Debuting as a 2011 model, the Chevrolet Cruze replaced the long-in-tooth Chevy Cobalt in the compact car market and the difference between the two is night and day.
The Chevrolet Cruze competes in the compact sedan market, although it's on the large side of the definition. Hailed by the press as General Motors' first legitimate competitor to class leaders Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and upstarts like the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, and the Kia Accent, the Chevy Cruze boasts a modern exterior design, high quality interior design and materials, and modern, fuel efficient engines. The Chevrolet Cruze is offered with one of two engines, four models (LS, Eco, LT and LTZ), and each comes standard with ten safety airbags, one of the highest in this segment. Upscale features like a power moonroof, premium sound system and speakers, and hard-drive-based navigation system are standard in more expensive models and available in less expensive ones. Changes from the 2011 to 2012 Chevrolet Cruze are minor and include new exterior color pallet and more standard features.
Body style: sedan
Engines: 1.4-liter inline-4; 1.8-liter inline-4
Transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Models: LS, LT, LTZ, Eco
The Chevrolet Cruze is still young in its life cycle, having gone on sale as a 2011 model. For 2012, three new exterior colors -- Autumn Metallic, Blue Topaz Metallic, and Victory Red -- are available. Chevy Cruze LS can now be hand in Gold Mist Metallic. Keyless entry/ignition and fog lights are now standard on the LTZ trim. The Connectivity Package has been dropped, and 17-inch wheels are standard on the Cruze 2LT.
The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze is a handsome, though conservatively designed, sedan featuring an arched roofline and a lot of space between the front and rear wheels, but not a lot of body work ahead of or behind them. Except for some new available exterior colors, the Chevy Cruze carries over into the new model year basically unchanged.
General Motors designed the Chevrolet Cruze interior around the larger midsize Chevy Malibu and it shows in layout and quality of materials used. Climate control, infotainment system, and steering wheel controls are straightforward and easy to use though the number of buttons and switches may be daunting at first.
High quality cloth, leather, and plastics are used throughout the Cruze, giving it a more upscale appearance and feel than expected at this price range. While Cruze's seats are comfortable, especially in optional leather, the sedan is narrow overall, though seat controls are generous for this class. And speaking of generous: the Chevrolet Cruze has a cargo capacity of 15.4 cubic feet, which is large in this segment.
Performance & Handling
The Chevrolet Cruze is a cruiser that does its best work while moving down the highway at a constant pace. There's very little wind and road noise, and the Chevy Cruze's suspension absorbs most road imperfections at near-luxury car levels. Acceleration, while confident, feels a bit sluggish compared to some of its competition, and both engines begin to protest when driven hard. The power steering adjusts depending on speed, making it easy to maneuver when parking but sometimes too responsive at higher speeds.
The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze is equipped with front knee airbags, front and rear side impact airbags, and side curtain airbags as standard for a total of ten airbags. Also standard are antilock brakes, a tire pressure monitoring system, and GM's popular StabiliTrak electronic stability control system (ESC).
EPA Fuel Economy
Chevrolet Cruze LS with manual transmission 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway
Chevrolet Cruze LS with automatic transmission 22 mpg city/35 mpg highway
Chevrolet Cruze LT, LTZ with manual transmission 26 mpg city/38 mpg highway
Chevrolet Cruze LT, LTZ with automatic transmission 26 mpg city/38 mpg highway
Chevrolet Cruze Eco with manual transmission 28 mpg city/42 mpg highway
Chevrolet Cruze Eco with automatic transmission 26 mpg city/39 mpg highway
- Fuel economy (Eco)
- Manual transmission option
You Won't Like
- Automatic transmission
- Expensive at higher trims
Competitive Chevrolet Compact
If You Like This Vehicle
- Ford Focus
- Honda Civic
- Hyundai Elantra
- Kia Forte
- Toyota Corolla