By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.0
One of the most competitive and lucrative segments in the auto industry is that of the compact car. Until recently, foreign competitors dominated the market, with Ford, Chevy and Dodge offering weak or sub-par offerings. But domestic manufactures have begun turning the tables on their overseas rivals and regaining the trust and confidence of American buyers. One example of this turnaround is the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze, a sleek and efficient compact that offers impressive features, handsome styling and fuel economy figures even the staunchest tree-hugger would concede are pretty darn good. Because of the wide model range and options list, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze possesses a broad price spread that ranges from around $17,000 to just under $27,000 when fully loaded. That's quite a chunk of change for compact car and it might be a tough sell, especially when compared to the equally attractive and fuel efficient Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic. But, the Chevrolet brand is on fire right now. So while models like the Elantra and Civic may provide many of the same features as the Cruze they don't feel as solid or connected to the road, an attribute many budget-minded enthusiasts look for in a compact sedan.
If you're shopping for a compact car with a more refined look, ride and interior quality than the average economy sedan, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze sedan is sure to win you over. The Eco model's 40-mpg highway fuel rating also can't hurt.
The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze sees a two-mpg increase in the highway fuel economy on models equipped with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. A 6-speed manual is now standard on LT trims, while the Connectivity Plus Cruise package is made standard on 1LT and Eco trims. LTZ trims gain keyless entry and start as well as fog lamps.
Driving Impressions The 2012 Chevy Cruze sedan offers two engine choices: a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder and a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. While the 1.8-liter engine is bigger, it is only available on the base...LS Cruze and is nowhere near as fun to drive as the smaller turbocharged engine. Despite the smaller displacement, the 1.4-liter Ecotec engine is quiet and smooth, and actually produces the same horsepower as the 1.8-liter but with stronger low-end torque. If the turbo has one drawback, it's the momentary lag experienced upon acceleration, a result of the few seconds it takes the turbocharger to wind up and do its power-boost thing. We were equally impressed with the Cruze sedan's driving dynamics which are best described as sporty and fun, but not overly harsh. The adept suspension does a good job smoothing out small pavement irregularities, and during aggressive driving, it keeps the car fairly level and free of body roll. Added to save weight and fuel, the electric-assist power steering delivers good feedback and generally feels direct and well balanced.
1.4-liter Ecotec Turbo Engine
The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze sedan's 4-cylinder turbocharged engine not only delivers ample torque for a fun drive, it's also quiet and fuel efficient.
The 2012 Chevy Cruze RS features bold rocker panels, fascia, lamp treatments and a spoiler on the outside, while inside chrome accents, ice-blue backlighting and an up-level instrument cluster complete the sporty look.
Chevrolet spent a lot of time and effort the get the 2012 Cruze's interior right, and it has paid off handsomely. The quality of the materials combined with their design and execution are far and away above anything else in this price range. Seat comfort, both front and rear, is another area where the Cruze sedan shines. Legroom up front is excellent while the rear seats offer a comfortable place for two adults – as long as the front seats are not fully extended. Attention to safety is evident by the Cruze's 10 airbags, including front and rear seat-mounted side airbags and front knee airbags. Ample use of sound deadening material makes the Cruze sedan's cabin one of the quietest in the segment.
Chevrolet gave the 2012 Cruze sedan an aggressive hood and front fender treatment connected to a split front grille that has become the company's new "face." The Cruze's wide stance and big wheel and tire combo impart a solid, stable look that makes the car seem larger than its compact status. Base models ride on 16-inch rims, with the more expensive models owning 17- and 18-inchers. For those who might prefer a more stylized ride, Chevrolet offers a number of exterior and interior appearance packages that add machine-finished wheels, a rear spoiler, body-colored mirrors and door handles, and fog lamps.
The base Chevrolet Cruze LS comes equipped with a 1.8-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder engine, a 6-speed manual transmission, 10 airbags, air conditioning, keyless entry, and power windows and door locks. Opting for the 1LT model brings a 6-speed automatic transmission paired to a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, cruise control, Bluetooth, a USB port, power mirrors and steering wheel audio controls. The 2LT Cruze adds leather seating surfaces, a 6-way power driver's seat and heated front seats. The top-of-the-line LTZ trim further enhances the Cruze sedan with rear park assist, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and dual-zone climate control.
