2012 Chevrolet Cruze Review

Edmunds.com reviews the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze, providing authoritative buying advice, pricing, available options, photos, specs and safety information.

Researching a small car on Edmunds.com to find a top pick used to be pretty straightforward. Chances are we'd point you to a Honda Civic, a Mazda 3 or, if you really wanted to fly your freak flag, a Subaru Impreza. But now things are different. There's been a regime change for small cars, and one of the rebel leaders is the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze.

The Cruze debuted last year as an all-new model and has gone on to be both a sales and critical success. The reasons are multifold, but the bottom line is that the Cruze is simply a quality car. It looks sharp inside and out. Attention to detail is apparent the first time you close the door and notice it shuts with a solid "thunk." The feature content is up to date with options such as hard-drive-based navigation and keyless ignition/entry. Chevy's come a long way since the Cobalt.

On the move, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze impresses with capable handling and a quiet cabin. Under the hood you have a choice of two engines. Base LS models have a 136-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder, but most Cruzes actually come with a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine. Horsepower is about the same from this smaller engine (138 hp), but torque rises significantly to give the Cruze a boost in around-town acceleration. The turbo also sees duty in the Cruze Eco variant. Thanks to various tweaks, the Eco achieves an impressive 42 mpg highway EPA rating.

That said, looking at other models is still a wise idea. The redesigned Ford Focus is similarly impressive and holds advantages in handling and technology features. The stylish Hyundai Elantra is equally well rounded and arguably a better value. And even though they're not the dominant choices they once were, the Honda Civic and Mazda 3 are still great cars. But the fact remains that the small car segment has changed, and the Chevy Cruze is a top contender.