By on September 26, 2011

With the Cruze, Chevrolet has pulled off a rare combination: segment-leading sales (up 31 percent from last year) at a higher transaction price (up 27 percent from two years ago to $20,465, according to TrueCar). But it hasn’t hurt that the Corolla, Civic, Focus, and Elantra have all been supply constrained. Once competitors get their factories running, does the Cruze have what it takes to maintain its current lead?

A Cruze LTZ is an attractive car, if conservatively styled. When I first saw one in the metal I briefly mistook it for an Audi. But substitute the ECO’s 17-inch forged polished alloy wheels for the LTZ’s five-spoke 18s and…well, what do you think? A forged polished wheel isn’t cheap. It takes a special talent to make one look like a cheap hubcap. I would not have mistaken the bulbous ECO for an Audi.

When both cars are comparably equipped, a C-segment Cruze lists for about $2,000 more than the new B-segment Sonic. That $2,000 pays for a car that’s about eight inches longer and a quarter-ton heavier, but the extra metal in a Cruze doesn’t cost GM more than a few hundred dollars. So, GM didn’t have to pinch its pennies nearly so hard with the Cruze, and this is most clearly evident inside the car, where pretty much everything looks and feels solid, and nothing suggests that you only bought the car because you couldn’t afford a better one. While the Cruze’s styling could hardly be more conventional—you won’t find anything like the Sonic’s instruments here—it does include one aesthetic innovation: heavy-weave cloth upholstery continues from the door panels to the face of the instrument panel. While not as easy to keep clean as plastic (especially in black), it certainly dresses up the place.

When I first reviewed the Cruze last year, I praised it for having separate front and rear seat height adjustments—and on both front seats, no less. I also noted that bean counters have been hunting this feature to extinction. I now fear that my review might have tipped off one on the prowl, for this feature is gone for 2012. Luckily they haven’t attempted to combine the tilt and height adjustments. Given the Cruze’s high cowl and beltline, those of us under six-feet tall must crank the seat up a few clicks to avoid feeling buried in the car, and we don’t necessarily want to also tilt the seat forward. The firm but comfortable driver’s seat continues to feel more substantial than most others in the segment. My glutes detect a healthy helping of top-quality foam. The back seat remains too low to the floor and a bit short on knee room.

The Cruze shares its engines with the Sonic. By driving the latter I learned why the 136-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is not the way to go. Even in the lighter car it feels short on power, deals out much sonic unpleasantness when forced to work, and isn’t stingy with fuel. The 1.4-liter turbocharged four standard in the Cruze is no more powerful at high revs, but has a much plumper midrange, as seen in the peak torque figures: 148 pound-feet from 1,850 rpm rather than 123 at 3,800. What this means: you don’t have to work the 1.4T nearly as hard in typical suburban driving. Though it shakes a bit at idle, the small four is reasonably well-behaved otherwise. Just don’t expect blistering acceleration: 138 horsepower isn’t much for a 3,100-pound car. Like a Toyota Prius, the ECO feels best when driven in an economy-minded fashion—which is of course what this variant with its special “triple overdrive” gearing is all about. The main reason not to do so: the people behind you often seem to be in more of a hurry to get to the next red light. In sixth the small engine is spinning only 2,300 rpm at 75 miles-per-hour. Unlike those in many economy cars, the shifter feels smooth and solid.

And fuel economy? The EPA highway rating of 42 is at the top of the segment, and the city rating of 28 isn’t bad, either. For a number of my suburban drives the trip computer reported low 40s, and in straight highway driving over 50. I averaged a little over 35 for the week. I might wonder how much better it would do if GM had managed to keep the curb weight well under 3,000 pounds, except that the lighter Sonic only manages EPA ratings of 29/ 40 with the same engine. The ECO tweaks appear to make about a ten percent difference in the EPA’s tests. If the trip computer can be trusted, they might make a larger difference with an economy-minded driver in real-world driving. [Update: a Cruze owner informs me that he and others have found the trip computer to be three percent optimistic, so it reads about 1 to 1.5 MPG high.]

Unfortunately, these tweaks also make a difference in how the Cruze ECO handles. The 215/55HR17 Goodyear Assurance tires provide little in the way of grip or crisp steering, lapsing early into a soft, safe slide. The lesson once again: this car is optimized for economy, not hooning. In commuting mode, the Cruze drives very pleasantly, with fairly quick and well-weighted (if numb) steering and a smooth, quiet, thoroughly insulated ride. Body control isn’t as good as in the Ford Focus, with a bit of bobbling about over especially uneven pavement, but is much better than in the Hyundai Elantra.

The list price if you forgo the tested car’s $325 “crystal red metallic tintcoat” paint (which is a waste when paired with the ECO’s wheels anyway): $19,995. A Cruze LT, with EPA ratings of 26/ 38, lists for $770 less. The average driver will earn back the difference in about six years. The higher cost would be more palatable if the ECO’s unique wheels and subtle spoiler substantially improved the appearance of the car, but they don’t.

A Ford Focus SE with Sport and Convenience Packages lists for $20,365, so very close to the ECO. Adjusting for the Cruze’s additional features (most notably a few extra airbags) via TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool widens the gap to about $900 (about $1,300 if you compare the Cruze LT instead).

A Hyundai Elantra GLS with Comfort Package and floormats is much less than the others: $17,300. But adjusting for feature differences narrows the gap to a mere $200. Part of the reason for the huge feature-based price adjustment: opt for a manual transmission, and you can’t get alloy wheels or a Bluetooth connection on the Hyundai. The Hyundai also looks and feels like a less substantial car.

