Why the Cruze Is the Worst Chevy Vehicle to Buy

The Chevrolet Cruze is a sporty compact car sold around the world by General Motors. With its stylish appearance and plenty of room inside, it initially seemed like an improvement over previous Chevy compact cars like the Cavalier and Cobalt. Unlike many compact cars, the Cruze has more weight and feels like a safe, solid vehicle.

But were the first generation of Chevy Cruze reliable cars? Or were there problems?

The first generation of the Chevy Cruze

The 2017 Chevy Cruze on display at the North American International Auto Show
The 2017 Chevy Cruze | GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images

The first generation of Chevy Cruze was produced from 2011 to 2015. The base model was the LS, which featured a 1.8-liter engine that put out 138 hp. Other trim levels like the LT, 2LT, ECO, and LTZ offered a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine.

In 2014 and 2015, they added a turbodiesel engine with an output of 151 hp to the 2.0TD and DIESEL trim levels. The Chevy Cruze’s first-generation offered a six-speed manual transmission for the LS, LT, and ECO trim levels. 

It had decent features like the USB which became standard in 2013. You couldn’t get cruise control in the LS base models, but it was standard for the other trims moving up the trim ladder. The one caveat is that you could have added a connectivity package to the 2011 model’s base configuration. Bluetooth connectivity was standard on all trim levels beginning with 2013.

There were 18-inch alloy wheels on the LTZ trim only. A spare tire and jack were options in the 2011 models but not available on all ECO versions. The cars offered a quiet ride and mostly responsive handling. 

The reliability of the Chevy Cruze

According to a ranking of 85 Chevrolet generations by their reliability ratings, the first generation Chevy Cruze models from 2011 to 2015 ranked the lowest at 85. What problems made this the worst Chevy to buy?

For starters, there were instances of leaking water pumps in the 1.4-liter engine models. The leaks caused the air conditioning to stop working and caused the car to overheat. It was enough of a problem for there to be an announcement in the GM service bulletin in January 2015 for 2011 to 2014 models with that engine. The warranty coverage for the issue got extended by GM to 10 years or 150,000 miles, whichever came first. The repair involved replacing the water pump.

There were reports of defective PCV diaphragms in the valve cover. There were also instances of missing air check valves in the intake manifold that cause numerous problems with the 1.4-liter turbo engine. The problems resulted in blue smoke from the exhaust, excessive oil use, and a rough idle – all of which triggered the check engine light. There were cases of the PCV pipe being faulty too.

The repairs involved replacing the intake manifold in some cases. In other cases, the valve cover needed replacing. Either way, the repair could cost several hundred dollars.

The Chevy Cruze also reportedly had oil leaks from the engine, cooler lines, and transmission seals. Coolant leaks caused problems requiring that the thermostat housing be replaced. There were trunk release switch issues, which, while not expensive to fix, could cause quite a few headaches.

There were ignition coils that were faulty and caused misfires. The earlier models in this generation of Chevy Cruze even experienced complete transmission failures.

Another GM service bulletin reported electrical problems caused by loose negative battery cables. The result could be the display randomly turning on and off. It also caused problems with the anti-lock brake system, service traction system, and more.

The final verdict

Because of the many issues with the Chevy Cruze from 2011 to 2015, it’s rated by Consumer Reports as worse than average for predicted reliability. Many of the problems were addressed with increased warranties or recalls. Those in the market for a used sporty compact car may want to take a look at something else. The Toyota Corolla, Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, or the Mazda3 might be better choices.

If your heart is set on a first-generation Cruze anyway, consider a model with the 1.8-liter engine as it had far fewer troubles than the 1.4-liter turbo.