How the 2016 Chevy Cruze lost 250 lbs but packs in more tech than ever

2016 Chevy Cruze review
2016 Chevy Cruze hands on review

Before flying out to Detroit with me to see the new Chevy Cruze, my video editor Max Barbanell remarked, "Oh, we're seeing the next rental car?"

That's the generic auto image Chevrolet is trying to shake with the 2016 model of its top-selling car, and executives there readily admit that this GM brand hasn't always been leading innovation.

However, the 2016 Cruze gave me five good reasons to consider it in place of its sedan competitors, the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and, just down the road in Dearborn, Ford Fusion.

1. Goodbye, 250 lbs. of dead weight

It's easy to think of car tech as the in-dash navigation system and little else beyond that, but Chevrolet included crafty engineering to make things lighter, yet roomier. That's car tech, too.

The 2016 Chevy Cruze was rebuilt to be stronger, lighter and more responsive, and unlike the Six Million Dollar Man, the price is suggested to be "a great value." An exact price is still TBD, but the 2015 model starts at a reasonable $16,170 (about £10,282).

Chevy did give me a different number, though. The new Cruze is 250 lbs. (113 kg) lighter than the 2015 model. No, you're not going to be deadlifting this car, Superman. But that does translate into better fuel efficiency and performance.

2016 Chevy Cruze review

How'd it drop the weight? Chevy's big Slim Fast secret is aluminum. It does most of the job with a 1.4L turbo features an aluminum cylinder block and head.

Aluminum is also used strategically in the suspension systems to optimize weight and handling characteristics, and hot-stamped high-strength steel lines the body, according to the company.

2. Tech comes standard

I have a love-hate relationship with the pricey "tech packages" offered by car dealers. Whenever I'm "building" a fantasy car online, the perks I want cause the sticker price to skyrocket.

Chevrolet says it gets the needs of millennials with Cruze, going as far as including many tech features as standard: a seven-inch display, rearview camera and OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.

2016 Chevy Cruze review

I really need a rearview camera. I don't have a problem with bumping into cars; I have an issue leaving too much space in back, making for overly dramatic parallel parking ordeals and looking like an idiot when I get out of car. "Oh, I had plenty of room," I remark far too often.

With the camera and Chevy MyLink already installed, that gives me room to daydream about adding other techy extras: wireless phone charging, a larger eight-inch display and heated rear leather seats.

3. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

My next car has to have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. I tested the two interfaces out in the new Hyundai Sonata, and while I like Google's interface better, I want both.

2016 Chevy Cruze review

That's because my phone preference could switch multiple times during the life I own a new car. Likewise, if my iPhone 6-owning friends want to share a likely awful playlist, I never want to say the words, "Sorry, I only have Android Auto."

Chevrolet comes through with the Apple CarPlay on eight-inch screens at launch and, later this year, Android Auto compatibility. That means I will always be familiar with the apps, and friends can plug in their iPhone or Android if they want to take over the music - briefly.

4. Better fuel efficiency

Chevrolet wasn't ready to talk price, but it was ready to repeatedly talk about the fuel efficiency. Now tattooed in my brain, it the new Cruz can travel 40 MPG (highway), claim GM tests.

2016 Chevy Cruze review

This is in part due to that lighter design and the standard 1.4L turbocharged engine with direct injection and an SAE-certified 153 horsepower (113 kW).

City miles per gallon stats haven't been revealed yet, however, Chevy has equipped this 2016 car with stop and start technology to enhance the Cruze's efficiency there, too.

5. Safety dance

I'm a sucker for safety features and the Safety Dance. The 2016 Chevy Cruze comes through with kind that doesn't involve the Canadian band Men Without Hats.

2016 Chevy Cruze review

It starts with that stronger body that's made of high-strength steel, a key feature when you're considering crash protection a priority.

The entire car is with lined with 10 airbags as standard: frontal driver and passenger bags, roof rail-mounted head curtain side bags, seat-mounted side-impact bags and front knee bags.

Its most advanced crash-avoidance extras including Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision Alert.

2016 Chevy Cruze review

Looks less like a rental car

Chevrolet is positioning the 2016 Chevy Cruze to be less like that standard-package rental car and more like a feature-packed, reliable four-door sedan with style.

It's a little more aerodynamic-looking, like the 2016 Chevy Volt, and includes most everything you need as standard. It's trying to be a compact without compromise.

Early adopters of tech, of course, will want to heavily weigh the upgrade to Apple CarPlay and, later this year, Android Auto. At launch, they'll require an eight-inch display that's hard to resist.

Matt Swider