IF Louis Chevrolet, co-founder of the eponymous carmaker, had had his way, you would not be reading this.

The Swiss-born son of a watchmaker simply loved cars — the more luxurious, powerful and exclusive the better.

It was the suggestion that Chevrolet should build a lower-priced car that finally led Louis to turn his back on the company he co-founded in 1911, leaving him to pursue his passion for motor racing.

So what he would have made of the diesel-powered practicality of a 2012-model large family hatchback we can only imagine.

Luckily for us ordinary motoring mortals, Chevrolet badges now adorn plenty of versatile, value-for-money, vehicles, as well as the high-profile Corvette and small-block power plants that have cemented the company’s name in motoring history.

Since its introduction three years ago, the Cruze has been a worldwide success and the arrival of the hatchback version strengthens the company’s hand in Europe’s hard-fought compact segment.

It is confidently styled, with loads of interior space and a choice of efficient petrol and diesel options. The LTZ test model, the top-of-the-range specification, came packed with every imaginable creature comfort, from heated leather seats and automatic air conditioning, to colour satellite-navigation and parking sensors.

Around town, the ride is firm and at speed, handling is fine and the suspension has a firm feel.

Though on the open road there is some body roll on bends, and while the steering lacks crispness, the overall solid feel makes the car a great long-distance cruiser.

Where the Cruze stands out from its competitors is not only its assertive looks and sporty profile, but its whopping interior space, which can be rapidly increased by folding the rear seats forward.

Storage space also abounds inside the car with a two-tier glove box, centre console and door pockets, as well as seatback pockets that can store everything up to a small laptop.

With prices starting from about £14,000, the Cruze delivers a lot of value across the range, with comprehensive safety equipment standard on all models.

A host of electronic systems has been incorporated in order to prevent accidents from happening, from electronic stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes, never mind the electronic brake distribution which intervenes to help during ‘challenging braking’. If all that fails, there are six airbags on hand to help to protect occupants.

Those safety features would, no doubt, have met with the approval of Louis Chevrolet, whose legacy lives on.

For some people believe that, in a nod to the company’s heritage, the gold ‘bow tie’ that adorns every Chevrolet is in fact a stylised Swiss cross, that continues to pay homage to Louis and his homeland.

Auto facts Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 LTZ VDCi Exec

  • Price: £19,295
  • Insurance group: 22 (1-50)
  • Fuel consumption (Combined): 50.4mpg
  • Top speed: 127mph
  • Length: 451cm/177.5in
  • Width: 179.7cm/70.7in
  • Luggage capacity: 14.5 cu ft
  • Fuel tank capacity: 13.2 gallons/60 litres
  • CO2 emissions: 147g/km
  • Warranty: Five years/100,000 miles