2012 Chevrolet Cruze Review – Cruzing to New York

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Specs Prices and Comparisons

We weren’t anticipating driving a Chevy Cruze to new York, butan offer to drive a new Chevrolet Cruze LT came from a major supplier,Honeywell Turbo Technologies. It was a welcome alternative to a tasty butcomparatively sternly riding Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 3. Besides, the Cruze isnew generation, the Mitsubishi is highly evolved and neither Steve nor Ihad driven a Cruze. therefore, we decided to treat the car like a black boxand look at its powertrain performance from a non-enthusiast point of view.We knew nothing about the engine other than it started with a key and hadan automatic transmission though we did figure that, since Honeywell TurboTechnologies was offering the vehicle, it probably had a turbochargedengine.

For Cruze, Honeywell mates a small, single-stage turbocharger to ateensy Ecotec 1.4-liter four cylinder engine. That’s 30% the size ofa typical V-8 and 1.0-liter less than most I-4 engines. neither Steve nor Iknew this until after returning from our trip. oh, the other engine forCruze is a normally aspirated (no turbocharger or supercharger) fuelinjected 1.8-liter four with identical 138 horsepower.

I took delivery and the Cruze surprised me. sure, the interior hadlots of plastic to keep the price low, but it was engaging, filled withsoft surfaces and a fabric covered dash. the center stack, normally aregion where journalists think General Motors fails, looked more like itcame from Audi than Old-GM Chevrolet. That said, the exterior, a tastefullyneutral earth tone, did nothing to increase my self esteem; Steve and Iboth prefer bolder colors.

My first impression of how a Cruze drives was “Wow, it’smore Corvette than Cobalt.” I thought the steering far moreresponsive than any recent Chevrolet other than Corvette or Camaro, a bigsurprise in a modestly priced car. the next morning, with only 12 miles ofexperience, Steve and I headed for new York on a voyage of discovery.

Stuck for 900+ miles inside our Cruze LT, real-world priced at under$19,000, we were surprised by its upscale features like the type of centerinformation display—oil life, tire pressures for each wheel, tripodometer, distance to empty and more—that we expect from much higherpriced cars. another surprise was the seating. Both driver and passengerseat were multi-adjustable for front and rear height, the driver’sseat moves fore-aft under power; both use manual backrest adjusters. Eventhe steering wheel is outfitted with a full suite of audio and cruisecontrols. while there is an extra-cost Eco model rated at 42 mpg, we werevery interested in our fuel economy and wanted to see how this Cruze with2012 EPA ratings of 38 mpg highway, 26 mpg City (2 mpg more than the 2011model tested) stacked up against a recent trip in a Volkswagen Jettaturbo-diesel that averaged 50 mpg on an identical round trip.

Though a six-speed manual is standard on the LT, we had thesix-speed automatic. It provided decent family-car acceleration and asix-speed transmission. Steve says “it’s roomy and comfortableenough for a broad-in-the-beam guy like me and its fuel mileage allowed usto traverse long distances without stopping”. Overall our fueleconomy was over 32 miles per gallon and less than 36 on each tankful. And,according to Steve, “Cruze has ambiance and amenities that are aquantum leap from the last generation Chevy compact car,” which wasthe unlamented Cobalt.

You may be able to tell that Thom and I both liked our turbo Cruze alot. as any who know me will attest, I would always rather be behind thewheel than anywhere else, including a passenger seat. Fortunately for me,Thom was happy to be in the right seat pecking away on his laptop andentertaining us both with his characteristically esoteric banter. That way,I got to do all the driving to and from the big Apple, being entertained byboth the car and my companion.

The Cruze, equipped with Honeywell’s turbo, was impressive inperformance and design. Right from the beginning as I took the wheel in theearly morning and headed for the interstate, I felt the surprising thrustwithout noticeable turbo lag. I had to confirm with Thom that we really hada turbocharger under the hood. It was not the kind of acceleration weexpect from a performance car, but it was well beyond what we expect froman entry-level economy car. Managing the cloverleaf ramps was a distinctpleasure as the suspension tuning was up to the task as well.

Fuel mileage easily kept in the mid-30-mpg range. Our speeds kept usup with traffic (which, of course, means a tad extralegal) and we were notmaking any special effort to maximize mileage. Think what we could dokeeping our speeds lower!

Interior quietness is another area where automakers are makingimpressive advances. the Cruze competes in that category with aplomb. Itactually seems quieter than Ford’s new Fiesta, which is a bitsmaller and in the entry-level class and is highly touted for its quietinterior. but, along with that quietness comes a truly admirable level offit, finish, and material quality.

Thom’s expertise extends deeply into technology and he spentsurprisingly little time getting his iPhone phone integrated into theCruze’s Bluetooth system. In that aspect, it is voice guided andeasier to pair than with Ford’s SYNC, the leader in voice-activatedinfotainment.

That’s our initial review of the car, but only touches on itsimportance. According to Tony Schultz, VP Honeywell Turbo Technologies forAmerica, the market for smaller engines with turbochargers will grow fromtoday’s 7% to 20% of all vehicles by 2015 because of emissionsregulations and fuel economy standards that must reach a corporate EPArated average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2015. for turbo makers likeHoneywell, the shift to smaller turbocharged (and supercharged) engines isall about acceptance. Our test, just driving and evaluating a“Honeywell” instead of any specific powertrain, is important.We made no pre-judgements and neither should you.

In the US turbos have a checkered history and a somewhat tarnishedreputation that is undeserved. yes, there were some issues with bearinglife in the ‘80s, but every manufacturer we’ve talked to sayswarranty claims for turbos are always minimal and less than they budget.That’s a way of saying in the US, like Europe, and the rest of theworld, you shouldn’t worry about having a turbocharged car. WhatHoneywell—and GM—want is to get potential buyers behind thewheel to experience the power of this engine. if 1.4-liters can give youthe drivability of a larger, less fuel efficient engine why would you worryabout what’s under the hood? Really, sometimes size doesn’tmatter.

Powertrain enthusiasts may find it interesting that, according toHoneywell Chief Engineer, Steve McKinley, our Cruze’s 1.4-literEcotec engine utilizes Honeywell’s MGT-14 turbo, a device proven inEurope for half a decade. It has demonstrated durability, and a modestprice to the car maker. Steve says its performance betters the standard1.8-liter engine, performing more like a 2.0-liter normally aspiratedengine. Their development in cooperation with GM has produced a fueleconomy increase between introduction and the 2012 model year as theycontinue working on improving air flow from the intake manifold, throughthe turbo, and into cylinders for even greater efficiency.

At the Auto Channel we see the trend clearly; fewer and fewer V-8s,V-8s being replaced by V-6 engines with plenty of torque and horsepower andV-6s moving aside for I-4 engines with more power than the engines theyreplace. That’s the kind of “green” we can agreewith—fuel efficient, low emissions, and most importantly (to us),these hot little engines are fun to drive.

KEYWORDS:Chevrolet, Chevy, Chevy Cruze, Cruze, 2011 Cruze, 2012 Cruze, CruzeLT turbo, turbocharger, Honeywell, Ecotec, 1.4-liter, 1.8-liter, fueleconomy, Eco, six-speed, Fiesta, Ford Fiesta, SYNC, EPA, Honeywell MGT-14,green, fun to drive

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