The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze is the first fully competitive compact sedan Chevy has ever fielded, and in some areas it outshines the perennial class leaders, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
The base powertrain is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, but most Cruze models (including the high-mileage Eco) are fitted with a smaller, turbocharged 1.4-liter four that produces equal power on less fuel. Transmission choices are a six-speed automatic, which works flawlessly, or a six-speed manual for those (few) customers who like to shift their own gears.
The model of most interest to GreenCarReports readers, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, manages 28 mpg in the city, 42 mpg on the highway and a combined rating of 33 mpg, but out in the real world drivers are actually achieving even more than that, so you likely won't be disappointed with its fuel economy.
With the automatic transmission those figures fall to 26 mpg city, 39 highway and a combined 31 mpg, though, so to maximize your economy the manual is the best option.
The base 1.8-liter model with the manual is rated at 30 mpg, but only 27 mpg with the automatic, and the non-Eco 1.4-liter with automatic betters that slightly, at 28 mpg combined.
The styling of the Cruze is modern but not particularly adventurous, so it may appeal to those put off by the more swooping looks of the Ford Focus. Also unlike the Focus, Chevy chose to offer the Cruze solely as a four-door sedan, without the option of a five-door hatchback. The trunk of the sedan, however, is huge.
The 2012 Chevy Cruze seats four adults in comfort or five with adequate space. Ride quality is good, making the Cruze feel more like a mid-size car than a compact. The handling is fine, but it isn’t a sports sedan, nor is it intended to be. It's refined on the move too, particularly at higher speeds.
Like the exterior design, the interior of the Cruze breaks no new ground, but nor does it offend the eyes. It's a stylish environment and far better assembled than previous Chevy compacts, with higher-quality materials. Interior packaging is good, making the most of available space, and offering a useful number of cubbies, trays, cup holders, and the like.
Family buyers will be pleased to hear that Cruze received top safety ratings from both the NHTSA and the IIHS, and comes with no fewer than 10 airbags. You'll also benefit from traction control, stability control, and more.
Most 2012 Cruze models offer Bluetooth and a USB port for personal electronics. A navigation system is offered as well, and every Cruze is fitted standard with GM’s Onstar system, along with three months of free service.
For more details on the Cruze and Cruze Eco, head over to the full 2012 Chevrolet Cruze review on our sister site, TheCarConnection.