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Chevrolet Cruze Eco
By Reed Berry
In some ways, it seems like Chevrolet is trying to go retro, such as using their vintage jingle “See the USA in your Chevrolet” in its recent television commercials. However, while the advertising may be reminiscent of a past era, the new generation of Chevy vehicles is anything but old-fashioned. Take, for example, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco.
The Cruze Eco is not the fastest car on the road, nor is it the most luxurious. It is, however a practical, reasonably priced sedan with the features car buyers are looking for—not the least of which is an outstanding highway fuel economy rating of 42 miles per gallon. That’s quite impressive, considering this is a gasoline engine, not a hybrid as one might assume it would be.
On the outside, the Cruze Eco need not make any apologies. It’s attractively designed with a bold front end and smooth lines that flow gracefully toward the rear of the vehicle. Sure, there may be sportier cars on the market, but the European styling incorporated into the design of this vehicle gives it more than its fair share of eye appeal. The car is made even more aerodynamic through the use of active air shutters in the front lower grille that open and close based on the speed of the vehicle.
The interior of the Cruze Eco is quite spacious, and stylish in an intriguing sort of way. There is a textured cloth material on the dash that wraps around onto the door panels. I’m accustomed to seeing materials ranging from plastic and faux metal, to highly polished woods used to accent automobile dashboards, so the sight of cloth has gotten my attention. A unique design feature, to say the least. The instrument panel and center console have a sculpted, sporty look.
I have to hand it to Chevy. The only option included on my test vehicle is a special exterior paint color. This certainly helps to highlight the fact that the car is packed with standard features ranging from great looking 17-inch polished alloy wheels to a sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever. Another standard feature is what Chevy calls Deluxe Cloth Seat Trim. They can use the word ‘deluxe’ but, regardless of what you call it, cloth is still cloth. Cloth upholstery, in my opinion, gives any car a bit of a rental car feel.
The bucket seats are quite comfortable, however adjusting them manually to the desired position seems to be more work than it really should be. Another area in which the Cruze falls a bit short is in its arched roofline. The same curved roofline that adds to the car’s exterior appearance in a very positive way makes getting in and out of the car a bit awkward. When the seat is adjusted for a male driver of average height to reach the pedals comfortably, I find myself hitting my head each time I exit the vehicle. A taller friend is having similar results with clearance on the passenger side.
Driving the Cruze Eco is an enjoyable experience. I was not expecting, nor did I receive, a rocket ship-type thrill ride from a vehicle with a 138-horsepower engine, but I am pleasantly surprised by the performance. Teaming an efficient engine with a sporty six-speed manual transmission seems to be a winning combination. The car accelerates smoothly and without hesitation. For maximum performance and fuel efficiency, there’s even a light that comes on to tell you when to shift.
The Cruze Eco seems to adapt well to various road surfaces and driving conditions. From the freeway to rural roads and even some mountain driving, this car is extremely responsive. Cruze’s Stabilitrak system with traction control gives the vehicle a confident presence on the road. An anti-lock braking system adds to the vehicle’s safety and security, as does GM’s awesome OnStar system.
There’s certainly no lack of entertainment during my drive. A complimentary subscription to XM Satellite Radio (after three months you pay a monthly fee) has allowed me to listen to a Jimmy Buffett concert being broadcast live from Cincinnati. When the concert ends, I can continue my Buffett-fest by plugging my iPod into the auxiliary audio jack. The six-speaker AM/FM/CD player with USB audio interface is clearly not a top of the line system but it does sound quite good.
In addition to a spacious passenger compartment, the Cruze also has ample cargo space in the trunk. Interestingly, and a little on the inconvenient side, there is a deep well compartment directly in the center of the trunk into which most loose objects seem to fall as the vehicle is moving. I can only assume this is the area in which a spare tire would be positioned if the car had a spare tire. Unfortunately, like a number of newer vehicles, there is no spare tire in the Cruze but rather a tire sealant and inflator kit.
Well, I didn’t exactly see the USA in this Chevrolet, but I did have an enjoyable drive through southern California – and economically so – in the most fuel efficient gas powered vehicle in the U.S. There are other models in the Cruze line, one of which offers leather seating while another features automatic transmission and double five-spoke alloy wheels but, with a price tag right around $20,000, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco seems to provide an impressive blend of form, function and practicality.
Chevrolet takes you to green land in a normal car
For information on Chevrolet products: chevrolet.com
Name of vehicle:
2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco
As Tested: $20,320
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City/Highway):
28/42 miles per gallon
1.4-liter I-4 Intercooled Turbo
138 @ 4,900 rpm
148 @ 1,850 rpm
6-speed manual transmission with overdrive
Rack and pinion
Front: Independent short-long arm (SLA)
17” forged alloy wheels