2012 Chevrolet Cruze Review and Prices

Last Updated: Feb 28, 2011

Like this Review

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Buying Advice

The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze is the best car for you if conservative styling, solid construction, and good fuel economy what you require of a domestic-brand compact.

The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze isn’t due substantive alterations for its second model year. A new color choice or two and perhaps some minor equipment shuffling would be the extent of the   changes -- that is unless Chevy decides to add a four-door-hatchback body style. It would join the four-door Cruze sedan introduced to American showrooms in autumn 2010. A Cruze hatchback is already offered in overseas markets. Plugging one into the U.S. lineup would match the body-style strategy employed by some of Cruze’s top rivals, including the 2012 Ford Focus. Otherwise, the Cruze sedan will be back as a nice-driving five-seater available in a version that rates 42 mpg on the highway – as long as you get it with manual transmission.

Should you wait for the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze or buy a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze? Buy a 2011 Cruze if you’re taken by this sedan’s combination of conformist styling, abundant standard safety features, and no-surprises road manners. Buy a 2011 if you also wish to avoid the almost-inevitable annual price increase, even on a car that’s basically a rerun. Wait for the 2012 Cruze if you’re a hatchback fan and want to see if Chevy adds one to the lineup. Being patient also would enable you to compare the 2012 Cruze with the eagerly anticipated all-new 2012 Honda Civic.

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze will certainly reprise its four-door body style and remain an entirely orthodox car for the class. It’ll repeat with styling that’s stolid and handsome rather than swoopy and adventurous. Dimensions will remain middle-of-the pack for compact cars, though rear-seat leg room will again be slightly tighter than the category leaders’, while the Cruze’s 15-cubic-foot trunk will again be among the largest in the class.

The 2012 Cruze also will carry over a cabin of mostly hard plastic panels whose overall feel is nonetheless wholly competitive for this price range. Expect the only touch of originality to again be the curious use of a fabric dashboard insert seemingly left over from the car’s cloth upholstery. The layout of instruments and controls should again be straightforward and emphasize ease of use, not self-conscious design flourishes. Chevy won’t alter the car’s rather high windowsill line, so shorter occupants will likely again feel as if they’re sitting in a tub, not commanding the road. 

Absent addition of the hatchback body style, expect the 2012 Chevrolet Cruise to return in five sedan trim levels: base LS, upgraded 1LT, maximum-fuel-economy Eco, leather-upholstered 2LT, and top-of-the-line LTZ. The 2012 Cruze Eco model should again be distinguished by its slightly more aerodynamic nose and the LS by black rather than body-color outside mirrors. But the main visual distinctions among the models should again be wheel size and design. Chevy is likely, however, to again offer a dress-up RS option for 1LT, 2LT, and LTZ models that’ll give them aero-inspired body addenda and an enhanced instrument-cluster appearance.

Mechanical: The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze will hew to compact-class convention with front-wheel drive and four-cylinder engines, though it’ll be among the technology leaders by offering manual and automatic transmissions with six speeds, not five. Some class rivals, including the 2012 Focus, have an all-independent suspension, but the 2012 Cruze will stick with a less costly and less sophisticated torsion-beam rear axle. Still, expect it to again provide handling that’s competent and secure if not overtly sporty and a ride that’s nicely controlled if not overly absorbent.

The 2012 Cruze will return with a choice of two engines, neither at all exciting but both quite fuel-efficient. The LS should again be the only model with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and it should again have 138 horsepower and 128-pound-feet of torque (loosely, torque is the force behind acceleration, horsepower the energy responsible for momentum). Expect all other 2012 Cruze models to return with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder. It’ll most likely retain 138 horsepower, same as the LS engine, but also will again have more torque, at 148 pound-feet. Chevy shouldn’t stray from a transmission strategy in which the manual gearbox is standard in Cruze LS and Eco versions and the automatic optional in those models and mandatory for the 1LT, 2LT, and LTZ.

The 2012 Cruze Eco should again belong to a subset of small cars – the Super Fuel Economy version of the ’12 Focus is another – modified to be the highest-mileage model in its lineup. Expect the 2012 Cruze Eco to return with aerodynamic alternations that include a lowered suspension and flaps behind the grille that automatically close at high speeds. At just over 3,000 pounds, it’ll again qualify as the lightest Cruze model by about 200 pounds. Chevy saves weight by, among other touches, fitting a 12.6-gallon fuel tank instead of a 15.6-gallon unit and by use of lightweight alloy wheels. It also fits ultra-low rolling-resistance tires.

