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Greetings Cruze owners! My wife and I are picking up a 2012 Cruze Eco 6-spd manual tomorrow and I thought I would share my impressions/experiences from deciding between the Cruze and a new Focus. I'm not a lifelong Chevy fan or anything, I've owned three Dodges (Avenger, Dakota, Ram), a Ford (Ranger 4x4), a Volvo, and Mini Cooper in recent history (trading the Cooper in on the Cruze). They were all good vehicles to me, so I have no hard feelings towards any of the manufacturers. My dad has always owned GM products, so I don't have anything against them... I just always ended up with something else. I bring that up to illustrate my lack of bias coming into this.

We test drove the Cruze first. We had gone to look at Sonics and Cruzes (sort of assuming we would lean towards a Sonic, but the seats were too tiny for long road trips). I was instantly impressed by the Cruze Eco when I saw it. I know it is a matter of taste, but I even found the eco wheels to be attractive. The lowered stance, this specimen has fog lights, and the interior instantly impressed me. It is white with black interior, and I'm glad they actually had a '12 left with the black interior. The lighter titanium-whatever just didn't do it for me. I'm about 6'0, and have a long torso, so the backseat was a little short on headroom for me. The front seats are great though, and I love the ergonomics of the instruments.

I had to drive the manual, since I've heard very little good about the automatics in both the Cruze and Focus. The clutch on the Cruze is extremely easy to modulate, and the torque of the 1.4T really makes accelerating from a stop a breeze. The first 3 gears are awesome, and really allow you to undertake any urban maneuvers you could ask for. I immediately noticed the very common vibration/rattle when the shifter was in 4th gear (I have been informed by the service manager that this is due to shifter cable adjustments, and they will fix it before I take delivery. I never saw that there was a resolution in the other thread about it, but supposedly PIP5050 has been solved). I didn't have a problem with how tall 4th-6th gears are, as they make for a very relaxed highway ride, and I'm sure great fuel economy. Although the Cruze feels solid and seems to handle well, it isn't like I will be using it for high speed antics. I think it will be perfectly comfortable handling 3rd-4th gear twisty mountain road passes. The steering was good, but not great. At first I really liked it, but then we went and drove the Focus :p, but that wasn't enough on its own to sway our decision. The low end grunt is really addicting on the 1.4T! For a car that can get such great gas mileage, the powerband does all it can do to brighten up your commute. The brakes were a bit soft, but I've read that adjusting the rear drums can fix that situation, so they service dept is going to address that as well.


The Focus (5spd manual hatchback), on the other hand, felt much smaller than the Cruze. I know it is only a little smaller, but the back seat was cramped, the seats didn't fold flat, and the shape of the hatch was awkward. We have a large dog (greyhound), and he wouldn't even be able to get in there with the seats folded down. He would have to sit in them as if it were a sedan... so there were a few negative marks for ineffective space utilization. For reference, the mini cooper's seats fold flat, and the dog fits GREAT! The focus is less space efficient than the mini. The Cruze at least has a nice big trunk. He will just sit/lay in the backseat though.

The interior of the focus seemed to be of nice quality, but didn't impress me visually as much as the Cruze (the fabric on the dash is really a great touch). The Ford's steering wheel felt nicer than the Cruze... more nicely weighted, where the Cruze's wheel feels a bit hollow. And lets face it, Ford's entertainment systems w/ sync (no myford touch) pretty much blow Chevy out of the water. To be fair, the Cruze doesn't have MyLink since it is a 2012, and I wish it did... because sync definitely integrated the smartphones better than the Cruze's premium Alpine system.

My first impression of driving the focus was "wow, this steering is as good as the mini's", however the mini does have better weight to it, and even more feedback. The engine takes a little longer to start breathing than the Cruze... N/A vs turbo differences were apparent, but once you got to 3,000rpms, the focus really started to move, and it sounded good doing it! The cruze doesn't have the sporty sound note, but it is wonderfully quiet and refined-sounding. With the focus, the faster you go, the better the steering feels. It was tight on center, and had really good feedback (which made the Cruze feel a bit numb on my second test-drive). The shifter and clutch felt just as good as the Cruze, just a little different. Coming out of a corner in third, upshifting into the straight *snick*-*lovely vroom sounds*-*snick*-*some more vrooming*-*sni...clunk* ****! No 6th gear? I have no idea why ford did not imbue the focus with a 6 speed manual. It needs it.

Bottom line:
Cost: With Ford's rebates, the focus would have been $2500 cheaper than the Cruze, but the Cruze has 0% interest, and the ford does not. That results in an almost identical amount paid over the same 60 months. So cost is pretty much a wash.

Driving dynamics: advantage Ford. Everything from the steering, the engine note, throttle response, braking, etc, evoked a sense of fun. It is a fun car. The Cruze is no slouch, but I wasn't as impressed with the soft brakes. The more relaxed steering is fine, since this will ultimately be used as a commuting car with 75% highway... it just wasn't as involving as the Focus.

