2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS
2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco
Test Drive: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo

Manufacturer’s web site
Chevrolet Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2012 Chevrolet Cruze

Last year, an automatic transmission was standard in the Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo and a manual transmission wasn’t available. For 2012, a six-speed manual transmission is now standard in the LT Turbo and the six-speed automatic transmission is a $1,450 option.

This little bit of transmission juggling is good news for drivers who want a well-equipped Cruze LT that’s more fun to drive, but it has also allowed Chevrolet to boost the 2012 base price of the automatic model by about $700: last year, the base price was $19,495 with the automatic transmission; this year, the base price is $18,755 with the manual transmission and $20,205 when equipped with the automatic. Mitigating this slightly is the fact that OnStar – with a six-month “Directions and Connections plan” with turn-by-turn navigation – is now standard.

2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS
2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS
2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS. Click image to enlarge

Mid-level 2012 Cruze LT Turbo models come in two trim variations, 1S-A ($18,755) and 1S-B ($19,735). Standard stuff in the 1S-A includes the turbocharged 138-hp 1.4-litre twin-cam four-cylinder engine, 16-inch tires and steel wheels, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with six speakers and a 3-month subscription to XM satellite radio, premium cloth seats, power windows and door locks, cruise control, and heated power mirrors. The Cruze LT Turbo 1S-B adds 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel.

But the real fun begins when you choose the optional RS Appearance Package available on the 1S-B model for a very reasonable price of $1,875. For this, you get four low-profile 225/45R-18-inch all-season tires mounted on double five-spoke silver painted alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes instead of front discs/rear drums, lowered ride height, rear spoiler, side sills, fog lamps, and a nicer instrument panel cluster with chrome trim rings. That’s the car you’re looking at in these photos which has an as-tested price of $21,710 plus $1,495 Freight and PDI.

With the six-speed manual transmission, a lowered suspension, improved rubber, and better brakes, the LT Turbo RS is a lot more playful in the hands of an enthusiastic driver. As we’ve already noted in past reviews, the small turbocharged engine develops maximum torque of 148 lb.-ft. at just 1,850 rpm and there’s plenty of pull all the way up to the 6,500 rpm redline where a rather rude rev limiter abruptly interrupts the power surge; you quickly learn to shift before the redline. Apart from its generous torque at lower revs, what’s remarkable about this engine is how quiet and smooth it is – highway cruising is very pleasant in the Cruze. Personally, I would have preferred a little more aural feedback from the exhaust pipe when accelerating.

2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS
2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS
2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS
2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS
2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS. Click image to enlarge

The onboard average fuel economy display was showing just over 9.0 L/100 km which compares with the official rating of 8.2/5.4 city/hwy. Fuel economy ratings for the Cruze LT Turbo with the automatic are 9.2/5.6 city/hwy.

The six-cog manual shifter has a meaty, leather-wrapped shift knob and shifts like a well-oiled instrument with medium shift lengths and quiet gear engagement. Clutch pedal effort is light and clutch take-up is smooth, but starting off in First gear requires keeping the revs up a bit to avoid stalling. A hill-holder function would have been nice. I found First gear to be geared a bit low with the engine quickly approaching the redline before going very far. Otherwise, the gear ratios seem well spaced, and highway cruising in sixth gear is done at a quiet 2,300 rpm. Engaging Reverse gear requires squeezing the disc under the shift knob and moving to the left and up.

The 18-inch Michelin Pilot MXM4 all-season tires on my test car offered a great combination of tenacious grip and quiet running and handling was lively and stable in the corners with well-weighted and responsive variable-assist electric power steering. The suspension is a MacPherson strut setup in front and semi-independent torsion beam/Z-link at the rear. For a compact car, the ride is very comfortable and road and suspension noises are nicely muted.

The interior is roomy enough for five adults as long as the front seats aren’t all the way back. Both the driver’s seat and front passenger seats are height adjustable, but could use lumbar adjusters for the lower back. Unfortunately, heated front seats are not available in the LT (standard in LTZ). A handsome three-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel with audio, phone and cruise controls tilts and telescopes.

The Cruze’s standard cloth upholstery is a coarse but attractive fabric that is matched by similar fabric on the passenger side dashboard. The instruments and dash displays are backlit in a bright blue colour that is easily readable but the numerals on the tachometer and speedometer are a bit small. An information display in the gauge cluster shows average fuel economy, instant fuel economy, driving range, average speed, digital speedometer, and trip odometer. However, the controls to toggle between these functions are on the left turn signal stalk which I found awkward to operate.

Standard is a six-speaker audio system with CD player, MP3 playback, auxiliary input jack, USB port, XM satellite radio (3 months free subscription) and steering wheel audio controls. But though it has hands-free Bluetooth phone capability, there is no wireless Bluetooth audio or voice-activated audio like Ford’s Sync system. USB and auxiliary jacks are located inside the centre storage bin under the armrest. A 250-watt Pioneer premium nine-speaker system is available for $385.

Like many European cars, the door unlock/lock buttons are located on the centre console instead of the doors, which seems quite sensible once you get used to it.
For safety, there are eight standard airbags including front knee airbags for the driver and front passenger.

My verdict? The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo RS with the standard manual transmission adds a new dimension of driving fun to a compact sedan that is uncommonly refined in its class.

Pricing: 2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo
  • Base price: $18,755
  • Options: $2,955
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,495
  • Price as tested: $23,305

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