The choice among these three is clear for a driving enthusiast: get the Ford. But hypermilers looking for a comfortable, economical commuter that doesn’t look or feel like a penalty box can’t do much better than the Chevrolet Cruze Eco. While in charge of product development at GM, Bob Lutz put a high priority on refinement, and it shows in this car (much more than in the Sonic). The curb weight took a big hit as a result, punting it nearly into midsize sedan territory, but once the Cruze is doing what its name suggests it does best this seems to have little impact. What’s still missing: as in the Toyotas the Cruze beats at their own game, there’s no sense of occasion, and nothing aside from excellent fuel economy to get excited about.

Chevrolet provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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109 Comments on “Review: 2012 Chevrolet Cruze ECO...”


  • avatar
    wsn

    Cavalier and Cobalt come into mind. What a legacy …

    I simply won’t consider any car that keeps changing its name.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Given your opening sentence, I’ve got the feeling that you wouldn’t consider it anyway, even if they had kept either the Cavalier or Cobalt name.

    • 0 avatar
      salhany

      The Cavalier and Cobalt were crap cars. Why not get away from that legacy?

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Why not keep an open mind and see if they finally learned how to build a small car?

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        Because people who were overly open minded got their fingers burnt.

        10 years of good reputation is a minimum for my next car. It’s not asking for a lot. Many models got 30+.

      • 0 avatar
        sitting@home

        The Cruze probably has more in common with the Opel Astra than the Chevy Cobalt, so you’d be better looking at the past reliability of that.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        sitting@home,

        The Saturn Astra was no better than the Cobalt, and it really was an Opel Astra. The new Opel Insignias are dragging down Buick’s quality ratings now that they sell them here as Regals. This car isn’t an Opel though. The Cruze was sold for a couple years as the Daewoo Lacetti, the company tasked with developing the Cruze. Daewoo actually has a recent track record in the US for the knowledgeable. Most recent Suzukis have been built by Daewoo, and they’ve had some of the worst quality statistics in the industry.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      I wouldn’t buy a Cobalt – but my rental experiences were that the 2 door Cobalt was preferable to a Toyota Corolla.

      Oddly packaged for a new millenium car, the Cobalt was a competent road car for long hauls. It would have been a nicer car if it was released in 1995 versus 2005.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Cruze is No. 1 without a wagon and 2-door coupe of past Cavalier and Cobalts. Something must be good.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        1) That’s because GM’s doesn’t have a real sub-compact. Unlike Honda, where Civic and Fit do fight for sales, Cruze needs to be compared to the combined sales of the two.

        2) Cruze has been on top for how many years? 0.4? Even NSX sold a whole bunch of units when just released. Let wait for one product cycle and see.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I will have to say, anecdotal evidence though this will be, that my mom’s Sunfire has been dead reliable since she got it at 15k miles. It now has 75k and all that has been done in the time she’s had it is a few belts were replaced and she’s gotten a set of tires. Oil changes are kind of hit or miss, I usually get fed up nagging her to go get it done that I bring it in (it sits too close to the ground and I have nothing to drive it upon to do it myself).

      Is it a great car? No, but it does what she needs it to do and that’s all most people can ask.

    • 0 avatar
      Indy_Mike

      I never owen a Cavalier and Cobalt but I did buy a new Cruze last week. I think it rides better that the Grand Prix I had. I got it for hte MPG. You would be surprise on ow it drive and feels.

    • 0 avatar
      jupyter

      I had the Cobalt for 4 years and 3 months.. what a piece of crap for a car.. i just bought the Cruze eco 2012.. and for me it is an upgrade like i never seen before.. love driving it, it is not made of plastic like the cobalt.. for 4 years i told myself to not go back to Chevrolet.. but i’m glad i did buy the Cruze..so Cruze = good choice.. :)

  • avatar
    Syke

    OK, I may take a look at one of these, too, in addition to the four or five B-segment cars on my shopping list. Nice part about keeping the Porsche: I don’t necessarily have to go for the most interesting driving car for my new one.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Body control isn’t as good as in the Ford Focus, with a bit of bobbling about over especially uneven pavement, but is much better than in the Hyundai Elantra.

    Michael: do you notice this versus the standard (independently-suspended) Cruze?

    Another question: are those tires and wheels required to hit the mileage targets (eg, like the prior Civic’s aero rims, which are standard on the Hybrid and eventually showed up on the Fit and other Civics) or can you option up to something a little less ugly?

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      are you sure? I’ve never seen those Honda aero rims on anything but the Hybrid in the DC area.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Another question: are those tires and wheels required to hit the mileage targets

      Only speculating. If you replaced the butt ugly 17″ rims on the Cruze Eco with a same sized 17″ rim with same offset and the same or lesser weight, I can’t image that MPG would be impacted.

      If you replaced the low rolling resistance tires with a more driver oriented compound, I would speculate that the MPG would take a significant hit (5% to 7% reduction). The tires do make a big difference.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        When I bought tires for my car a couple years ago, I purchased some super sticky (by far the best tire I’ve ever spent money on) Bridgestone Pole Positions and I havent noticed much of a hit on gas mileage.

        But I did notice my ride, handling, braking, road noise (lack thereof) and traction in the rain (I’m in the Seattle area) are top notch.

        Putting those tires on was like getting a brand new car.

