2012 Chevrolet Cruze

Chevrolet's Cruze is a fine family car that's economical with gas, provides room for four adults and, in the LTZ, delivers some oomph you might not expect.

Earlier this year I tested the base LS model and found it a delight, everything that GM and Chevy had been trying to do in a small entry-level sedan for decades. It was economical, well-built with first-rate ride and handling. Ah, but it wasn't zippy.
That base model comes with a fine 1.8-liter engine, and it delivers 136 horsepower. But the LTZ, which is pricier, deposits a 1.4-liter engine with a turbocharger under Cruze's hood.

The result is sportier acceleration. The turbo model produces 138 horsepower, so it's not a monster. But the torque is much stronger as you press the accelerator. Power is smooth and steady, with little noticeable turbo engagement.

The six-speed automatic worked flawlessly in the test model. It was balky in the LS, which was tested in midwinter.

Beyond the engine, you'll find only moderate performance differences between this model and the LS. Braking was fine on the LS, with discs up front and drums in back. The LTZ adds discs in back, so these grip better and are very consistent. Traction and stability control systems are standard on all Cruze models.

Handling is precise and the ride is well-controlled in both models, a credit to the suspension tuning and the car's 105.7-inch wheelbase. The ride is pleasant, not too soft or too stiff. The LTZ adds 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels and all-season tires, up from 16-inchers on the LS. That seemed to firm up the ride.
2012 Chevrolet Cruze