The Chevrolet Cruze has been named the 2014 Fleet Car of the year. The 2015 Cruze, which is receiving the award for the first time, beat out 48 cars for the annual Automotive Fleet and Business Fleet award, racking up the most votes by fleet managers in an online ballot.
“The award means a great deal to us. Having your readers say that we have the best fleet vehicle out there is really, really strong for us. This is a huge award for us,” said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president fleet and commercial sales.
Peper noted that the Cruze resonates with fleets for a number of reasons: total cost of ownership, safety, and technology. And, the numbers reflect this. According to Peper, fleet sales for the Cruze are up 41 percent in 2014.
Performance is Standard
The gasoline-powered Cruze is available in four trim levels: LS, LT, LTZ, and Eco.
The LS comes standard with a 138 hp Ecotec 1.8L four-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing. The LS gets an EPA-estimated 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway when equipped with a manual transmission. Models equipped with the automatic transmission get 22 mpg city/35 mpg highway.
The LT, LTZ, and Eco models come standard with an Ecotec 1.4L turbocharged engine. As with the 1.8L, the 1.4L turbo produces 138 hp and 148 lb.-ft. of torque. The Ecotec 1.4L turbo has a cruising range of more than 500 miles, according to the automaker.
The 1.4L has an EPA fuel rating of 26 mpg city/38 mpg highway on the LT and LTZ trims, and 28 mpg city/42 mpg highway on the Eco when it is equipped with the manual transmission. With the automatic transmission, the Cruze Eco’s EPA-rated highway fuel economy is 39 mpg.
The fuel economy numbers alone are among the reasons the Cruze makes sense for fleets, according to Peper.
“In our industry, it’s about total cost of ownership and the economics of it,” Peper said. “It has fabulous fuel economy. It’s got great warranty and maintenance coverage, too, which is another very big selling feature.”
The Cruze also features 110 cubic feet of interior passenger space and 15 cubic feet of storage.
Safety is a Key Value
The Cruze features a number of safety features. The car’s body incorporates high-strength steel in its unitized body structure, giving it enhanced strength and crash protection by helping to prevent intrusion into the passenger compartment in the event of a crash.
The underbody main rails extend from the front of the structure all the way to the rear, further enhancing the body’s strength and stiffness. A cross-structure beam behind the instrument panel supports the body in the event of a side-impact crash.
Peper made particular note of the Cruze’s 10 standard air bags, which include frontal driver and passenger air bags, roof rail-mounted head curtain side air bags that help protect the front and outboard rear seating positions; seat-mounted side-impact air bags (front and rear); and front knee air bags.
“The Cruze is the only vehicle in its class to have 10 standard air bags, and that also helped us achieve a five star overall vehicle score from NHTSA,” Peper observed.
Other safety features include a front passenger seat occupant sensing system and rollover sensing and protection system, collapsible pedal assembly to help protect against lower-extremity injuries, three-point safety belts in all five seating positions and safety belt load limiters (with pretensioners) in the front safety belt retractors, tire pressure monitoring system, and daytime running lamps and automatic headlamps.
An available Enhanced Safety Package includes crash-avoidance technologies, such as rear park assist, side blind zone alert, and rear cross traffic alert.
Cruze is a Mobile Office
The Cruze features a number of pieces of mobile, labor-saving technology, including OnStar 4G LTE with available Wi-Fi hotspot, which transforms the fleet car of the year into a mobile hub for drivers and passengers. The mobile hub allows passengers to connect personal devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets to high-speed wireless Internet. Each vehicle can accommodate up to seven devices at one time.
But connectivity is only part of the package for fleet customers. Peper noted the synergy that is created in the Cruze for fleets, because of the partnership between GM’s OnStar and telematics provider Telogis.
“For a lot of fleet customers getting into the Cruze, they have a lot of fertile data coming out of the OnStar system combined with what Telogis can do with that data, and customizing it for various fleet managers, it adds another dimension,” Peper said. “I’d say with the 4G LTE and separately the telematics aspect of it, we’re way ahead of the industry for the most part. I would say with our domestic competitors we’re two years ahead of them. That means something to our fleet customers.”
Other new technological content on the 2015 Cruze includes a new text message alerts feature for smartphone uses with Bluetooth profile, which reads incoming texts through the vehicle’s speakers, and Siri Eyes Free for iPhone iOS 6 and iOS 7.
Taken together — total cost of ownership, safety, and technology — makes the Cruze the whole package for fleets, said Peper.
“Why do so many fleets like it? And it’s not just in rental or commercial or government fleets. It’s in a mix of all of them. It’s because it’s the best value and safest on the market for a vehicle of its size,” he said.