Man U deal boosts Chevy
CHEVROLET is well known as the maker of cars bought by blue collar workers in the US, promoting itself with slogans such as "Heartbeat of America", writes Tony Lewis.
But Chevrolet, owned by General Motors, is now the Detroit company's main global brand which explains why it has signed a five-year deal with Manchester United; the club claims to have more than 600 million fans worldwide, more than half of them in Asia with 100 million of them in China, GM's biggest market.
We don't know how much Chevy is paying to be linked to the world's best-known soccer club, but Chevrolet is a big number company, the world's fourth largest car brand, selling in 130 countries. So we can safely assume that deals with a club like Man U don't come cheap.
Unlike Chevrolets which are affordable and increasingly attractive; most of the cars we buy here are developed and built in South Korea, a result of GM buying the defunct Daewoo operation and turning it into a world class manufacturer.
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The Cruze hatchback is a perfect example of the "new" Chevrolet; you still get the big bowtie on the grille but in a very modern package with prices starting at £13,995 on the road. The Cruze was launched as a saloon in 2009 marking what Chevrolet termed "a revolution" in design with its striking front and strong side views. The Cruze is Chevrolet's best-seller worldwide.
The hatchback version arrived last year, putting Chevrolet right into the middle of one of the most competitive sections of the UK market, up against cars like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra and its Korean rivals Kia, with the cee'd, and Hyundai's i30.
Chevrolet describes itself as making "real cars for real people" with the aim of "appealing to people from all walks of life, irrespective of their social status." It's a noble ambition and one that the Cruze manages to meet.
The car tested here is in LT trim with a 1.6-litre engine and automatic gearbox, costing £15,905.
Even the entry-level LS model comes with air conditioning, remote locking, electric-front windows, follow-me-home headlights, electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors and a decent radio/CD player with auxiliary input.
The LT adds cruise control, electric windows all round, parking distance sensors, 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, steering wheel audio controls and a leather steering wheel and gear knob. The cabin has plenty of space and versatility with fully folding rear seats, split 60/40, and generous head, shoulder and leg room, especially in back. If it has a weak point it is the engine and auto transmission combination; the 1.6-litre engine isn't as refined as its competitors if you are keen to make swift progress. Other engine options are a 1.8-litre petrol and a 1.7-litre or 2.0-litre diesel.
Its strong suite is safety. Chevrolet claims that both in terms of the materials used and build quality, the Cruze represents a major improvement over Chevrolet's previous compact hatch. The structure is close to identical to that of the Cruze saloon, which achieved a five-star NCAP safety rating.
A host of electronic systems has been incorporated in order to prevent accidents from happening. In an emergency, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS) and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) will intervene to help the driver keep his vehicle on track and assist him if confronted with challenging braking or acceleration manoeuvres.
If you're looking for a car that is comfortable, practical and won't break the bank then add the Cruze to your shopping list; best of all, it comes with a five-year warranty which should help reduce the running costs.
â Tony Lewis is consultant editor of headlineauto.co.uk