Chevy Cruze presents fun, economical driving basics



Getting my drive-on, Chevy style.


It’s that ‘crap-shoot’ that is the online pick of an “intermediate” rental car. Much like a stripper jumping out of a birthday cake, Chevy Cruze proves to be a bit surprising for this unabashed Honda fan.

True enough, I was raised in and behind the wheel of Detroit iron.

My first project car was a 1949 Chevrolet sedan, rusted, derelict, and not running. But that didn’t stop me and my younger brother Pat from cutting our auto-loving teeth on it. I, like many Americans, fell away from the Chevrolet brand during the T.A.R.P. funded transition years of the great recession. It’s not so much that I disliked the mark, I no longer trusted its assumed life-time longevity in the auto market.

Much like a long forgotten lover, Chevrolet came to mind from time to time, but I kept my distance, perhaps missing an affordable opportunity to renew my past life Chevy love fest.

Sure, I’ve caught the new Corvette or occasional Malibu SS blowing down the hardtop out of the corner of my eye, or, in the rear-view mirror of my transportation of choice. But truthfully, I lost track of the evolution of the brand, while dedicating my auto-writer intent on mostly import brands — although mostly “Made in America” at this stage of the game. The compact Chevy Cruz would prove to be noteworthy. “

In-fact, the more I drove Cruze on a recent 8 hour, 375 road trip to Eureka, California, more value I found in it.

Let’s get back to the headline

Last week while my import daily driver resided in a transmission shop, I jumped online and reserved a rental car. Par for the course, Enterprise didn’t disclose the make and model of the car waiting for me at the airport. All I knew was that it would be a rather bare-bones, fuel efficient compact, and afford care-free relatively new car, unlimited mileage driving. That night I’d take delivery of a 2016 black on gray Chevrolet Cruze LT, nothing too fancy, yet eye catching just the same.

Nothing fancy here, but I appreciated the no-nonsense layout of this compact Chevy

Dropping into the cloth covered manual adjusted driver’s seat, I noted the relative comfort of driver to wheel positioning, instrumentation, and center stack convenience feature placement. No, this Cruze did not feature a key-less entrance or ignition fob, self dimming convenience lighting, or a warm welcoming verbal recognition from that electronic girl in the dash. But, what it did present was impressive acceleration, responsive steering wheel to road feel, and reasonable road handling.  The suspension is tuned for the highway long haul – a  mid-firm controlled float. I like it!

I was caught by surprise as to how quiet and user friendly Chevy’s entry level compact sedan is. While one doesn’t find a plethora of active safety features in the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze LT Sedan, the stereo is decent, climate control and seating  more than adequate, with combined fuel efficiency and on tap torque approaching the best in class.

Sure, I’d change a detail or two.

Our 2016 Cruze LT came off the lot for $21,700, a bargain in the sub-premium compact sedan segment. However, the dash mounted back-up cam resolution is sub standard, as is the cloth covered seat construction.  Unfortunately Chevy found this price point at the expense of substantial, near premium trim components, and standard feature safety, as demonstrated by Honda Civic Touring and other contenders in the near premium compact sedan segment.

There are few if any active safety features available at this trim level. But for those drivers wishing to up the accident avoidance level, while enjoying power adjusted, heated seats, You’ll find those options available in Cruze for under $25,000. Chevy’s 1.4 Liter turbocharged gasoline 4 cylinder engine produced impressive, on demand torque, while sipping regular gasoline. On this 800 mile run, we averaged 42 MPG combined, outstanding fuel efficiency in any segment.

I found the no-nonsense 6-speed automatic to perform flawlessly in this front-wheel-drive compact, brake pressure and resulting stopping power was dead on, yet not jarring. Cruze, while exhibiting mild torque steer when launched off of the light, proved to be manageable, and down right civilized when driven at lawful speeds, under mixed weather conditions.

In closing, while Chevy Cruze may not be the end all be all…

Cruze LT is a good value as priced. I recommend a test drive to anyone considering the purchase of an economy compact 4 door sedan. Chevy Cruze presents fun, economical driving basics, housed in a class act of a compact sedan. It’s a no ensconce daily commuter, that can be dressed up and taken out on the town. I like that.

2016 Honda Accord Sport presents balanced sport-like fuel efficient transporation

2016 Honda Accord Sedan Sport

Yes, I know the title is a bit lengthy and may never make it into the upper echelon of Google search driven drive review. No worries, the story-line here is written on a limited sports-rendition of Honda’s best selling midsize compact sedan. Is it fast? well… sort of.

But what 2016 Honda Accord represents for me and other Honda fans, is a little to no compromise discovered in the injection of just a bit of sport attitude — in what many auto journalist consider to be the greatest overall value found today — in a reasonably priced mid sized 4-door sedan.

Honda’s 4 cylinder powered Accord Sport comes to us this week with a surprise or two. But do we like it?

Photo Attributions American Honda Motor Company 2016

On first viewing our San Marino Red Honda Accord Sport, visions of high speed sweeps out in the “cow country” of Western Oregon came to mind. Accord Sport looks fast in the park-position, all the way down to its lower ground effects and 19 inch wheels ; but it isn’t. Yes I know, a bit confusing isn’t it? We spend a week in the seat of 2016 Accord Sport.