    • 0 avatar

      Now that you mention it, I do remember a steadier ride in the LT I drove last year, but I’ve driven so many other cars in between that I can’t say for sure. The Focus happens to be especially hard to beat in this particular area. My official back seat ride quality evaluator (aka my 11-year-old son) reports that nothing we’ve had recently beats the Focus.

      The lightweight wheels are mandatory on the ECO. I’m reminded every time I drive down my street how much better the LTZ looks–a neighbor has one.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        “Michael: do you notice this versus the standard (independently-suspended) Cruze?

        Another question: are those tires and wheels required to hit the mileage targets (eg, like the prior Civic’s aero rims, which are standard on the Hybrid and eventually showed up on the Fit and other Civics) or can you option up to something a little less ugly?”

        All Cruze models have a twist-beam non-independent rear suspension.

        The LTZ has very good looking wheels (18″), however the Eco’s wheels actually look shockingly good in person. A neighbor of mine has a crystal blue Eco. Not sure why they all come in chrome finish (I’ve got a long and nasty history with GM chrome wheels and their propensity for oxidation and thus tire leakage), but they really do look much better on different colors and in the real world.

        The design isn’t nearly as geeky/ugly as the Civic hybrid’s wheels, or the partially plastic-shrouded base Prius wheels (the Prius Touring package remedies this). If you’ve seen Fits and non-GX/Hybrid Civics with said wheels, they were most likely installed aftermarket. Never a factory option on any other vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I’ve seen a number of Cruze Ecos (unknowingly, it’s hard to spot that little green badge sometimes) with those wheels and thought they looked just fine.

        I was rather amused to read the long string of comments about the wheels…

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        All Cruze models have a twist-beam non-independent rear suspension.

        You’re right. I’d read that the Eco had a simple twist beam versus the “regular” models, but you’re right that the other Cruzes have the same setup, only with a pair of additional links bolted to the body.

        I’m surprised those get deleted on the Eco. Do they weigh that much?

        I don’t mind either way: I’ve driven some very good twist beam-equipped cars (the NCS and MkIV Jettas) and some very bad ones with IRS (the current Matrix XRS) and it really seems to be up to how much the maker sweats the details.

  • avatar
    michal1980

    Whats up with the never ending Bob Lutz love train? GM failed under him. Guy is a slick sales man. Writers on this site drank the snake oil.

  • avatar
    rem83

    Considering the Cruze is almost mid-sized, I’d say it’s weight – especially on the Eco – isn’t all that bad.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      Almost mid-sized is also my perception in a walk-around and sitting into the car.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        I often walk past one at work, in red no less and yes, it looks large for a C segment car, in fact, it almost looks as big as my Mom’s ’04 Dodge Stratus and it’s a D segment (midsize) car!

        Not bad looking in a bread and butter sort of way though, just wish they’d just bring the damned hatchback version over already.

        But in the end, it’s a bit larger than I want in my next car, I’m sticking with A and B segment hatchbacks, some mighty nice ones out there these days and some of them aren’t that expensive either.

      • 0 avatar
        Thinkin...

        “Almost mid-sized is also my perception in a walk-around and sitting into the car.”

        True – although that sure wasn’t my impression when trying to sit in the back seat. WIth a tall driver in front, you’d best reserve the space for groceries or amputees. The Focus is a bit better, but the Elantra kills the both, and the Jetta is right there as well. Heck, even a lot of B-segment rides offer better rear seat room.

    • 0 avatar

      The rear seat isn’t nearly mid-sized.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Nice review. I got a chance to drive the Elantra GLS and Cruze LT back to back a couple of weeks back and I would have to agree that the Cruze feels more substantial but it also feels overly soft and the steering very light. The interior materials were definitely better than the Elantra but in some aspects they have taken the soft touch plastic thing a little too far – a lot of surfaces felt a little too rubbery for my tastes.

  • avatar
    BryanC

    This review matches my own experience well. I was shopping for a Prius before deciding I just really didn’t want to pay the price for one. I tried the Cruze Eco and liked it enough to buy. Although I’m not getting Prius mileage, I’m happy with the MPG/price. The interior is nice and the car is very quiet. Like Michael points out, the shiny wheels are obnoxious and the engine does shake a little at low RPM – but every car is a compromise, and so far I’m overall happy with mine.

    • 0 avatar

      How accurate is the trip computer?

      • 0 avatar
        BryanC

        I don’t know. The first time I filled it up, I didn’t write down the information to make the comparison, so I lost the data. It occurred to me to do this the second time I filled the car, so next time I fill the car I’ll get my first data point comparing the two. I’ve only had the car for 6 weeks. I’ll let you know what I find out.

      • 0 avatar
        ott

        Also your mileage should increase as the car gets past its break-in period. Would be interesting to see what the mpg is right out of the box and then check it again 6 months later.

    • 0 avatar

      Their are some pretty decent 17 and 18 inch Cruze rim designs. I’d order a pair separately and stick them on. The LTZ models do really look classy.

      On a note about the rims, it is really the chrome that ruins them. In a subtle finish, they would be fine. Perhaps just get them refinished?

  • avatar
    alluster

    The Cruze proves one thing, perceptions do change in an incredibly short period of time. Build a good product and sales will follow. I expected the Cruze to do well, but was surprised by how well it has done. Sold 169,427 Cars YTD, less than a year since release. Sales were 0 during the same period last year. Include the 840 cobalt’s sold this year and the Cruze is already the number one compact. Even otherwise, it will be in a few days when Sep. sales numbers are out. Oh BTW the Corolla numbers include the Matrix. Also the ATP is 4k higher the Cobalt, 3K higher than the Corolla and 2k more than the Civic.

