Already a solid favorite with value-oriented buyers, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze will arrive in showrooms early next month with a number of new standard and available features as well as even better highway fuel economy on models equipped with the Ecotec 1.4-liter turbo four engine and six-speed automotive transmission.

Expanding the standards set on the volume-leading Cruze 1LT as well as the more frugal Eco model is a host of features that were part of the 2011 Connectivity Plus Package including Bluetooth phone connectivity, a USB port, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a leather-wrapped shift knob. Already included in the 2LT and LTZ trims, Rick Scheidt, vice president of Chevrolet marketing, noted that the package -- which remains optional on the base Cruze LS model -- had been ordered by 90 percent of Cruze buyers in the U.S..

Other new standards for the 2012 Cruze include 16-inch alloy wheels on the 1LT, 17-inch alloys and four-wheel disc brakes on the 2LT plus foglamps and keyless entry/keyless start on the LTZ (the latter becomes a 2LT option). A new touch-screen navigation system with a 7.0-inch color display will be available on the Cruze Eco, LT2 and LTZ models while LT1/LT2 buyers can opt to shift for themselves using a new-for-2102 six-speed manual transmission as an alternative to the existing six-speed automatic.

Although the mileage-maxing Cruze Eco with a manual transmission carries over with no changes to its powertrain or its 28/42 mpg city/highway EPA stats, all other Cruze models fitted with the 1.4L turbo/ six-speed auto see their projected 2012 highway numbers rise by two mpg. That improvement -- which comes courtesy of a more efficient 3.56:1 axle ratio in place of the current 3.87:1 cog -- elevates the freeway figure on the standard Cruze from 36 to 38 mpg and ups the Cruze Eco's economy from 37 to 39 mpg. "Fuel economy is the top reason customers buy a compact, notes Scheidt. and the Cruze's greater efficiency for 2012 makes it all the more attractive."

Pricing for the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze will start at $17,140 for the LS; $19,225 for the Cruze 1LT; $19,995 for the Cruze Eco; $21,335 for the Cruze 2LT and $23,860 for the top-line LTZ model.

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