For automakers, the compact car segment is one of the fiercest arenas in which to compete. With continually rising fuel prices, more and more new car buyers are now considering smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, but these buyers don’t want to compromise the feel and amenities of more expensive vehicles. Enter the Cruze.
In only its second model year, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze (MSRP $16,800) is already Chevrolet’s best-selling car worldwide thanks to its outstanding quality, fuel efficiency, value and safety record. It’s a car that deftly balances on the line between a traditional compact car and a midsize sedan to attract a wider range of buyers.
And when you look at the numbers the Cruze produces, it really opens your eyes to the attractiveness of Chevrolet’s best-selling car: A class-leading 10 standard airbags for a best-possible five-star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash safety score, 42 mpg highway and six-speed manual and automatic transmission options powered by a 138-hp engine.
The Cruze comes in LS, Eco, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ trims. Even the LS model comes generously equipped with 16-inch wheels, air conditioning and a six-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player and satellite radio.
A six-month complimentary subscription to OnStar 9.0 with improved voice recognition is standard on all Cruze models and includes the Directions and Connections Plan with features like hands-free calling, Advanced Crash Response, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Stolen Vehicle Location and Stolen Vehicle Slowdown.
Eco models are similar to the LS, but feature aerodynamic touches, lighter alloy wheels, low-rolling-resistance tires and a smaller gas tank to cut excess weight and help deliver an impressive 42 mpg highway.
The Connectivity Plus Cruise Package is new for 2012 and comes standard on LT models. In addition to cruise control, features include Bluetooth hands-free phone, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and a matching leather-wrapped shiftknob. The LT also features 16-inch alloy wheels and power-adjustable body-colored side mirrors.
Also new for 2012, the 2LT adds 17-inch alloy wheels and four-wheel disc brakes, plus leather upholstered seating with heated front seats and power driver’s seat.
The LTZ offers amenities not often found in compact cars including automatic climate control, heated side mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start and Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist. Available options include a navigation system, power moonroof and a Pioneer premium audio system.
There are two engine options with the front-wheel drive Cruze. A 1.8-liter, four-cylinder good for 136 hp and 123 lb/ft of torque is found under the hood of the LS trims while all other versions feature a more powerful and even more fuel-efficient turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that cranks out 138 hp and 148 lb/ft of torque.
A smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission is standard on all trims except the LTZ, which has a six-speed automatic as standard equipment. The automatic is available on all models.
Although both engines are fuel efficient, the turbocharged 1.4-liter is a standout because of its deft balance of power and efficiency. LT and LTZ models return 26 mpg city and 39 mpg (up from last year) with the Eco boasting 28 city mpg and 42 highway mpg.
Another aspect of the Cruze that makes it a global best-seller is its build quality. Every gap tolerance on the Cruze body is three millimeters or less, adding to its exterior appearance. The same tight gaps are found inside, along with tastefully backlit LED technology in the instrument panel.
GM design engineers used color and grain matching throughout the interior, and seat inserts are paired to the instrument panel accent trim, adding up to a cabin that competes in quality and appearance with larger, more expensive sedans.
The ultimate test of perceived quality, however, comes from the simple task of opening and closing the door. Unlike competitive compact cars that have a tinny, hollow sound when the door closes, the Cruze closes with the same solid authority previously reserved only for German sedans.
Not only is the Cruze well built, it’s also fun to drive. Built on a precisely tuned chassis, the Cruze uses an advanced Z-link suspension design out back to match the MacPherson strut front end for optimum cornering stability and vehicle control. For further control, StabiliTrak Electronic Stability Control comes standard on all Cruze models, as does a rack-mounted electric power steering system that also improves fuel efficiency.
The Cruze earned a perfect Five-Star federal crash test rating thanks to its 10 standard airbags (more than any other compact car), StabiliTrak and use of high strength steel in critical areas for optimal vehicle occupant protection.
Aside from it being one of the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid vehicles on the road today, the 2012 Chevy Cruze also represents one of the best automotive values in its segment.
If you’re in the market for a new sedan, don’t miss our dealership. Once you get behind the wheel, you just might drive home in a 2012 Chevrolet Cruze.