    Hopefully GM doesn’t get cocky and let the Cruze rot away. Initial signs (introducing the diesel) are promising. A Cruze coupe, Hatch, Cruze SS, Cruze wagon maybe? and an AWD or E-Assist versions should keep it atop the sales charts.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The North American C-Segment has been very fascinating.

      Hyundai, General Motors and Ford took the approach of building a higher end vehicle with more luxurious options not typically found in the class.

      Toyota and Honda went stay the course.

      Yes, Toyota and Honda have been production constrained, undeniable – but the refreshed Corolla in particular has been evicerated in the press for phoning it in and being completely uncompetitive in the category.

      For close to two-decades I’ve heard and read, “Americans will never pay a premium for a feature laden compact car with a non-compact car interior.”

      Clearly the times have changed and the gamble made by Ford, General Motors and Hyundai in the segment are paying off.

      • 0 avatar
        alluster

        The Corolla redesign was a step backwards in every way possible. They went from a cleaner albeit boring design to a horrible mess. The new grill screams cheap and the chrome taillights, for the lack of a less offensive word are cheesy. With 1/3 rd of the Corollas still imported from Japan, Toyota is taking a huge loss on everyone of them imported. Until the Miss. plant comes online in October, costs are too high for them to do a proper update. That explains the “phoned in” refresh of 2011. That said GM needs to do away with the Cruze taillights. Too big, ugly and round for an otherwise sharp car.

        picturepush.com/photo/a/6641123/640/6641123.png

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        For close to two-decades I’ve heard and read, “Americans will never pay a premium for a feature laden compact car with a non-compact car interior.”

        Clearly the times have changed and the gamble made by Ford, General Motors and Hyundai in the segment are paying off.

        I think the spike in gas prices did move the needle. I certainly saw friends and co-workers ridiculed behind their backs for complaining about the $100+ fill-ups of their Suburbans. So, I feel people are more likely to think that if they opt for the Equinox vs. the Cruze or the Malibu and prices spike even more – they’ll look like a fool. That wasn’t an issue back in the late 90′s and early 2000s.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “Also the ATP is 4k higher the Cobalt, 3K higher than the Corolla and 2k more than the Civic.”

      Interesting. Given that the Corolla and Civic are still supply constrained, you would expect them to sell for top dollar. The fact that the Cruze has a higher ATP even with the current market conditions does not bode well for the Japanese.

      It’s interesting how quickly the C segment has turned around. Toyota and Honda built their reputations in this space, and their offerings are no longer class competitive with Ford, Chev, and Hyundai.

      Toyota and Honda do still enjoy an excellent reputation for long term reliability and durability, while we still don’t know how the latest Ford, Chev and Hyundai products will stand up in the long haul. On the other hand, we don’t ~really~ know how the current Honda and Toyota will stand up either – the products they were making in 1997 have no bearing on their current products. I’m sure plenty of people bought Volares back in the day because the slant six Valiants were so indestructible – past performance is no guarantee of future results…

  • avatar

    If I had to choose between the CRUZE and the Elantra I’d pick the Elantra. And that’s a rarity for me cause the only Imports I buy are German. Thing is, I fit more comfortably in the Elantra and Like it’s looks a little better. The Cruze has numerous shortcomings I’m not crazy about. Even when you get to things like placement of the brake and cupholders – I prefer the Elantra.

    Of course…as a Mopar man, I’d rather buy that new SRT4 Dodge is preparing for us.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      How the heck do you fit more comfortably in the Elantra? I found my head hitting the roof and noted a total inability to see, eg, traffic lights when I’m first in line at a stop.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        noted a total inability to see, eg, traffic lights when I’m first in line at a stop.

        Agreed. Had the same experience. I wasn’t terribly impressed by the Elantra. I have yet to get my hands on a Focus or Cruze.

      • 0 avatar

        They are both little cars. Far too small for me to ever consider.

        But, I’m an extreme case. If I were going solely by ergonomics and price, which most people in this segment do, I’d choose the Elantra.

        http://www.epinions.com/review/2011_Hyundai_Elantra_epi/content_535594110596

  • avatar
    Russycle

    From the next to last paragraph: “opt for a manual transmission, and you can’t alloy wheels or a Bluetooth connection on the Hyundai. ”

    Michael, I’d like to buy a verb please.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I refuse to buy any car whose standard engine is frowned upon by every review I’ve read, I did not buy a 1997 Corolla for this same reason, I waited for the ’98 when the better engine was made standard.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I have not yet driven an Elantra, but I drove a Cruze Eco in both manual and automatic, and I was surprised how much I liked them. The Cruze did not feel cheap at all, and even with standard equipment, the car was adequately equipped. On a short loop the computer read 41 MPG in the manual and 37 MPG in the auto. I liked the Cruze better than the Ford Focus, but part of that might have been that my Focus drive was in bumper to bumper traffic.

    I think through the ECO model the Cruze is a good deal. Once you get the price tag much over $20k, the base Hyundai Sonata starts looking like a better deal.

  • avatar

    I can also report that the Cruze has been very close to the average in reliability so far, based on responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. This sample includes mostly cars from early in the run, so there’s a good chance that a 2012 would be better than average. The 2011 Elantra is better than average, while the 2011 Focus is worse than average.

