S tylish Cruze in slick Chev

AT this time last year I was invited to a Christmas lunch at the Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg.

AT this time last year I was invited to a Christmas lunch at the Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg.

Now for those not familiar with the restaurant scene in Jozi, the Westcliff leads the pack when it comes to fine wine, great food and a relaxing ambiance.

The lunch was hosted by a jewellery group and it wasn't the duck paté or crayfish that I had my eye on. No, it was the big Christmas cracker lying on the table right in front of me.

"What could be inside?" I kept thinking. "Hopefully something expensive!"

Imagine my surprise when I eventually opened the cracker and out popped a trinket that wouldn't look out of place in a R5 shop!

I had a similar feeling recently when test driving the Chevrolet Cruze.

Before I get to what disappointed me about the Cruze, let me cover the good points ... and there are quite a few.

Its styling is slick and manages to attract its share of glances and stares. Body-coded door handles, mirrors and bumpers give it a complete look and the 17-inch wheels round off the car nicely.

The interior is even better. Admittedly we had on test the more upmarket (and expensive) LT model - but even the base L model comes with its fair share of extras.

Our particular unit came standard with climate control, power windows front and back, a rear sensor warning system, automatic lights and a tilt-slide sunroof.

A multifunction steering wheel is always a welcome addition and the Cruze LT's provide the basic functions of controlling the sound system and operating the onboard computer., which dishes out info such as fuel consumption, time, date and outside temperature.

Interior space, and the comfortable leather seats, makes the ride enjoyable and back seat passengers are guaranteed plenty of legroom.

So what is it that I didn't enjoy?

Well, I felt let down by the drive itself.

Even though ours is a mid-range 1,8 litre automatic gearbox it often battled to find the right gear.

Often it would over-rev while searching for the next gear up and when eventually selecting it, the power would fall away. A bit of turbo would not hurt.

But the Cruze is a good addition to the South African motor industry and we welcome it.

Coming in at R244000 the Cruze LT automatic manages to give buyers in the C-segment a lot car for a reasonable price.