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2012 Chevy Cruze: Two Year Review and First Car Thoughts

Illustration for article titled 2012 Chevy Cruze: Two Year Review and First Car Thoughts
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I bought my 2012 Chevy Cruze two years ago today. It had only 102,000 miles on it and I paid just $4,900 for it. Almost exactly 20,000 miles later, I do not regret my decision.

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The first time I saw it, I was blown away by the beautiful autumn metallic paint, the futuristic Bluetooth calling, and the overall excellent condition. No other car I looked at could compare to it. Keep in mind this was my FIRST CAR! The big one! The thing I’d been looking forward to for YEARS! It blew my expectations out of the water. Just the fact that the doors automatically locked when in drive seemed impossibly futuristic to me. I never imagined such a cheap car would have such techy features as to allow me to set the startup radio volume.

You may recall I have done a review of this car before, which can be found here. It really focuses on the technical aspects but I have learned quite a lot more about it since then.

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Illustration for article titled 2012 Chevy Cruze: Two Year Review and First Car Thoughts
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How can you quantify the magical experience of your first car? This car took me places I never could have imagined to make new friends I never expected to make, all without giving me much trouble at all. Here’s what I’ve done in 20,000 miles:

  • Routine maintenance including oil and filter changes, tire rotations, etc
  • Replaced a wheel bearing and lug nuts after a mechanic improperly tightened them, which ended up with the wheel nearly falling off.
  • Thermostat
  • Water pump

How can you ask for more from a sub $5,000 car? This is the car I learned how to love to drive in. And for that it will never be forgotten.

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Illustration for article titled 2012 Chevy Cruze: Two Year Review and First Car Thoughts
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This car is defined by what you do in and around it; what you drive to defines your ownership. The joy may be in the journey, but the car doesn’t try to steal the show.

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Pleasantly precise and unexpectedly weighty steering directs the car in the direction you point it. It holds corners pretty well, which is fortunate because you won’t be accelerating back up to speed anytime quickly.

My LS trim car was equipped with a 1.8 liter naturally aspirated engine making 136 apathetic horses. It is a fun balance of slow car fast and getting out of its own way. The only thing planting your foot to the floor does is adjust the noise the engine makes. It’ll get up to speed when it gets up to speed.

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The gearing does help with hiding its slowness until later in the power band. Although the 6 speed automatic isn’t known for being particularly durable and hasn’t been the smoothest at low speeds, it manages the power fairly well without being too indecisive. A manual would make it so much more fun though. The semi-auto mode does have more tactile feedback than most others I’ve used, which means it is fun to help it hold a gear in the twisties.

Illustration for article titled 2012 Chevy Cruze: Two Year Review and First Car Thoughts
Photo: Who is the Leader
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The exterior is actually quite attractive, especially in this particularly fetching shade of orangish red. The pronounced rounding of the roof is distinctive and functional, leaving plenty of headroom. The taillight shape is especially good looking from this three quarters view. Many might disparage the black plastic fake window and they are right to do so. It still looks and feels like a more expensive car than it is and has pleasing, deliberate proportions.

Illustration for article titled 2012 Chevy Cruze: Two Year Review and First Car Thoughts
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The interior is where the design really shines. The tan on black motif is very attractive and every material that meets your hand is much higher quality than you would expect. The steering while itself is a pleasingly tactile textured rubber and the dash and door accent pieces are soft touch materials. The head unit has an attractive display despite low pixel density and all the controls are logical, easy to locate and use.

It is not without its quirks however.

  • There is only one lock/unlock button inside the car and it is located on the center stack. Tugging twice on a door handle will unlock a door.
  • The trunk does not have an interior trunk release and can only be opened from the outside or by the key fob when not in the ignition.
  • There is no range or gas tank capacity readout despite a fairly advanced computer system, a seemingly unacceptable omission.
  • The MPG counter is hilariously inaccurate

The quirks are balanced out by the many features however.

  • Bluetooth calling, though not compatible with music streaming
  • 5 star crash safety rating including 5 stars on the small front overlap crash test
  • A surprisingly large trunk
  • Spacious back seat for its class
  • One aux port, one USB port, and two cigarette lighters, good for a 2012 model

And more that I can’t remember right now.

A beacon in a sea of automotive uncertainty
A beacon in a sea of automotive uncertainty
Photo: Who is the Leader
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Do I regret buying this car? Of course not. It has been nothing but good to me through an immensely stressful part of my life and for that I am forever grateful. Never could I imagine I could have so much fun with such practicality. It’s no Miata, but it’s no appliance either. Isn’t that what I wanted after all?

Just a cheap, practical, fun, reliable car that can do everything without boring your socks off. They told me it couldn’t be done, but all I really needed was the right expectations so that I could truly enjoy my little red sedan.

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Illustration for article titled 2012 Chevy Cruze: Two Year Review and First Car Thoughts
Photo: Who is the Leader

So, should you buy one? As long as it doesn’t have the 1.4 liter engine, yes. It is one of the best values on the used market right now, a real hidden gem for the bargain seekers. You won’t regret it.

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