    To view the details, and sign up to help with the survey with just about any car:

    http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Nice review Michael! :)

    The Elantra and Ford sedan look similar at a distance. Cruze does look Audisk at a certain distance from anything but the front.

    What octane gasoline were you running?

  • avatar
    enzl

    One interesting comparison not mentioned:

    How does this compare to the Focus SFE?

    My Dad just picked one up (special ordered, as there are few on the ground) and he’s in love. Claims 30 MPG on the first tank in exclusively city driving…I drove the car briefly and, aside from the mildly disconcerting dual-clutch auto’s machinations, I thought it drove quite well. I couldn’t get my Dad to even look at the Chevy (too conservative for my 60yo+ dad!) but I’d imagine that these 2 cars should be natural competitors.

  • avatar
    Boff

    The Cruze looks sensational in the LTZ/RS trim with the 18′s, and I agree with MK that the chrome ECO rims are criminally ugly. I had heard that the 6-speed stick was coming to the LTZ/RS trim for 2012…is this true? I sat in an ECO 6-speed at the mall…I dug the close-coupled feeling in the cockpit (space is for wimps) and the snickety little gear lever. The consensus seems to be that the Focus is the better drive…a pity as I prefer the looks of the Cruze.

  • avatar
    mike978

    The quoted figure of 6 years to pay back the difference in cost between an ECO and an LT ignores depreciation. As is typical of many of these comparisons. Since the ECO lists for more it will even after 5 years still be worth a little more than an LT. Even if that difference has gone from $770 to only $200 that shaves 1-2 years off the payback period.

    • 0 avatar

      Who said anything about selling? Drive it into the ground!

      On a serious note, buyers of fuel-efficient cars tend to drive more miles than the average driver. Those who drive 24,000+ miles a year will cut the payback time by at least half.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Hmm…$3000 more buys you a VW TDI. For my money, a torquey diesel and german handling are the way to go.

    Of course, similar coin could also buy you a prius – that gets better mileage than the Cruze Eco, although it isn’t very fun to drive.

    I’m not sure the Cruze Eco is a compelling enough offering.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Drove the Cruze and Elantra back to back ay a GM event. Unfortunately it was just a city like course, no freeway. I preferred the seat and feel of the Cruze; substantial comes to mind. The Elantra GLS interior was very cheap and plastic filled, by comparison. Measurements say the Cruze has a bigger back seat, but it didn’t feel like it. An Elantra Limited might sway me, but for now I’d pick the Cruze. Since my last American vehicle was a 1995, that says a lot for New GM.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Michael,

    You mentioned that they decontented the seat adjusters. What other changes were made for 2012? I noticed they raised the EPA highway rating from 40 to 42 for the manual. I’m guessing that’s due mainly to gearing.

    • 0 avatar

      The rear center headrest was also deleted and, like other sub-30k GM cars, the nav system is now a simpler one that uses an SD card rather than a hard disk drive. They charge a lot less for the new system.

      They also improved the fuel economy of the 1.4T with automatic for 2012. As you note, the final drive ratio is now taller.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        I’d like to know the estimated savings from deleting a headrest (although it would rarely be used). Same question for the seat adjusters – paid for design, previously installed, its only manufacturing cost.

        Regarding weight, a Cayman S weighs in at a little over 3000lbs and its rear seat is really cramped compared to the cars you reviewed. Get the R (losing door trim and AC plus adding lightweight body panels) and you might get to 2850. Safety, refinement and features cost money and weight.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Looks like only the middle third of the “grille” is actually perforated.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    My parents just got rid of both thier cars… my mom sold me her old CRV and got an Elantra Touring, and my dad traded in his Honda S2000 for… wait for it… a Cruze Eco. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either, but apparently he was tired of driving a sports car and has a long highway commute for work and likes to haul his road bike in the trunk, 2 things that the S2K doesnt do well.

    The originally shopped for a Prius, but my mom said they look like “old people cars” and my dad didnt want to pay a $5-10k premium for the better mileage. My mom liked the Elantra interior, apparently the Touring is WAY nicer inside than the GLS, although I wasnt terribly impressed by it, I suppose for the price and gas mileage it is a pretty good compromise. She insisted on an auto, so the Focus was out, they hated the dual clutch. They both hated the new Civic though.

    My dad I think just wanted a car, and didnt really have any preference to anything as long as it could hit 40mpg on the highway and was cheap. I think he was considering the Focus for himself since he wanted a stick, and was also looking at the Accent hatchback, but the Chevy dealer made him a trade in offer on the S2K that he simply couldnt refuse, saved him over $3k compared to the Ford and Hyundai dealers. But, he really likes it, says he finds it much more comfortable and also more confidence inspiring on wet curvy roads than his Honda, which surprised us both.

    • 0 avatar

      The Elantra Touring is a totally different car than the Elantra. I personally much prefer how the ET drives.

      I’m not surprised that your father finds the Cruze to be comfortable.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Oops, brain f@rt on my part… it isnt an Elantra Touring, its an Elantra LIMITED that she picked. Of course after all the debates with @HyundaiVirgin, I am aware the Touring is a completely different car, most significant is the gas mileage, my parents wanted cars that could hit 40mpg on the highway (at least were EPA rated that way anyway) since they take a lot of long trips.

