automatic climate control system was single-zone, but we could live with that.

Meanwhile, head and legroom throughout the cabin are impressive. Just be sure to duck getting into the back seat under that sloping roofline.

Speaking of which, styling on this hatchback is sharp, with an aggressive face lifted from the sedan and an arrow-sleek profile that’s totally owned by the hatch.

Riding a fully independent suspension — lesser trims of the sedan get a stick axle in back — every Cruze hatchback is powered by a 1.4-liter, 153-horsepower, aluminum-block turbo four-cylinder engine that’s managed by a six-speed transmission (manual or automatic at the buyer’s discretion).

On the road, Cruze certainly doesn’t challenge the likes of the Ford Focus ST or Volkswagen Golf GTI, but it is a pleasant drive, and that’s really what most buyers seek.

In just over 100 miles around town, save a brief highway sojourn to sample interior noise levels — which, by the way, were well damped — I realized 23 mpg.

While no rally car, the Cruze hatch is a fine companion in daily living: versatile, affordable, and stylish.

March/April 2017 Issue


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Weise

Dan Wiese is an automotive freelance writer living in St. Louis, Mo.

 

 

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