The Chevrolet Cruze made its debut last year and quickly rose to join the leaders in the small car segment thanks to its capable handling, healthy turbocharged engine, good gas mileage, high quality interior, generous trunk and excellent crash test scores. The 2012 version brings more of the same, making it worthy of a serious look.
Other positives include its good looks both inside and out, a competive list of available features and its solid build quality. And on the road, the Cruze displays its nimble yet secure handling while maintaining an impressively quiet cabin.
Of particular note, the turbocharged inline-4 found under the hood in most models provides a nice boost in torque and lively acceleration around town. The gas sipping Cruze Eco model also gets this engine and, along with other efficiency-friendly tweaks, is EPA-rated at an outstanding 42 mpg highway.
As much as the Cruze has to offer, it's always a good idea to check out other class leaders to help make the most informed buying decision. Top models also worth considering include the newly redesigned Ford Focus, the Honda Civic, the also redesigned Hyundai Elantra as well as the Mazda 3 and VW Jetta.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2012 Chevy Cruze is available in four trims: LS, Eco, LT and LTZ.
Standard feratures on the Cruze LS include power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, air-conditioning, a theft-deterrent system with an anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, OnStar, a trip computer, a 6-way manual driver seat, front bucket seats with reclining seatbacks, 16-inch steel wheels, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split rear seat and a 6-speaker audio system with a CD/MP3 player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. There's also an optional Connectivity package for the LS which includes steering-wheel mounted audio controls, Bluetooth and a USB port.
The Cruze Eco model comes much like the LS but also includes aerodynamic body revisions, low-rolling-resistance tires, lightweight alloy wheels, a smaller fuel tank and several other weight-reducing adjustments.
The LT model consists of two trims: 1LT and 2LT. The 1LT adds a turbocharged engine, the Connectivity package features, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and color-keyed exterior mirrors, while the 2LT goes on to add a sport-tuned suspension, leather upholstery, a 6-way power driver seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and remote engine start.
Moving up to the top-of-the-line Cruze LTZ adds automatic climate control, 18-inch alloys, keyless entry/ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear park assist and upgraded interior trim accents.
Many of the upper trim level features are available as options on the lower trims. Optional features for the upper trims include a sunroof, a navigation system, a 9-speaker Pioneer audio system and the RS appearance package which adds a rear spoiler, foglights and unique front and rear fascias.
Powering the Cruze LS is a 1.8-liter inline-4 engine that produces 136 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. Under the hood of the Eco, LT and LTZ models is a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 that's good for 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet. While the increased power output is modest, the additional torque adds a significant acceleration boost. All models are front-wheel-drive. LS, LT and Eco models come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, while a 6-speed automatic is optional. The LTZ comes standard with the automatic.
The EPA-estimated gas mileage for an LS with the manual transmission is a frugal 25 mpg city and 36 mpg on the highway. The automatic LS is rated at 22 mpg city and 35 highway. Fuel economy for the LT and LTZ models with the turbo engine are the same with either transmission, coming in at an impressive 26 city and 38 highway despite the livelier performance.
The gas mileage for the Cruze's most pump-friendly model, the Eco, comes in at an outstanding 28 mpg city and 42 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission and 26 and 39, respectively, with the automatic.
Standard safety features across all 2012 Chevrolet Cruzes include antilock brakes (ABS), stability control, full-length side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and front and rear side impact airbags. The LS, Eco and 1LT models come with front-disc/rear-drum brakes, while the 2LT and LTZ are equipped with four-wheel disc brakes.
In government crash tests, the Cruze was awarded with a top score of five out of five stars, earning five-star ratings in all frontal and side-impact occupant protection categories.
The 2012 Cruze's cabin has an attractive two-tone color scheme and plenty of soft-touch surfaces, making for a more upscale overall environment than one might expect in this price range. This ambience is also enhanced by solid construction and above average materials quality. The cabin also stays impressively quiet for a small car.
The front seats are both comfortable and supportive, although they may be a bit narrow for some adults. Legroom in the rear is about average for the class, but the somewhat low backseat can make for less comfortable accommodations for taller passengers on longer trips. On the other hand, the trunk's maximum cargo capacity is a quite large 15.4 cubic feet.
Where the Cruze shines the brightest is on the road where it displays surprisingly agile handling while still being able to provide an overall comfortable and secure driving experience. Even the 2LT's and LTZ's sport suspension, while naturally providing a firmer ride, avoids becoming harsh.
Most drivers who are attracted to a fuel-efficient small car will likely be satisfied with the peppy personality of either engine, although the turbocharged version's additional torque provides added liveliness around town.
How To Get The Lowest Price:
Best Negotiating Tactic: Well, there's definitely a 'best way' when it comes to new car buying. If you want to get the best bottomline, out-the-door price you need to know exactly who to talk to at the dealership, how to make the contact and how to make this person eager to quickly drop prices as low as possible to get your sale.
Those of you in the market for a used car may want to check out this article about how to buy a used car at the lowest price. It details a super effective buying method, one that often beats down prices to wholesale levels.
And somewhat related to this, here's another excellent method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.
In addition, you can also try a Public Auto Auction in your own geographic area. While there can be a lot of junk vehicles at these auctions, there are often absolute gems sprinkled in as well. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them in your own area.