    • 0 avatar
      mr_min

      My Sister-in-law also cross shopped Corolla & Focus, and ended up with the Cruze. Corolla was just to vanilla, and the Focus quality was awful (In Australia).
      She has been very happy with hers as well. But to make the North American readers jealous, She has the 120kW, 360Nm Version, the diesel. I think it was the only version she could happily spin the tyres under hard acceleration.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    http://www.chevrolet.com/vehicles/2011/cruze/build.do

    According the their website, the Eco and 1LT cost exactly the same. The Eco certainly shouldn’t be more, as the upgrade to 17 inch forged wheels from 16 inch hubcaps is the only upgrade. The automatic transmission is lost. The INDEPENDENT REAR SUSPENSION IS LOST. 3 gallons of fuel capacity are lost. Would I trade IRS and 16 inch steelies for 17 inch forged wheels, a beam axle, and a 12 gallon gas tank? Probably not. Chevy would have to make a car with a reasonably powerful engine, a manual transmission, and IRS for me, but I’m not the target customer for this car. It is meant for people who don’t know how to verify the figures reported by the fuel economy function of the trip computer. You had it a week and didn’t get real numbers again?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      It is meant for people who don’t know how to verify the figures reported by the fuel economy function of the trip computer. You had it a week and didn’t get real numbers again?

      I have not read a single Cruze ECO review (specifically ECO) that did not report higher fuel economy over the EPA rated. Every single review I’ve read has said that the ECO has blown away the window sticker for city and highway, with 45 to 50 MPG commonly being reported on the highway specifically.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        People who trust the trip computer and consider math to be a mystery think they get over 40 mpg. Car and Driver tested a Cruze Eco and actually achieved 29 mpg. That’s the best of any Cruze they’ve tested, but it still isn’t as good as class leaders return in Car and Driver’s hands. Good thing GM plays the same game Hyundai does with their trip computers. They certainly know their customers.

        http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/car/11q2/2011_chevrolet_cruze_eco_manual-short_take_road_test

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        You are a highly dishonest individual.

        “Those buyers wanting to eke the most from every atom of fuel will appreciate the coaching of the green upshift light, which tries to keep revs between 1500 and 2000. By 35 mph, it wants the car to be in fifth or sixth, the latter of which is a very tall, Eco-specific cruising ratio that offers almost zero power for acceleration. [italics] We, of course, drove the Eco like we’d stolen it and still managed 29 mpg overall in 600 miles of driving. [/italics]”

        Go back to the dealership floor. Those Crosstours aren’t going to sell themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You’re laughable. I said that 29 mpg was less than the best cars in the Cruze’ class in Car and Driver’s hands. You know, other cars they drove like they stole. Over the course of 600 miles, I doubt they managed to keep their foot in it and their gears short anyway. I usually find Car and Driver’s numbers to be the best indication of what I’ll get in any given car.

    • 0 avatar

      To get real numbers I’d have to pay to put gas in the car, multiple times to test various conditions and verify results, and the site has no budget to fund this.

      We have no idea how or on what sort of roads C&D drove the car. I frequently reset the trip computer so I can test fuel economy multiple times on the same roads where I tested other cars.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        I’ve since let my subscription lapse so I can’t check it, but Consumer Reports’ mileage tests always seemed more realistic than EPA.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You aren’t testing anything by reseting the trip computer. The trip computer isn’t a legally calibrated device, and you’re not even testing the computer if you aren’t testing its readings with real fuel consumption measurements. If paying for a tank of gas is what is required to be a real journalist, then pay for gas. All you’d have to do to tell if the computer is in the ball park is top up the tank twice while zeroing everything. Fill the car with fuel, zero the trip odometer and trip computer, drive 150 or so miles, then fill it again. Compare real world with computer indicated, and then you can make reasonable assumptions about any other numbers provided by the computer.

        Are the cars devlivered to you full of gas? If so, the first top up shouldn’t cost much and the second one can be done when it shouldn’t cost more than $20. You’d still have an indication of the verity of the trip computer.

        • 0 avatar
          vidsal

          Then one needs to calibrate the pump too. I’ve seen them vary widely. Out last hwy trip w our 12 Cruze ECO revealed roughly 48 mpg w the AC running in partial mountain terrain elevation 6000-8000 ft. On the flat, it must get very high mileage in order to offset the climbs and passing. Rock the throttle constantly and you’ll get it below 40 mpg quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      Somebody doesn’t understand fixed manufacturing and parts costs. Even if some of the parts of the Eco model are “worse” in your terms, the lower number of models sold and manufactured compared to the other Cruze lines naturally imputes higher fixed costs to those parts. Do you honestly think GM or any other manufacturer could get away with fudging the numbers reported by the trip/mileage computer? After all, as you say, it wouldn’t be hard to double-check the figures. But I think the really key difference hear is that most car reviewers aren’t meaninglessly paranoid, or bored dealership employees. Why are you crying for IRS when your beloved Honda deleted the rear suspension from the Civic years ago?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The rear suspension under the Eco is the one that used to be under the Cobalt, which shares much of its structure with the generically styled Lacetti.

        As for fudging trip computer numbers, heck yeah they get away with it. A friend had a magic 2001 BMW 325 Ci for 5 years before I filled it up once and confirmed that it didn’t average 31 mpg in DC Beltway gridlock. Hyundai’s new Sonatas have been confirmed as using the same method to impress reviewers.

        “Why are you crying for IRS when your beloved Honda deleted the rear suspension from the Civic years ago?”