What our friends at Honda have done here with the best selling midsize sedan in North America is take the base Accord LX, add a race inspired design cue to an already appealing body line, positioned it on 19 inch alloy wheels, low profile all-weather-tires, and placed a very persuasive chrome tipped dual exhaust in prominent eye shot.

In this case, the aforementioned is mostly for show. While 2016 Accord Sport is highly capable as a measurably comfortable and accommodating people-mover, it’s not track ready, nor does it possess the performance chops of a high-revving Civic Si, or even the base Accord V6 for that matter — 2016 Accord Sport is a sheep in wolf’s clothing, albeit a pretty darn good impersonation.

Under the hood
2.4 L _i-VTEC_4 cylinder

Producing Accord Sport forward momentum is a very capable, fuel efficient 2.4 Liter DOHC 16 valve direct injected i-VTEC 4 cylinder gasoline engine producing 189 horsepower/182 ft-lb-torque — very impressive by normally aspirated 4 cylinder standards. We found drive-by-wire acceleration and torque to be more than ample in most drive-situations, yet lacking that “head in the back of the seat” acceleration anticipated from most “sport sedans.”

Honda’s left high-performance-driving to the 2016 Accord V6 Coupe. Where Accord Sport’s engine truly shines is in the fuel efficiency department, with our test ride producing a true 25.7 mpg around town and 33.5 mpg on the highway.

Shifting duties in our 2016 Accord Sport with Honda Sensing ™ is performed by perhaps the tamest CVT (constant variable transmission) in the Honda fleet. At first, I believed the transmission to be Honda’s 6-speed automatic — as featured in the 2016 Accord V6 and Pilot SUV. Then I discovered the steering wheel mounted paddle shifting. They’re there, you don’t need them.

Short story: The high output 4-cylinder gasoline/ CVT combination worked together flawlessly disguising the slightly under powered tendency of an otherwise stellar 4 cylinder engine. If you didn’t know what was under the hood, one would not be thinking 4-cylinder.

Truthfully, although Accord Sport pushes the size limitations of the midsize sedan segment,(it feels and rides larger) Honda’s high output 4-cylinder engine performed very well. However, I believe the “Sport” moniker to be a bit of a push, much like the “S” designation riding on the tail of many offerings today — stainless-steel-like car interior accents don’t always make for true-sports car power and handling performance attributes.

2016 Accord Sport interior pure Honda

Visually, the 2016 Accord Sport interior is a bit understated, with a sport-like edge. Again that “Sport” thing surfaces. For Accord Sport, Honda takes the base model Accord LX and upgrades it a bit.

Our test car sported a pleasing black on black combination material/ leather-like seating, piano black/ chrome center stack accents, a leather covered steering wheel, 3-dial floating dash, non touch screen center dash infotainment monitor, individual, synchronized climate control, a 10-way power adjusted driver’s seat, power mirrors, window and door locks, a drop-down rear bench, stainless steel brake, gas pedal and more — a nice interior trim package, albeit a bit plastic-rich for our taste.

Visibility from all drive and ride positions in Accord Sport is excellent, as is the road to cabin interior noise level, airflow and ergonomics. Accord Sport comes complete with a backup camera with directional guidelines. What you won’t find here is a blind spot monitor as featured in the 2016 Civic Sedan.

We found the driver’s seat to be less than exceptional in it adjustment — although that may be a “personal-like” assessment. Leg, head and shoulder room is exceptional throughout the cabin. Accord’s trunk is enormous! Accord offers one of if not the best 5-passenger accommodating cabin in the mid car segment, Accord Sport is not the exception.

Drive and ride impressions

We further discovered Accord Sport to be responsive, handle reasonably well with minimal to no side roll, down-hill-nose-diving, or torque steer. The car tracked-true to the point of one finger steering. It’s a bit heavy in the corners, and the suspension-vibration-damping could be improved just a bit. This could be attributed to the 19 inch wheels and subsequent low-profile-tires, resulting in a bit more road-to-wheel vibration transfer — nothing extreme, just an observation.

We appreciated the steering “feel” in Accord, very positive, yet effortless. Accord truly shines in town, through ease of maneuver and parking. With the aid of the standard rear-view camera, parallel parking Accord Sport is a snap.

On the highway 2016 Accord Sport eases into a pleasant cadence, with abundant on demand torque that virtually eliminates the need to shift when traveling upgrade. You forget that you have a 4-cylinder engine under the hood. The reward here is 33.5 miles per gallon in a non-hybrid car. During our week we had the opportunity to transport 4 adults. Accord actually performed better under load — the ride and handling smoothed out, with no measurable difference in fuel efficiency. Accord approaches the fuel efficiency of 2016 Honda Fit.

A closing thought or two

2016 Accord Sport is designed for the family guy or gal in mind that still retains just a bit of “rebel.” It’s the Chevy Monte Carlo S.S. of the Honda Lineup. High performance light, if you will.

Accord Sport looks fast while sitting in the “park” position — and that’s exactly what Honda engineering had in mind for it. With a MSRP of $26,785 you receive not only a very capable Honda Accord “sheep in wolf’s clothing,” but Honda Sensing ™, the full compliment of Honda’s state of the art accident avoidance technology.

For us. the adaptive cruise control is well worth the uptick, the 19 inch alloy wheels, lower ground effects and fog lights — the icing on the cake. In short, for those of you that don’t dream of a hole-shot 300 horsepower high performance V6, have family-hauling priorities, yet wish to retain a bit of “sportiness” in your daily commute, this is the Accord for you.