Options on the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze vary by trim and include a Connectivity Package with Bluetooth, a USB Port for portable music devices and steering-wheel-mounted stereo controls. A sporty RS Package is also available, offering front fog lamps, rocker panel moldings and a rear spoiler. Stand-alone options include a power moonroof, rear parking sensors, GPS navigation and a Pioneer premium audio system.
Two engines are offered on the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze: A naturally-aspirated 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that produces 138 horsepower and 125 lb.-ft. of torque (standard on base LS models) and a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 138 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque. This year, addition of the 6-speed manual to the turbo models makes them ultimately more fun to drive, but we know the vast majority of Cruzes will go out the door with the very capable Hydra-Matic 6-speed automatic transmission. Using a combination of lighter materials, better aerodynamics and low-rolling-resistance tires allows the Cruze ECO to achieve hybrid-like fuel economy that exceeds 40 mpg.
1.8-liter in-line 4
138 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
125 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/36 (manual), 22/35 (automatic)
1.4-liter in-line 4 Turbocharged
138 horsepower @ 4,900 rpm
148 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2,500 rpm (manual), 148 lb.-ft. @ 1,850 rpm (automatic)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/38 (manual), 26/38 (automatic), 28/42 (manual, ECO), 26/39 (automatic, ECO)
By RLT on Saturday, November 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,800overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfortable, gas mileage, stereo, moon roof"
Cons: "smaller back seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I love the Cruze. It looks nice and is comfortable. I switched from a Cadillac to the Cruze and don't regret it. I have the cloth seats that squeak a bit, but will be taking it to the dealer to fix. My only thought is the back seats are small if you need to put three people back there. Love the phone, blue tooth, rear camera, stereo system, and moon roof. Great car so far."
By Harry a on Saturday, November 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 110,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Reliability, handeling, functionality and power."
Cons: "Could use more power outlets, 2 not enough."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Still drives like new. Mostly highway mileage. Handles great, tight as a drum. Everything works, no problems except the catalytic converter was changed at aprox. 50k at no charge. Gas mileage is 34 to 38 mpg."
By viv on Monday, November 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "looks great, the milage is great, large trunk"
Cons: "no room in back seat for a adult,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"My 80 year old mother and our 2 year old grandson took a long trip last summer in my new cruse, we did not have a fun trip.There was no room in the front to move, nor to put any thing n front of you also the cup holders are to far back. My poor grandson had no room to move n the back seat with out placing the front seat all the way up, then my mom did not have room. The mileage was great 40 mpr, but after 3 hours we had to stop anyway to stretch our legs."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By MelissaJ on Wednesday, November 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 21,500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "gas, space"
Cons: "nothing really"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Plenty of room up front for a compact car, but a bit snug in the back. Trunk has plenty of space. Great gas mileage, best of any vehicle I have owned yet. I bought the 2013 in 2013, so I think I overpaid, but otherwise good deal. Couple recalls, but that's a risk on any purchase. As other reviews stated, some lag when pushing the gas from a stop, and a little jerky at some stops (think manual). Nothing extreme or annoying."
3 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Neil on Monday, November 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I've had it for four years now and it's been great. It's the first vehicle I've had that never gives me problems, and that I never want to get rid of. Love the car and hope it lasts a long time."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Restless Legs on Saturday, November 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "MPG, comfort, quiet ride, handling"
Cons: "No rear cup holders"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I just bought my second Cruze Eco manual. My previous Eco easily gave me 45-47 mpg on interstates at 70 mph. On rural roads at 60 mph, I frequently get in the low 50s for mpg. Around town, I've never gotten below 30 mpg. The car is very comfortable on long trips. The front seats are very comfortable, but the back seats are not comfortable for adults on long trips. Our teen daughters find the back seats fine, though. Trunk is spacious. The ride is quiet. The car feels steady and firm. The interior looks classy, and the controls are easy to use. The bright red exterior looks fantastic. Only complaint - why does the Eco base model not have cup holders in the rear seats?"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful