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The hatchback Cruze that will do most of the same work as a small SUV and is more fun to drive.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - On the road, the Cruze is fun to drive. You've got enough power to merge onto the freeway with confidence, and the compact Cruze makes parking lot navigation a breeze.It may sound strange to recommend a traditional compact hatchback in an era when subcompact SUVs are among the best-selling vehicles on the market, but the 2017 Chevy Cruze hatch fills an important niche in the automotive scene. It's small, fun and functional, and it's affordable.

For decades, hatchbacks have been the car of choice for younger buyers. But they can also be the right choice for anyone who needs some functionality. A compact hatch offers a big cargo area but is small enough to park anywhere. They are nimble and fun to drive, yet economical both in terms of fuel economy and in purchase price.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The mid-level LT trim includes all modern comfort and convenience features like air conditioning, cruise control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and a seven-inch color touchscreen interface.The 2017 Chevy Cruze hatchback hits all those targets. With a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, you get 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. You can choose between a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. Performance enthusiasts will want to select the manual option, but the automatic is a nice unit that's great for commuters or anyone who doesn't want to deal with a manual.

With the automatic I tested, the Cruze gets 29 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway. The numbers are similar for the manual option, and there's a diesel that has not yet been EPA-rated, but should offer fantastic mileage. For comparison, the 2016 Cruze diesel with manual transmission got up to 52 MPG on the highway, and up to 47 MPG with a 9-speed automatic.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Inside, the Cruze offers enough driver space for a six-foot man, and while the back seat is not huge, it'll do for short hops.Inside, the Cruze offers enough driver space for a six-foot man, and while the back seat is not huge, it'll do for short hops. The car is comfortable and in the mid-level LT trim includes all modern comfort and convenience features like air conditioning, cruise control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and a seven-inch color touchscreen interface that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Like all Chevrolet products, the car also has its own onboard data capability and will generate a wi-fi hot spot inside the car for you.

On the road, the Cruze is fun to drive. You've got enough power to merge onto the freeway with confidence, and the compact Cruze makes parking lot navigation a breeze. As a smaller car, road noise is greater than in larger vehicles, especially on Portland's rough freeways. But the noise level is not out of the ordinary for this class of car. The Cruze sedan will be quieter than the hatchback.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - There's a lot of cargo space under the rear hatch, and more with the back set folded down.The Cruze starts at $17,850 for a manual transmission L trim sedan, and the top diesels will cost you about $23,770 after Chevrolet's $2,500 incentive is applied. The top trim gas-powered hatchback with automatic transmission costs just $22,320 and includes heated leather seats. That's a great value on a fun car that will do most of the same work as a small SUV.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LT Automatic

Base price: $17,850

Price as tested: $24,835

Type: Compact hatchback

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

Transmissions: 6-speed automatic; 6-speed manual

EPA estimated mileage: 29/38

Overall length: 175.3 inches

Curb weight: 2,932 pounds

Final assembly: Ramos Arizpe, Mexico

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