The only new car I ever bought was a 1999 Toyota Camry that I still drive—that is, when I’m not alternating between a 1968 VW Bus, a 1979 Ford F150 Supercab, and a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. The newest car in my regular rotation is my dad’s 2002 GMC Yukon that came out in that weird technological era before mandatory AUX outlets yet after the onset of OnStar. Even when I get rentals, I’m always opting for the cheapest, most basic models, autos that are basically a V-2 engine with four tires.
We’re an old-car family—partly out of cheapness, partly out of stubbornness, partly because I love the sound of a carburetor opening up in the morning. But when I had the chance to test-drive a 2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback LT, I took it to see how people drive in this new modern age.
Man, driving the 21st Century is FUN! There’s voice commands that allow you to change radio stations and more! A powerful personal hotspot! A rear-view camera that makes parallel parking as easy as turning on the ignition! And the ignition! A push button? And you don’t even have to put a weirdly shaped key into the car? And the car will honk if you leave the Cruze running but take the keys with you, as a reminder that, while our automobiles are advanced AF, the human mind is still hilariously analog and forgetful? And that your side mirrors will flash if there’s a car in your blind spot?
As Jasper said in that Simpsons episode where he tried to freeze himself at the Kwik-E-Mart, then thawed out by accident, but still thought he was in the future, wandered around the store and saw a Moon Pie, “What a time to be alive.”
I drove the Cruze in a perfect test, too: not for a weekend around some weak-salsa cul-de-sacs, but all the way to Sacramento for a wedding, loaded with craft beers and champagne. So my wifey and I hauled ass on a recent Friday morning to Cow Town and marveled all along the way at what a great ride we were experiencing.
Another revelation of driving in the modern age: there are now cars with engines that turn off when you’re at a stop sign! And dashboards that track your fuel economy! And seats that warm up! And a mount in the back seat that allows people to put their iPad! Built-in SiriusXM, so I don’t have to constantly switch around my crappy antenna! Seriously, what a time to be alive…
The Cruze had all of the features I mentioned above, and if they’re all standard in new cars, so be it. But it doesn’t remove this truth: I don’t review cars for a living (that’s more Clockwork Coker’s gig) so everything I’m writing here comes from the perspective of a cynical Everypaisa. I regularly drive different things, from RVs to UHauls to all the jalopies in my collection, but none that even try to approach luxury, or have all the amenities now common. And because I’m such a stubborn fuck, I’ll always maintain that cars with carburetors are superior—and the new age is for chavalas. I actually spurned the nice PR lady who offered this test drive about three times, telling her I didn’t expect much from a company whose last good car was the fourth-generation El Camino.
So believe me when I say the Cruze is beautiful. The ride was—to steal the biggest cliché in auto journalism—smooth, but I say it from the perspective of someone who knows that an Eldo barrelling down the 5 at 90 miles per hour is like riding in the clouds. That’s how the Cruze was. It zipped like an import and turned with the deftness of the old NES game R.C. Pro-Am. I can see kids turn this into a hell of a whip, or in the hands of everyone from lame-ass hipsters to people who camp to crafters and restauranteurs who need a reliable, bit, yet affordable car.
Auto nerds can find all of the Cruze’s specs here—I really don’t give a shit about horsepower this and torque that. There’s only two things I care about when it comes to modern-day cars that I might buy: the price, and the gas range. For the latter, I only had to fill up once on the way to Sacramento (pro tip: the cheapest gas in the 5’s section of the non-city Central Valley is in Buttonwillow, where there’s a fabulous pupusa truck), and I ended up averaging about 35 mpg on my overall trip, even though the specs say the combined city and highway fuel economy should average out about 31 mpg. As for the price, with a basic version at an MSRP of $22,115 and a loaded version topping out around $5,000 more, it’s a damn good deal for a car—and I say this as a hard-core codo who is still wearing his Doc Martens that are as old as his college Camry.
After the drive, my wifey said we should buy a Cruze, and I reminded her that I’m a carburetor guy until Jerry Brown finally outlaws them. But the Cruze convinced me that I should not fear the future of cars, and that Chevy is making good cars once more. One more time with Jasper: