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Chevrolet’s global best seller is only slightly tweaked for 2012.
By Tom Crosby

Introduced in the United States in 2011 as a replacement for the Cobalt, Chevrolet’s compact, four-door Cruze sedan is now the global best seller among all Chevrolet vehicles, an achievement that can be accredited to its low price, excellent mileage, and interior detail.

Cruze

The Chevrolet Cruze has great safety ratings, impressive gas mileage and a very attractive price tag. Chevrolet photo

Cruze has been around since 2001 in various forms worldwide, and originally was a joint venture in Japan with Suzuki. Cruze’s price, often less than half that of similar sized hybrids, attracts buyers because of its similarly stingy mpg. Drivers can squeeze 400 city miles out of one tank.

For 2012, Chevrolet slightly boosted Cruze’s highway mpg from 36 to 38 and made several features standard on four models. There are LS, 1LT, and LTZ trim levels, plus an Eco model that gets an extra four mpg on the highway.

Our test-drive was an LT2 model, which added heated leather front seats, a powered driver seat, 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels with four-wheel, anti-lock disc brakes, and a compact spare tire and wheel. Options added were a six-speed, variable automatic transmission with remote start button ($1,185); an upgraded audio system with Bluetooth, MP3 playback and a seven-inch touch navigation screen ($995); and premium Pioneer audio with nine speakers ($445). Still, the total price tag was under $24,000.

MacPherson front struts and an advanced Z-link design in rear that better follows the lead of the front suspension delivered a solid handling performance. It also helped make the ride firm without stiffness or bounce. Traction control and electric power steering also contribute to a responsive behind-the-wheel manipulation. Driving the Cruze is a pleasure.

Outside, the Cruze has good looks for a small sedan, with a two-tier inverted trapezoidal grille beneath Chevrolet’s logo. There is minimal fender overhangs above the wheels. A sharply raked windshield, plus sloping rear, provide a sporty look. Rear seating, however, imitates some coupes, which means the rear is cramped for adults and is suited for small children who are properly restrained.

Safety features are strong with 10 airbags (best in their segment, says Chevrolet) and top government ratings for frontal and side crashes (five stars) and rollover protection (four stars). Interior materials are well designed with excellent fit and finish. Gauges and controls are easy to read and reach.

• LIKES: Price, mileage, looks, handling, ride

• DISLIKES: Rear seats, power

• BOTTOM LINE: Chevy Cruze is a major competitor to higher-priced hybrids.

Tom Crosby is vice president of communications for AAA Carolinas. He is based in Charlotte, N.C

Fact File.

Jan/Feb 2012 Issue



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