2011 Chevrolet Cruze preview

2011 Chevrolet Cruze preview

Aside from the electric Volt, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze has been touring the auto show circuit long enough to make it a familiar face well before it hits dealerships.

But now Chevy has priced its new compact sedan, starting at $16,995. And that means it really will soon show up at dealers, toward the end of the summer.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

The 2011 Cruze four-door sedan replaces the outmoded 2010 Cobalt, itself a holdover from the grim old days of the Chevy Cavalier. The 2011 Cruze is a world car, meaning U.S. buyers get a better-equipped, safer, and more powerful version of a car sold globally.

Midsize 'presence'?

Chevrolet says the Cruze has 'midsize presence' in the compact segment. Indeed, it's a nice enough looking sedan, and even the base model has a decent level of standard equpment.

But the 2011 Chevy Cruze has just one year to make a big impact, and then the 2012 Ford Focus--its only real domestic competitor--will be launched, likely with equal hoopla.

Base model: Cruze LS, $16,995 and up

The entry-level model, fitted with a 1.8-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission, is the Cruze LS. Standard features include air-conditioning, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, and XM Radio with a three-month trial subscription.

The OnStar system is also standard, with a complimentary six-month subscription that includes Turn-by-Turn navigation assistance.

Chevy proudly claims the Cruze LS has "the most standard safety features in the segment," include 10 air bags, traction control, electronic stability control with the ability to sense potential rollovers, a collapsible pedal system and, of course, anti-lock brakes.

Mid-range model: Cruze LT, $18,895 and up

The Cruze LT swaps in a smaller, more economical, and equally powerful engine, the 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec four. It also adds 16-inch wheels.

While the EPA hasn't released final ratings for the range of Cruze models, Chevy is bucking for an average of 30 mpg or more.

Green model: Cruze Eco, $18,895 and up

We've covered the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco quite a lot here, including its weight-saving measures and its fuel efficiency rating of 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

Its lightweight 17-inch alloy wheels carry ultra-low rolling resistance tires, and it includes a number of aerodynamic tweaks to make it slip through the air on less power.

Top of the line: Cruze LTZ, $22,695 and up

The highest-level Cruze is the LTZ package, which adds a six-speed automatic to the 1.4-liter Ecotec turbo engine, along with a raft of amenities.

Those include leather seating surfaces, a six-way power driver's seat, leather coverings for the shift knob and steering wheel, cruise control, automatic climate control, remote vehicle start, and an ultrasonic assist for rear parking.

Entertainment features include Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones, a USB port, and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel hub.

But wait, there's more

As usual, various additional options are available on certain Cruze models. Chevy's online configurator will show what's offered with which trim level, but among them are heated seats, a 250-Watt, 9-speaker Pioneer audio system, and an in-dash navigation system.

There's also an RS "appearance package," consisting of fog lamps, front and side moldings, and a rear spoiler.

[Chevrolet]