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  • William Maley
    William Maley
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    Review: 2012 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ

    Back in 2010, I had gotten a phone call from my editor at an automotive website I was working for at the time. He wanted to know if I would be interested in helping out with a comparison test of the just launched Chevrolet Cruze versus its predecessor, the Cobalt. Of course I wanted to help out. It would be a great chance to try this new compact sedan that was being claimed as the best General Motors had ever done.

    I was nervous as my editor and I met up and drove to the dealership where the two vehicles were waiting for us. Once we had gotten the keys and plates, we were off. Driving around in the two Chevrolets for most of the day brought forth some interesting thoughts about them.

    At the end of the day, he and I compared notes. We agreed that the Cruze was not only light-years ahead of the Cobalt; it was GM’s best effort.

    Since that time, I have left said site and moved on to a couple other sites to write for. Also during that time, the Cruze began climbing up the sales charts for GM, while being heaped with praise left and right.

    But now, the two of us meet again; a little bit older and maybe a little bit wiser. Is the Cruze still as good as I remembered or has the competition and age dealt it a blow?


    One of the biggest complaints about the Cruze since we last met is its styling. Compared to the curvaceous Hyundai Elantra and Kinetic design of the Ford Focus, the Cruze is very conservative. You will not find a coupe like roofline, pronounced creases, surface flaming, or any other cool design cue on this car. In fact, for being on sale for almost two years, the Cruze is the third oldest design in the compact segment after the Nissan Sentra and Kia Forte. That's not a reflection on Chevrolet's designers. It's more of how competitive the segment has become within that time.


    But don’t think of that as a downside. The Cruze, though conservative, is a very handsome car. The front end carries Chevrolet’s trademark double grille opening with chrome accents running around the edge. The front headlights extend toward the fenders. The side profile of the Cruze has a character line running from the front door to the taillights, while the belt line is accented with some chrome. The back end is very short and has a tall trunk lid. Other design cues include chrome bar in the middle of the trunk lid and a distinct pair of taillights. Top it all off with LTZ’s standard 18-nch wheels and the Crystal Red paint on this particular model.

    Next: The Inside Story


    When I first drove the Cruze back in 2010, one of the biggest things that impressed me was the interior. My first thought was, "Wow! GM has done a compact interior right." That still holds true in 2012.


    The dash is a mix of plastic and some sort of mesh cloth that seems to have the same pattern that you see on gym shorts. Odd choice, but it works. Ahead of the driver lies a three spoke steering wheel wrapped in leather and provides controls for the stereo, Bluetooth and cruise. The instrument cluster is well laid out and easy to read.

    The leather covered seats in the Cruze are very comfortable and provide enough support for the driver and passenger. Back seat passengers will have no complaints as there is enough head and legroom - a fold-down armrest with integrated cupholders is a nice touch.

    Trunk space for the Cruze stands at 15.4 cubic feet and grows when the back seats are folded.

    This particular Cruze was equipped with the optional seven-inch navigation unit. Unlike most navigation systems where the data is stored on a hard drive, the Cruze’s unit uses an SD card. It takes a few seconds longer for the system to load when you start the car, but works normally thereafter. The screen was bright, easy to read at a glance, and responded pretty quickly whenever touched. The system can also be controlled by set of buttons and knobs for the stereo and HVAC systems.


    The optional Pioneer sound system was very good. Whatever I played through it – iPod, XM, or FM, the system had no problem at all filling the car with sound.

    The LTZ also came with a new feature for 2012; keyless entry and start. The keyless entry was hit and miss – causing me to resort to the remote unlock more than a few times during the week. Thankfully, the keyless start worked flawlessly. The keyless system also has an alarm to let you know that you left your keys in the car. I can attest it worked since it went off on me three times during the week.

    Next: How does the Cruze fare with cruising?

    Ride & Drive

    The Cruze LTZ uses a 1.4Liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 138 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. The engine isn’t what you would call a powerhouse, but its feisty nature and williness to provide power make it a pleasure to drive.


    One of the big problems I had when I drove the Cruze back in 2010 was the six-speed automatic. The transmission delivered balky shifts when on the move, making it very unpleasant to drive. Thankfully, GM remedied that last year with new programming and the balky shifts are gone. In its place is smoothness.

    Fuel economy on the Cruze’s 1.4L turbo is 26 City/38 Highway/30 Combined. During the week I had the Cruze, I averaged about 26.5 MPG in mostly city driving. On the highway, I couldn’t get close to EPA’s 38 MPG rating – getting around an average of 32 MPG during a 40 Mile round trip with the cruise set at 70 MPH.