Every Cruze will again come standard with GM’s StabiliTrak antiskid control to reduce chances of sideways slides and rollovers in turns. Also includes will be antilock brakes for better control in emergency stops. Expect rear disc brakes instead of drums to remain standard only on the LTZ model and optional on the 2LT.

Features: The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze will offer most every feature found on its rivals, and while its available infotainment tech might not quite match Focus’s touted MyFord Touch setup for whiz-bang features, they should remain less intimidating to learn and operate. Cruze will likely again be a leader in compact-class airbag protection. It’ll include the usual array of front-torso and head-protecting curtain side airbags. But it’ll also come standard with safety features rarely found in this class, namely driver and passenger knee airbags, and torso-protecting side airbags for the rear outboard seating positions

Power windows and mirrors and keyless remote entry also will remain standard on every 2012 Cruze. So will air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, tilt/telescope steering wheel, front center console, and a folding rear seatback. Buyers should again get six months of free OnStar assistance that’ll include emergency-response service and turn-by-turn directions. Expect cruise control to remain unavailable on the base Cruze LS model, but it should again be optional on the 1LT and Eco and standard on the 2LT and LTZ.

Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity and a USB iPod interface should remain optional on LS, 1LT, and Eco models. Those connectivity features, plus leather upholstery should remain standard on the 2012 Cruze 2LT and LTZ. Those are likely to again be the only models available with the optional power sunroof and the navigation system, which includes a 7-inch dashboard screen.

Expect the 2012 Cruze LTZ to again come with 18-inch alloy wheels; these are likely to again be among the largest wheels in the class. The 2012 Cruze Eco will retain its lightweight 17-inch alloys, the 2LT will be back with 16-inch alloys, and the LS and 1LT will come with 16-inch steel wheels.

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze were not released in time for this review, but shouldn’t change markedly from those of the 2011 Cruze. Expect a base-price range for the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze of roughly $16,600-$22,500. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Chevrolet’s fee for the 2011 Cruze was $720.)

Estimated base price for the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze LS is $16,275 with manual transmission. Expect to pay another $925 to add automatic transmission. The Connectivity Package should again be a popular add-on at around $275 and include Bluetooth connectivity and a USB iPod interface and steering-wheel-mounted controls for both.
Expect the 2012 Cruze 1LT model to start at $18,700 with the 1.4-liter turbo engine and automatic transmission.

Chevrolet for model-year 2011 priced the Cruze Eco the same as the 1LT, but the high-mileage model came with manual transmission instead of automatic. Expect the 2012 Cruze Eco with automatic to list for about $20,150, a price that should again include a package that adds Bluetooth and USB, cruise control, and a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, the latter with audio and Bluetooth controls.

Estimated base price for the 2012 Cruze 2LT is $21,200 and it should again add to the 1LT leather upholstery, heated power front seats, remote engine start, and steering-wheel audio controls. Expect an option that adds rear disc brakes to the 2LT to again include 17-inch alloy wheels and cost a reasonable $395.     

Estimated base price for the 2011 Cruze LTZ is $22,500. In addition to the Cruze 2LT equipment, the 2012 LTZ should again come with the 18-inch alloys, automatic climate control, rear park assist to audibly warn of unseen objects, Bluetooth and USB interfaces, and upgraded dashboard trim.

Among key 2012 Cruze options, expect the navigation system to add about 1,995 to the 2LT or LTZ and the power sunroof to cost $850. Figure $695 for the RS appearance package for 1LT, 2LT, and LTZ models.

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze were not released in time for this review, though nothing suggests they’ll differ from those of the 2011 Cruze. That means 2012 Cruze should remain entirely competitive with some of the best in class.

Chevy will again make the Eco model the star of the Cruze fuel-economy story. The 2012 version ought to remain rated 28/42 mpg city/highway with the six-speed manual transmission. Expect the 2012 Cruze Eco fuel-economy ratings to slip to 26/37 mpg with the automatic transmission.

The Eco should again be the sole 2012 Cruze model in which the turbo engine can be teamed with manual transmission. The 2012 Cruze 1LT, 2LT, and LTZ ought to again combine the turbo with the automatic transmission and continue to rate 24/36 mpg.

Expect the 2012 Cruze LS with its naturally aspirated 1.8-liter four-cylinder to again rate 26/36 mpg with manual transmission and 22/35 with automatic.
Note that many manufacturers recommend or require expensive premium-octane gas for their turbocharged models but Chevy should continue to recommend less costly regular-octane for both 2012 Cruze engines.

