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There are perhaps few vehicles as unloved and unlamented as the late Chevrolet Cobalt (perhaps the previous Cavalier was disliked even more). The Cobalt's poor reputation was a bit a unfairly deserved, because it wasn't a terrible car. But it was inferior to most of its competition in the compact-car class, and that was a problem. A problem that became magnified when rising gas prices and GM's corporate woes meant that Chevy needed to have a better entry in the class.
Enter the Chevrolet Cruze. This Euro-influenced compact came to our shores as a replacement for the Cobalt, and there have been high expectations placed on the Cruze. For the most part, the newest Chevrolet compact meets or exceeds those expectations. Which is something that was rarely said about Chevy compacts past.
Enough pre-amble. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty.
There are four trims: LS, LT, LTZ, and Eco (the latter is meant to appeal to those who are frugal with fuel consumption). Two engines are available: A naturally-aspirated 1.8-liter four-cylinder that makes 136 horsepower for the LS and a 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder for the rest. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard on the LS and Eco, with a 6-speed automatic transmission optional on those models and standard on the LT and LTZ. My tester was a 1LT.
The base price of $18,175 gets you ABS, traction control, an antiskid system, remote keyless entry, power mirrors, a rear window defroster, satellite radio, and an auxiliary audio input jack, among other items. Options included the Connectivity Plus Cruise Package ($525, includes cruise control, a USB port, a wireless cell phone link, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, steering wheel controls, and a leather-trimmed shift lever), the 1LT Driver Convenience Package (6-way power driver's seat, remote start, rear parking assist, $685), 16-inch alloy wheels ($395), and a compact spare tire ($100). Plus the $720 destination fee, the as-tested total came to $20,800.