        I love it. This isn’t Europe. Our Honda Civic’s still have excellent multilink IRS. At least one of us really is a liar.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @CJ: You need to keep a few things straight about Cobalts and Cruzes. Cobalt is Delta (or now Delta I) chassis. Doesn’t share anything with the Daewoo Lacetti, other than being part of GM worldwide. Cruze is Delta II, which is Lacetti Premium. At that point, they share everything that counts.

        I don’t understand the apparent attempt to slander the Cruze by claiming it’s a Daewoo Lacetti. It is in Korea, but it’s a Holden in Australia and Chevy in other markets. The current one only shares a name with the old one. I have no experience with a Lacetti, maybe it’s crap? I don’t know. I actually have some positive regard for it, after having watched the UK Top Gear episodes that show the car racing around their track. It’s no Z06, but it looks like it’s hanging in there.

        I don’t understand the harping about a twist axle on an economy car. Especially when it’s been used for decades on VWs and nobody seems to make an issue of it. Secondly, the one thing that used to provide the lower cowls of older Hondas, the double wishbone front suspension, has been replaced by cheaper, more common MacPherson struts. Another way that Honda is losing it’s specialness.

        I’ve read Mr Karesh’s reviews for some time now, and due to his participation on other boards that I belong to, I believe his opinions to be well reasoned. If he can’t do a complete fuel economy test on the cars he gets during his time with it, so be it. There are plenty of other sources for that information, as you have provided. Certainly it’s a shortcoming of his review, but OTOH, the subscription here is free. Throw him a yuppie food stamp or two for fuel if you feel motivated. I’m sure he’d do it for a loyal subscriber…

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        PintoFan: “Do you honestly think GM or any other manufacturer could get away with fudging the numbers reported by the trip/mileage computer?”

        Yes, the trip mpg display is not a legal device. It’s a feature, like a computer game.

    • 0 avatar
      kenzter

      Someone has their panties in a bunch because the Cruze is outselling the all new for 2012 2006 Civic.
      Looking forward to an SS version of this. It will make an Si look like, well, a Civic.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Nice review, Michael. It looks like the Cruze continues to be a solid car. It must be hitting most of the points rather well if one of the main points of discussion is the fact that no one seems to like the wheels. I’d thought there would have been much more discussion about the rest of the car and mileage.

    I’m from the Youngstown area myself and was home last weekend to visit family. It’s to be expected that a lot of the folks there drive the local product. I was surprised to see that many of the Cruzes I encountered had the little green Eco badge on the trunk. I don’t know if GM is giving special discuounts for them or if they are truly that popular.

    Good to know that the car didn’t disappoint.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    For a variety of perspectives on the Chevrolet Cruze’s real world mpg

    http://www.google.com/search?gcx=w&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=chevrolet+cruze+real-world-mpg

    It seems from my browsing that Cruze owners are reporting closer to the window sticker figures than Equinox owners.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I think that it’s fair to say that the Cruze Eco is perfectly capable of meeting its EPA numbers on level terrain when driven conservatively – most cars these days can.
    But throw in stop light or 10 and hilly terrain and the heft of the Cruze starts to take its toll. Throw in auto journalists trying to peel the rubber off the rims, and it’s even worse.
    At least CR tries to make MPG measurements in a consistent manner (their “highway” numbers often exceed the EPA rating); but I’ve found that “real world” driving makes EPA numbers very hard to hit.

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    Remind me again, when are we going to get the Cruze 5-door Hatchback in the States? It’s astonishing that Chevy is happy letting Ford walk away with that market at present… The wife and I are in the market for a new car soonish, and will only consider cars with: A) Hatches; B) Clutch Pedals; and C) Cruise Control. Sure we’d like even more options, but in the B and C segments, it’s damn near impossible – especially while chasing decent hwy mpg.

    Very surprised that so many automakers are happy to let Ford have exclusive rights to the C-segment hatch market. Even Hyundai and VW are asleep at the wheel, splitting generations of the Elantra/Jetta sedans verses the old ETouring/Sportwagon.

    We had been actually quite excited about the new Kia Rio5 – which is shockingly now a great looking B-segment contender with very high-end interior options – but KIA just announced you can’t get the 6-speed manual with ANY options, so it fell off the list.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      I’d be curious to see the exact breakdown of hatch vs. sedan sales of the Focus before conceding that there is any kind of huge market for hatchbacks still in the US. The Elantra Touring isn’t exactly flying off the lots (even though, in my opinion after driving both the Touring and the new sedan, the Touring easily out-handled the new variant), and the Jetta sells in small numbers, as well. Little sporty wagons/hatches just aren’t huge movers here. That’s one reason I’m still hanging onto my 2004 Lancer Sportback Ralliart…just wish they would have sold the things with a stick…
      As for the new Rio5…I’m really looking forward to seeing one up close…the pictures look pretty neat.

      • 0 avatar
        Thinkin...

        Agreed – the probablm with the Elantra Touring and the SportWagon is that they’re both based on obsolete models – which really hampers them selling. I mean the Elantra Touring is rated at 23/31 mpg with a 5-speed, whereas the Elantra is 29/40 with a 6-speed. It’s gotta be REALLY difficult to sell the hatch when it’s at that big of a disadvantage in both fuel economy and transmission… Just move the hatch to the new Elantra platform (which they already make and sell in most other markets) and we’re in business.