    The Cruze’s ride focuses on comfort. Driving along on the highway or in the city, the chassis and 18 inch wheels provided a ride that could rival cars costing twice as much. Even driving through some of the craters that dot Southeast Michigan, the Cruze was stable. More surprising was how quiet the Cruze was. Wind and road noise were tamped down by a large amount. Chevrolet must have borrowed a few of Buick’s sound engineers during the development.

    But what happens when you show the Cruze some curves? The Cruze handles them ok. The chassis and Michelin tires do a good job of keeping it steady though corners. Steering while quick to respond is also somewhat numb.

    Final Thoughts:

    The older things get, the better they are mantra plays true with the Cruze. Since being introduced in 2010, GM has been making small improvements and fixing problems to keep the Cruze right on the top of the compact car segment. In fact in 2011, the Cruze outsold the stalwart Honda Civic by 10,497 vehicles and fell short of beating the segment king Toyota Corolla by just 8,527 vehicles.

    But there is one thing I haven’t talked about and that is the Cruze’s pricetag. As tested, this Cruze LTZ costs $25,625. Now, that seems like a lot for a compact car. But after driving it for a week, the price tag seems very justifiable. Partly due to competitors like the Ford Focus either matching or going above the as tested price for similarly equipped vehicles. But also for what you’re getting for the price; a well rounded compact car that can get you from point to point in comfort and style.

    Just keep in mind about the highway fuel economy.



    Noise Levels

    Smoothness of the Automatic



    Keyless Entry

    Highway Fuel Economy


    Even after a year and a half, the Cruze is still a formidable player.

    Disclaimer: General Motors provided the Cruze, Insurance, and one tank of Gas.

    Year - 2012

    Make - Chevrolet

    Model - Cruze

    Trim - LTZ

    Engine - 1.4L Turbocharged four-cylinder

    Powertrain - Front Wheel Drive, Six Speed Automatic

    Horsepower @ RPM - 138 @ 4900

    Torque @ RPM - 148 @ 1850

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/38/30

    Curb Weight - 3155 lbs

    Location of Manufacture - Lordstown, OH

    Base Price - $23,110

    As Tested Price - $25,625 (Includes $750.00 Destination Charge)

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    Nice write-up! I too am equally impressed with the Chevrolet Cruze, and had hoped to get the wife interested in trading in her '08 G6 for one this year (or next). Since the G6 is almost paid off (2 years!) on a 0% loan, she has no financial interest in getting rid of the G6 (she said I can do whatever I want with the Envoy, but there is no way I'm going to give up my SUV!! :P ).

    My main "con" with the exterior styling lies with the taillight/rearend design... it has too much of an Asian influenced IMO (whereas the rest of the car looks "just right"). My personal favorite Cruze is the LTZ trim with the RS package in the deep red - passed one today like that on the drive in to work and it makes it too tempting to go to the nearest Chevy dealership.

    I think I'll wait to see what comes of the 2013 MCE, as the posted pictures of the updated grille & foglight housing have piqued my interest.

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    BTW, I prefer the Cruze design, conservative as it is, over that of any Hyundai or the current Ford trend. Those two manufacturer's seem to be very "trendy" with their current styling direction and I am not a big fan (while my wife likes the Fiesta and Focus, I can't stand them - same for many Hyundai's {seems I like Kia's more conservative styling of the two]).

    I would choose the Cruze or the Verano over any Ford or Hyundai any day of the week.

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    Excellent review, I have to agree with the other guys that Ford and Hyundai's styling is a bit trendy and while it can strike a cord fast and gather sales, I do not believe it will age well and could have just as fast a cold drop in sales as the fickle buyers of trendness shift their focus next year.

    I believe that people will find a higher resale value in the cruze over the long haul more so than the Hyundai or Ford. I still get plenty of compliments on my 94 Suburban and people are shocked it is as old as it is.

    The auto manufactures need to find just the right balance and with that, they will have a vehicle that will age well and continue to sell well.

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    40 mile round trips isn't a good basis for highway mileage.... 20 miles each way and using all that power to get up to 70, 2x.... if you did the trip at 55 or 60, it might average out a lot better.

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    I've noticed in the few times I've had a Cruze automatic that MPGs drop off quickly as one crests over 65mph. Do 65mph and you'll get close to the EPA. Do 55 - 60 mph and you'll go over the EPA. Do 70+, and you get punished at the pump.

