There’s two bits of bad news in the lineup of refreshed Chevrolet small cars announced today. Three, if you’re a fan of the Sonic. You see, the automaker doesn’t mention either the Sonic or the Impala in all of this 2019 model madnessÂ â€” lending credence to a report claiming GM plans to ditch both of those models. It’s rare for an automaker to invest in an 11th hour refresh of a model it plans to kill.
Sure, the Sonic’s last refresh came for the 2017 model year, one year later than the introduction of the current-generation Malibu, Cruze, and Spark. So maybe it’s just not due yet. But the Impala bowed for the 2014 model year and there’s still no word on any refresh or redesign.
The other bad thing will be felt only by lovers of the three-pedal, row-your-own lifestyle. What we reported in December is now confirmed: the Chevrolet Cruze goes fully automatic for 2019. It’s time to cross another affordable, manual-transmission car off a shrinking list.
For the 2019 model year, the Cruze sees appearance changes up front and, for some, in the rear. A slightly larger â€” and certainly wider â€” grille graces its face, flanked by simplified faux intakes. It’s a less creased and pinched look, and an arguable improvement over the 2018 model. LED running lights surround the headlamps. For top-flight Premier models, LED accent lighting adorns the taillamps.
Apparently, GM felt not much work was needed out back, and this critic is inclined to agree.
While there seems to be no change in the available powerplantsÂ â€” GM’s turbocharged 1.4-liter gas four-cylinder and 1.6-liter turbo diesel return for 2019 â€” the transmission lineup sees one terribly sad deletion. I say this as a manual Cruze owner who enjoys the liveliness a stick can bring to an otherwise yawn-inducing small car.
Chevrolet spokesman Nick Morgan confirmed the stick shift Cruze’s death to TTAC this morning. “Manual transmissions composed 2 percent of all Cruze sales,” he wrote in an email. Morgan’s figure applies to models sold in the United States.
This is going to come as a shock to cheapskates driving enthusiasts in this neck of the woods. A GM dealer I spoke with recently was shocked to hear of the possible elimination of the manual Cruze, telling your author that between 10 and 15 percent of Cruze models sold at his store leave the lot with three pedals. In Montreal, he said, the take rate tops 20 percent. (I may have to go shopping soon.)
In the transmission’s absence, the existing six-speed automatic carries on, as does the nine-speed auto mated to the diesel mill. (Losing the manual means the diesel’s maximum highway fuel economy drops from 52 mpg to 47 mpg.)
Chevrolet apparently wants to capitalize on the market share gained from the addition of hatchback and diesel models last year. Those vehicles lured more buyers away from other brands. Steve Majoros, marketing director for Chevrolet cars and crossovers, said in a statement that 53 percent of Cruze buyers in 2017 were new to the brand.
Given that 20 percent of the Cruze’s 2017 volume came from the hatch model, GM’s taking down a rung, offering an LS-trim five-door for 2019. All models see a 7-inch touchscreen with Chevy’s latest infotainment system, plus new wheel designs, a new interior color (Umber), and standard automatic climate control and remote start on LT and Premier trims. Available safety features now include pedestrian braking and low-speed forward automatic braking.
The RS package returns, offering buyers blacked-out moldings and badge, plus 17- and 18-inch wheels.
While the Cruze increased its compact car market share last year, it did so in a declining segment. GM soldÂ 184,751 Cruze sedans and hatches in 2017, down from the model’s high water mark ofÂ 273,060 vehicles in 2014. In March, the Cruze posted a 13.4 percent year-over-year sales loss, with volume over the first three months of 2018 down 26.1 percent compared to the same period last year.
(Update: Good news for Canucks – due to greater popularity, the six-speed manual transmission is retained in 2019 Cruze models sold north of the border. As for the transmission’s take rate, we’re attempting to find that out and will update this post when we hear.)
[Images: General Motors]