Overall, the 2012 Cruze’s fuel-economy ratings will be a selling point, though absent a notable bump they’ll again trail those of the rival Hyundai Elantra. That compact holds the distinction of rating 29/40 mpg for every model in the line, regardless of whether it’s using the six-speed manual transmission or available six-speed automatic.

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Release Date back to top

Expect the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze to reach showrooms by autumn 2011. The Cruze is assembled on several continents, with details tailored to local requirements and tastes. GM assembles North American-market Cruzes in Lordstown, Ohio. It also dresses up the Cruze in Buick livery for sale as the more luxurious 2012 Buick Verano, which was set to bow in late 2011 with a 177-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder as its only engine.

What's next for the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze back to top

We hope Chevrolet will find the motivation to expand the U.S. Cruze lineup with the cool-looking and versatile four-door hatchback body style. That could happen as early as model-year 2012.

Just as intriguing are unconfirmed reports that Americans could have the option of a diesel-powered Cruze for model-year 2013. GM offers the foreign-market Cruze with a strong 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder rated at 147 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. With GM depending on the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car to carry its alternative-propulsion compact-class banner, a gas-electric hybrid Cruze doesn’t seem in the cards. Volkswagen enjoys strong demand for its Jetta and Golf diesels, and an oil-burning Cruze would promise high mileage and bring some international cache to Chevy showrooms. 

The carmaker says it also will eventually offer all its models with some form of its Chevrolet MyLink communications system. Introduced on the Volt and the Chevy Equinox midsize crossover SUV, MyLink is a voice-activated infotainment interface designed to minimize driver distraction. A competitor to the MyFord Sync system, Chevrolet MyLink employs smartphone applications to monitor and control various vehicle functions. It also brings into the car text and e-mail messages as well as Web services such as Pandora music.

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Competition back to top

Honda Civic: Last redesigned for model-year 2006, Civic will be all new for model-year 2012 and looking to defend its title as America’s best – and best-selling – compact car. The competition’s never been fiercer, however. Cruze, Focus, Elantra all are formidable rivals on one level or another, and all-new versions of Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra are poised to join the fray. The 2012 Civic will return sedan and coupe body styles, both with all-new sheetmetal that’s shapely if no longer as futuristic as the 2006 looked upon its debut. Exterior dimensions won’t change much but Honda promises the most interior space in the class, and leader-challenging fuel economy, too. A selection of trim levels plain to fancy will return. The core engine remains a 140-horsepower four-cylinder, which Honda pegs at 39 mpg on the highway, or 41 in the Civic HF (High Fuel economy) model. The sporty Si sedan and coupe upgrade to a larger engine with more torque but still around 200 horsepower. And a gas-electric 2012 Civic Hybrid sedan will return but with an updated powertrain that beats the outgoing version’s 40/45-mpg rating, though final figures were unavailable in time for this review. Estimated 2012 Civic base-price range is $16,000-$24,000 for gas models with the Hybrid priced from about $25,000.   

Ford Focus: A 2012 model that went on sale in early 2011, the newest Focus leverages Ford’s European design expertise to create a compact that emphasizes honed road manners and edgy styling inside and out. Available as a four-door sedan and four-door hatchback, this front-drive five-seater debuted with a lively 160-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder. A sporty variant with Ford’s EcoBoost turbo four and around 240 horsepower may come as an early 2013 model with an all-electric Focus not far behind.  Available from launch was the 2012 Focus Super Fuel Economy model similar in concept to the Cruze Eco and rated at 28/40 mpg with Ford’s SelectShift automatic transmission. Expect base prices for mainstream 2012 Focuses to start around $17,500 for the sedan and $19,200 for the hatchback, with the EcoBoost model in the low- to-mid $20,000s.

Hyundai Elantra: Addition of a four-door hatchback body style to accompany the four-door sedan could be the big news for the 2012 edition of this strikingly styled Cruze rival. The 2012 Elantra will continue to threaten compact-class competitors with a combination of head-spinning looks, low prices, and standard features that include heated power mirrors and USB iPod interface on every model. It also raises eyebrows with available heated rear seats. Expect all models to again use a 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine and to rate 29/40 mpg with manual or automatic transmission. Estimated base price range for the 2012 Hyundai Elantra is $16,100-$23,200.

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Next Steps