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Chevy designers have done a good job grafting a hatch onto the back of a Cruze sedan, resulting in a more stylish and practical compact economy car.

COURTESY CHEVROLET - The new hatch is well integrated into the lines of the Cevy Cruze sedan, resulting in an even sportier looking compact economy car.I've been a fan of small hatchbacks for a long time. Done right, they offer nearly as much cargo space as small wagons, but look a lot sportier. And, if the sedan they're based on is fun to drive, so are they.

With that in mind, I'm excited that two small hatchbacks have recently been added to the growing number that includes offerings from Mazda, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Ford and others. One is a hatchback version of the redesigned Honda Civic. The other is the 2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback, which I recently had the pleasure to drive for a week.

The Cruze sedan has already been recognized as proof that American manufacturers can make good small cars. It is well designed, stylish, comfortable, economical and reassuring to drive, with a suspension that easily tackles rough roads. The new version makes it even more practical by added cargo space under a sharply sloping hatch topped with a rakish rear spoiler.

COURTESY CHEVROLET - The rest of the 2017 Chevy Cruze is unchaged from last year, meaning it's still one of the best looking compacts on the market.Aside from the hatch, the new version is mechanically the same as the sedan. It is powered by a standard turbocharged 1.4-liter inline four cylinder engine mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Every 2017 Cruze also comes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and with Chevrolet's Teen Driver safety feature, which parents can use to set certain parameters for their children who are drivers.

The hatchback version is only offered with the two highest trim levels, LT and Premium, however. That means it comes with loads of comfort, convenience, entertainment and safety features, including a back-up camera, headlights with LED running lights, heated mirrors, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted phone and audio controls, a rear center armrest with cupholders, and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio.

Our fully-loaded Premium model upped the ante with 17-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded rear suspension, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, and a height-adjustable front passenger seat. And it included an Enhanced Convenience Package that added wireless device charging, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, and blind spot monitoring.

COURTESY CHEVROLET - The interior of the 2017 Chevy Cruze can be fully loaded with all the latest technologies.Despite that, our test Cruze Hatchback was only priced at $26,870, which is bargain considering everything it came with. And the ride was so solid, it felt like it would hold up for a long, long time — a welcome change from the earliest economy cars, which were not built to last (although some did).

I got the Cruze Hatchback during the final stages of the snow and ice storm that shut much of the region down for more than a week. Even without chains, the front-wheel-drive configuration allowed me to scoot through the slushy piles that remained on the roads. Although I was able to easily stash a shovel and a few bags of cat litter in the in the back just in case, they weren't needed. And the Cruze was very easy to live with when everything finally melted, including offering good outward visibility to help spot the new potholes on my familiar commute.

If you're in the market for a small hatchback, there are several models worth testing. But the new 2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback offers a level of refinement that is hard to beat.

2017 Chevy Cruze Hatch

Base price: $22,295

Price as tested: $26,870

Type: Compact five-door hatchback

Engine: Turbocharged 1.4-liter inline 4 (153 hp, 177 lbs-ft)

Transmissions: 6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 28/39 to to 30/40

Overall length: 175.3 inches

Curb weight: 2,900 pounds

Final assembly point: Ramos Arizpe, CZ Mexico

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