When Chevrolet first launched its mid-sized sedan in South Africa in 2009 it was received mixed views from journalists and potential buyers alike. Soon after grumblings began about the Cruze, consisting mainly of negative adjectives such as “dull”, “bland”, “ho hum”.Despite car journos misgivings (myself included) for many thousands of buyers, the Cruze ticked all the right boxes as a family ride – practical, spacious, large boot, no headaches behind the wheel (provided it wasn’t the first generation auto).Since its launch the popularity of the Cruze globally is astounding with more than 1.56 million models sold. The Cruze is now the pride of the Chevrolet fleet with 670 000 sold in 2011 and over 420 000 delivered in the first seven months of 2012 alone.With sales figures like that, the US automaker’s vanilla sedan deserves a second look from neighsayers.Building on its phenomenal success, the new Cruze receives a mid-life makeover with design tweaks and a new engine range. NEW ENGINESThe new range consists of five models; three five-speed manual petrol variants (1.6L, 1.6LS and 1.8LS) and two diesel units (2.0LS and LT). The 2.0 LS is mated to a six-speed manual while the top of the range 2.0 LT is coupled with a six-speed auto.The 1.6 is the latest generation engine from General Motors, which increases power from 80 kW to 91kW at 6400rpm with a torque peak at 155 Nm at 4200 rpm. The 1.8 produces 104 kW at 6200 rpm and 176 Nm of torque at 3800 rpm.Fuel consumption for both is rated at a claimed 6.7 litres/100km (combined cycle) and C02 emissions are 157g/100km.The 2.0 turbo diesel produces 120 kW at 4000 rpm (up from 110kW) with maximum torque at 360Nm from 2000 rpm (increased from 320 Nm). Fuel consumption is rated at 5.4 litres/100km (manual LS) and 6.2 litres/100km (auto LT) while CO2 emissions are 141g/100km and 164g/100km respectively.BOLD DESIGNAt the front, Chev eschews the honeycomb grille in favour of horizontal slats for its new face. The new look grabs attention and is a vast improvement over the outgoing model. The rear sports subtle alterations. Overall it’s sportier than its predecessor but a far cry from Hyundai’s Elantra and i30. Chev’s design movement beginning with its next-generation Spark, Sonic and now the growing Cruze family is a great leap forward for the brand that’s usually seen as creating bland vehicles.The Cruze packs a host of creature comforts to its base model range with power windows and side mirrors, air conditioning, central locking as well as front and side airbags.The LS models adds the following to the standard kit - telescopic steering column, six CD front loader, Bluetooth, rear centre headrest, fog lights, Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) and traction control. The LS grade benefits from front and side airbags.The top of the range 2.0 diesel auto adds leather seats, dual zone climate control, rear park assist, rain sensing wipers, power folding side mirrors and auto headlights.RIVALSChevrolet has set its sights on Hyundai’s Elantra, Toyota’s Corolla and Ford’s Focus with its new Cruze. Other rivals gunning for their share of the SA C-segment include Kia’s Cerato and Renault’s Fluence.MORE FROM CHEVROLETAlongside its new Cruze sedan comes a sportier hatchback offering more versatility for those seeking a practical family ride. Click here to find out more about the new Cruze hatchback.Prices:Chevrolet Cruze Sedan 1.6 L MT - R201 800 Chevrolet Cruze Sedan 1.6 LS MT - R215 400Chevrolet Cruze Sedan 1.8 LS MT - R227 800Chevrolet Cruze Sedan 2.0 LS MT diesel - R265 300Chevrolet Cruze Sedan 2.0 LT AT diesel - R285 700A five-year or 120 000km warranty and three-year or 60 000km service plan are standard. Service intervals 12 months or 15 000 kilometres.