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    Someone in my neighborhood bought a Cruze LTZ very much like the one tested. I've never been the biggest fan of the Cruze's design, but on a sunny day, the styling subtly pops in that shade of red with the LTZ's chrome trim.

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    Mom picked up a Cruze (LS? 1LT?) last month, going to be driving it about 4 hrs Sunday, will add my impressions afterward...

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    I could do much better with the cruise OFF in the Cruze 2LT I rented for NYE. You got 32mpg over 40 miles, I got 38mpg over 120 miles, with a stiff 20mph headwind 55mi one way, lesser 10mph tailwind the 55mi trip home, and about 10 miles in town to/from the hotel and the restaurant and the casino. This was in cold weather, high 20s, no snow/ice. I was VERY impressed with the little turbo 1.4 and 6-speed automatic. I also drove a 1.8L Cruze LS once and felt it was missing something. The turbocharger is exactly what that base model car was missing. I have yet to drive a manual Cruze but honestly the automatic gets it right. Now if only the General would offer that turbo 1.4L as a crate engine with a standalone PCM so I can shoehorn it into something older, lighter, and ridiculous. Like a 1988 Chevy Spectrum...

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    I love the looks of the CRUZE, and soon as they come out with a 190hp na engine I'll be all over one.

    Wish granted as soon as the Buick Verano 2.5 is released.

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    Drove Mom's Cruze LS yesterday, about a 5-hour round-trip. Car is not broken in yet, it appeared in my driveway with 237 miles on it. 1.8L/6-spd auto.


    In a direct comparison my my wife's '09 Malibu (now with about 41K on the clock), the ride is stiffer yet better dampened. There's no slop in the handling or steering at all. Steering wheel wasn't overly thick, either, which was nice. Seats were quite firm but still quite comfortable over the length of the trip.

    I felt the trans was slightly hesitant between shifts, perhaps fluid level was off or it just wasn't attuned to my lead foot. I know these have 'learning capabilities' that adjust towards the predominate driver's tendencies... If this were mine I'd be hammering on it daily to get it tightened up. The largest distraction, IMO.

    1.8L is fine for most folks' general commuting I would say, but it was not brimming with power. I would definitely have liked more underfoot, and it seemed somewhat 'out of synch' with the handling ability.

    Interior was well assembled, and I liked piloting it in that respect. Some of the controls took a check of the manual (the DIC for example), but once learned, were easy.

    Some of the cost-saving engineering (the 1-button central locking) did not come off as cheapness IMO. Back seat passengers reported good comfort, even tho leg room was not there in excess (obviously).

    Over those initial 237 miles, it had logged 25.3 MPG.The trip was about 60% highway and 40% residential/ low speed/ stop-n-go; but in north Jersey & southern NY, which is very hilly to outright mountainous (the Shawangunks). MPG rose to 26.6 with 4 adults/ no cargo aboard by the end of the trip, I forget the finish miles but it was around 375. LS had no cruise control, I would've thought on the highway that might have boosted MPG (but I note occupant's comments RE this), and I also note Olds's mention of MPG vs. MPH; I traveled about 80 MPH. I would expect getting broken in, with 1 or 2 aboard instead of 4, keeping highway speeds closer to 70 than 80, plus perhaps either a service check or a learning period WRT the trans' shifts, and that would climb notably.

    Overall, thumbs up for a commuter/ MPG-focused little sedan.

    Edited by balthazar

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    I love the looks of the CRUZE, and soon as they come out with a 190hp na engine I'll be all over one.

    Wish granted as soon as the Buick Verano 2.5 is released.

    I like the looks of the CRUZE ......... will wait to see the Verano on the street. So I take nothing as granted.

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    cruze definitely makes out best for mpg in the eco manual config.

    really, testing mpg at 55 or 60 mph is kind of crazy. when you get on the open road, driving inbetween major metros on wide open interstates, you won't be going 55. you'll be going 70-80.

    it's one thing to pass an epa test, its another to get better real world.

    my cobalt will only at best manage 32-33mpg when i do a 200 mile jaunt with almost no stops on open interstate at that 70+ speed.

    However, in town on metro freeways when not stopping and keeping in the 55-60 range i have seen anything from 38 to 41 mpg.

    Speed kills on the car with too small of an engine.

    cruze engines should really be a 2.0 di gas, and a 1.6 turbo di gas along with a diesel. i bet a 1.6di probably would only lose a little mpg on the test but be better real world. Should be interesting to see where the Verano comes in real world.

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    Depends on where you are. You flatlanders can do 80mph all day and the only thing that will slow you down is a Krispy Kreme. Here in the hill district, 70mph is about it.

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