        The SportWagon is the same – it’s riding on the old, now outdated, Jetta platform, which means zero legroom for rear seat passengers behind a taller driver, and a much higher pricetag…

        I, personally, don’t buy the whole “Americans don’t but hatchbacks” argument. If there was a shred of truth to it, automakers wouldn’t charge a premium for hatchback variants. I believe every automaker in the US prices hatchbacks higher than their equivalent sedans – even though the design cost for a hatchback is typically much lower.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Agreed on the ET, but the “old” Jetta platform isn’t outdated, its a better platform and the interior is too, and the engines are carryover. Unless you put a premium on rear seat legroom over driving dynamics, I would prefer the old Jetta…

      • 0 avatar
        Thinkin...

        @mnm4ever:
        Yes. I have a family so the ability to put a small human or carseat in the seat behind me trumps “driving dynamics” by a large margin. For our primary daily driver, it wouldn’t make any sense to purchase a car where our kid can’t fit in the back seat… No matter how well it drives. The point of most little hatches is to do-it-all: When I’m ready to trade a functional rear seat for driving dynamics, I’ll be in a two-seat roadster.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Why choose?? Kids fit fine in the back of a Jetta Sportwagon as it is, the extra legroom of the “new” Jetta is only useful to long legged adults. I have a family too, and 3 teenagers fit fine in my 5-door GTI, which is smaller by a few inches than the Jetta SW.

        If you have little kids you don’t need any more room than that, unless you are tall and need to push the seat all the way back or something. And if thats the case, then you shouldn’t bother looking at “little hatchbacks”, most of which are smaller than a Jetta SW anyways. Thats why they make mid-size cars.

      • 0 avatar
        BryanC

        My kids fit just fine in the back of my Cruze. Of course, their experience is being shoehorned into both rows of our Mazda5, so by comparison anything would be spacious… Still, the Cruze back seat seems fine to me.

      • 0 avatar
        Thinkin...

        @mnm4ever:
        I’m 6’3″ – and there’s no way a person with legs, or a rear facing carseat could ever fit behind me in the Sportwagon. I wish they could – I damn near bought a manual TDi last year, but there was no possible way to get the carseat to fit.

        That said – it fits in my 2006 xB with gobs of room to spare, and it fits in both the new Jetta and new Elantra. It was passable in the Honda Fit, and it fit fine in the (god awful) Versa hatch. Didn’t have the carseat with me when I gave the Focus hatch a go, but it looked like there was a possibility of it fitting, but it’d be tight… True, I’m tall – but that in no way means I want to drive a mid-size car – especially when many of them don’t have any more rear seat room than a well designed small car.

        Interesting about the 5-door GTI – I was just driving one this weekend, and was surprised at the amount of room in the back seat. It seemed roomier than the Sportwagon – even though the numbers probably don’t agree. I don’t know why, but in the GTI after I set up the driver’s seat for myself, I can get into the seat behind it – it’s tight, but I can do it. In the Sportwagon, I can’t. Strange.

        If you’ve got both – does this make any sense to you? It seemed to me that in real world usage, the GTI has more back seat room…

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I dont have both, I only have a GTI, and I have never even driven a JSW, only a GLI, so I am most definitely not the expert on how the seating is configured. The GLI seemed essentially identical to my GTI rear seats, but I wouldnt put it past VW to change the platform configuration somewhat on the wagon. Since I read your post while I was out running errands, I happened to look at a few JSWs (funny how I never see to many but today I must have seen at least 6 or 7 in traffic!), and the rear doors do seem to be a bit shorter than my GTI rear doors, so you might be onto something. Or possibly the GTI front seats are more deeply scooped out in back for more room?? I didnt buy my car for the rear seat room, but we were surprised at just how useful it is for adults.

        Also, I havent had to use car seats in like a decade, but I had my son’s rear facing seat set up just fine in the back of a Honda Civic coupe back in the day and still had plenty of room. I am not sure if car seats have just grown immense since then or what, but I am really surprised you couldnt fit one back there AT ALL. Maybe it depends on the seat?? That being said, 6’3″ is pretty darn tall, so its possible that the Jetta simply isnt designed for really tall people. I am at the other end of the spectrum, at 5’7″ I will never be the guy who doesnt have enough legroom. My wife is short too, but she likes to slide the passenger seat all the way back, so I still have a good feel for how much room is in back of her in whatever we drive. My daughter just got a 2002 CRV and its like a limo back there for us!

  • avatar
    redav

    The main knock I have on the Cruze is that the styling is so bland, I’m not even sure if I’ve seen more than one on the road. It’s obviously a Chevy with the characteristic front end, but there’s nothing about it that stands out.

    Maybe they are going the Toyota route and trying to appeal to buyers who simply don’t want an ugly car.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Can’t wait to see how the new Alfa-based small Dodge sedan (Hornet?, Neon?, Dart?, Shadow?) will do in this segment.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I noticed that the opening in the main grille is really small. Is that with the shutter thingy open or close?

  • avatar
    Keith Tomas

    No matter what guise, this thing looks like a scaled down version of Hyundai’s previous-generation Sonata. Particularly its greenhouse.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Like the car, hate the eco trim level. When does the diesel wagon come out?

  • avatar
    CV

    Count me as another who would be interested in the hatchback model of the Cruze. Michael, is the hatch coming to the U.S. in 2012?

  • avatar
    mazder3

    Chevy is charging $325 for what looks like same paint that they used on my ’98 Intrigue and is the color they use in most Cruze advertisements. Good for them.

  • avatar

    When all is said and done it is still a Daewoo. In short it is a second teir Korean car.


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