The sport compact seemingly died off in the early noughties, but the automotive world took solace in knowing affordable performance would carry on in the idea of a livable and functional hatchback. Various automakers had already taken to the hot hatchback segment, but it wasn’t until recently we saw Ford truly ramp its efforts up with its ST and RS line of performance hatchbacks that the segment got really hot. Which, by the way, will set record sales number this year.
Today, nearly every major automaker offers a stepping stone into affordable performance, normally with a hopped up hatchback. Chevrolet has skipped out. And it seems Chevrolet will continue to do so following the plethora of information on the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze hatchback released recently.
With the announcement and confirmation of the 1.6-liter diesel CDTi turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine heading to the Cruze hatchback, Chevrolet also looks to cover its “sporty” bases with a Cruze diesel RS. Not SS, but RS.
And with that news, it seems we can kiss the idea of a true Cruze hot hatch goodbye. We have no doubt a Cruze hatchback will be plenty of fun to drive with oodles of low-end torque and an optional six-speed manual gearbox, but that’s not really what makes a hot hatch a hot hatch.
Consumers buy them for their boy-racer looks, look-at-me styling cues and major performance credentials under the hood. If anyone thinks a potential performance hatchback buyer would seriously cross-shop a Cruze hatchback diesel with, say, a Volkswagen Golf R or Ford Focus RS, that simply is outlandish.
We’ve heard on various occasions a Cruze SS has internal fans at Chevrolet, but ultimately, sources have told us the brand is iffy on hurting the Cruze’s “family car” image with a go-fast variant. Yet, the idea of a Honda Civic Si sitting alongside a more pedestrian Civic sedan has worked out just fine … for years, mind you.
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: a Cruze SS is a seriously missed opportunity to court younger, more affluent buyers into Chevrolet showrooms. Maybe the brand will surprise us in the future, but it seems unlikely. However, if sales and price tags are anything to go on, a turbocharged Camaro coupe isn’t cutting it.