General Motors debuted its important new Chevrolet Cruze sedan and a related concept MPV called the Orlando at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. The company hopes the all-new car will finally make it a respected contender in this hotly contested segment.
The new car is fundamentally stronger than the model it replaces (in the U.S, that is the Cobalt), boasting 140% better torsional rigidity to give the Cruze a solid feel that is beyond the reach of the Cobalt.
The Cobalt's hard, shiny cabin surfaces are gone. The Cruze, in contrast, has an abundance of soft-touch surfaces, with even hard surfaces bearing a textured, matte finish that looks more expensive than it is. This is supplemented with the use of a nylon mesh material in dash, seat, and door inserts that recalls a stretchy bungy net or other equipment holder for outdoor gear.
Avoiding the excuses we’ve heard in the past about cost or customer preference, Peter Mertens, Global Vehicle Line Executive for Compact Cars, boasted of the Cruze’s features. “I’m convinced this interior is a step forward in materials,” he said. “It will have state-of-the-art powertrains, and it is absolutely top-of-the-segment in body stiffness.”
The Cruze will carry the same taut, sleek (0.31 cd) styling in all its global iterations, with the goal of establishing Cruze’s concave shoulder line as a brand design cue, but there will be variation under that flowing skin. Not only will there be different powertrains in different markets, but the chassis itself will vary depending upon local crash-protection requirements to ensure a maximum score in each country’s test, Mertens explained.
In particular, there will be reinforcements to the B-pillars and the rocker panel area of cars for some markets, but not for others. “We will add or delete those as local safety standards require,” Mertens said.
The Cruze debuts in European markets in March, powered by one of two gasoline I4 engines, a 112-hp (84-kW) 1.6-L and a 140-hp (104-kW) 1.8-L, plus a new 150-hp (112-kW) 2.0-L turbodiesel I4, all backed with standard five-speed manual gearboxes. An available six-speed manual gearbox will debut as a segment-first offering for Chevrolet.
Future engines include a detuned 125-hp (93-kW) version of the diesel engine, and in the U.S. there will be a 1.4-L turbo gasoline engine, according to Mertens.
The Delta platform that underpins the new Cruze is meant to be extremely flexible, serving as the foundation for other models such as the next-generation Opel Astra, which is about a year away. It can also be stretched larger, as demonstrated by the Chevrolet Orlando concept vehicle, which targets the popular MPV segment in Europe. Although not yet announced, the Orlando is certain for production there. U.S. availability remains a topic of discussion within the company, according to Mertens.
While sharing the Cruze’s platform, the Orlando is a seven-seat crossover SUV that rolls on a 75 mm (3.0 in) longer wheelbase at 2760 mm (108.7 in) and 40 mm (1.6 in) wider front and 30 mm (1.2 in) wider rear tracks.
Although the Orlando is a concept model, with auto show-only wheels, door handles, mirrors, and lighting, the body style is true to the company’s production plans. “I wouldn’t imagine a production version being very different,” said Ed Welburn, GM Vice President of Global Design. “We could even improve on it in some areas,” he promised, without specifying where he would like to tweak the design.
In concept form, the Orlando is powered by the 150-hp 2.0-L turbodiesel planned for the Cruze. While some segment competitors, such as the Mazda5, employ sliding rear doors, a production Orlando would keep the concept’s hinged rear doors to remain in the SUV, rather than minivan, category, said Mertens.