Entertainment/electronics: Slight advantage ford. We are smartphone people, and sync does a great job of tying the systems together. The Chevy's radio system isn't bad, and onstar is pretty nice too (although it will cost you money in the long run), it just isn't as accommodating. I mean seriously, you have to pull the A2DP box out of a Camaro or a Sonic to stream via bluetooth? Come on.

Space/utility: Advantage Cruze. More room in the backseat (headroom, shoulder room, legroom), more room in the front seat (width), and the trunk is more useful than the Focus' hatch. I have never seen a hatchback that is less useful than a sedan, except for the Focus. Good thing I didn't try a Fiesta, eh?

Interior: Pretty much a wash, but I did like the Cruze better, but I think it may be personal preference. It looked classier, even if the material quality was similar. Both had cloth seats, and I found both comfortable. The Cruze is a little firmer, but I prefer that to be honest. The only place the Focus won for me was the steering wheel, which was brilliant compared to the Cruze.

Fuel economy: Cruze Eco - by a lot. Now I know the Focus has an SFE package, but that is only for automatics, which are crap. I took the best manual car they had on their lot, vs the best manual Cruze I could find. We will put roughly 20,000 miles/year on this car, and the real world difference (based on fuelly and our heavy highway commute) looks like a 5-10mpg difference at least. If I split it and said 8mpg difference, that would be about $500/yr in fuel. The focus has shown to get worse in the city too... so it is hard to say what the real difference would be. Not to mention, you definitely need to put more foot into the pedal to get moving with the Focus at low speeds.

Powertrain: Aside from the fuel economy, I think the tradeoffs are pretty equal. The Cruze has a great low end and midrange, and the turbo makes accelerating easy. The Focus comes alive in the midrange, and sounds great doing it! I know I would get worse gas mileage just because that part is addictive. In the Focus, you have to get into the 3,000 - 4,000 rpm range to start moving... I would definitely use more gas with that N/A motor than with the Cruze, who can pass vehicles effortlessly from 2,000-2,500 rpms.

The Cruze ended up being a little more of a grownup car than the Focus. If I was 19 year old version of myself, I would have gone for the Focus. But I'm married, have a dog, will have kids in a few years (the backseats of the Cruze will most definitely be easier for carseats), and I drive enough to care about the fuel economy difference. Also, just look at them side by side... to me the Cruze is a much more attractive vehicle. The impression I get is the Cruze has the look of a young professional, where the Focus has the look of a student.

And the final consideration: The Chevrolet dealership we went to has been great. They have been straightforward with us the whole time, gave us their best price without having to play all the games, they offered us any accessories we want added at dealer cost (we are having OEM heated seats put in for basically nothing), and I liked how they treated us. They also are throwing in a few free oil changes, and they have a lifetime oil change price of $18. I can't change it myself for that... Their service folks were very helpful in looking at any questions we had, and talking to us about the TSBs and recalls that have taken place so far. I know there are a few, but I'd rather have a dealership that is upfront about them and fixes them without hassle.

The Ford dealership... they acted like a huge dirty bag of dicks. Sorry if that is a bit crass, but they were playing the traditional games, lowballing on trade (finally came up to what I was offered elsewhere), tried to pressured us to buy that night, etc. If I had chosen the Focus, I would have found a different dealership. So that really wasn't a major determining factor, but the fact that the Chevy dealership was good right off the bat made it that much easier.


For the too long; didn't read group, Here's a few shots of the car we are picking up tomorrow:






 

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Nice one-vs.-one review.
 

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Nice review - thanks for the taking the time to type it all up. It sounds like you went to a lot better dealer than Rick Hendrick in Durham/Cary (bought mine from them). They really just came off to me as pretty lazy, but I think I did get the best price on the car from them.

I test drove everything in the class too, and was between the two. I did like the Focus's engine, but it just didn't feel as "nice" as the Cruze does. The second I stepped into the Cruze (even the bargain LS model), I loved it. There were a few tempting offerings in the mid-size class, but I wanted a manual and really didn't need a car that big.
 

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Real nice write up. I have a 2011 ECO 6M and real happy with it. Congratulations on your new ECO!
 
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Nice review. I might be wrong, but I believe the rear seats can fold down flat. You have to remove the headrests and fold the rear seat bottoms forward, then the seat backs lay down flat. That increases the rear cargo from 23.8 to 44.8 cubic feet of storage.
Yes, they need to get a 6 speed manual as standard. The five speed and clutch is really good though and shifts and engages very well compared to most vehicles. Very easy and natural and pretty snickity, with a good feel. Ford seems to do steering and handling with a good balance with ride pretty good too the last few years.
The Eco is a compelling and solid choice and hope you have years of enjoyment. Good luck.
I had a greyhound for a few years. Great dogs!
 
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Wife didn't like the 2012 Focus we road tested. Can't even see the hood for tight parking, just a wide open space. Then the headrests made us both stare at the floor. Salesman said most of the buyers remove those.

Never got further than these two very undesirable items. But did have a rocky history with Fords. Can't even use conventional timing marks to change a timing belt, need all kinds of special jigs. Then head gasket problems, ignition problems. A stupid EGR system that would carbon up blocking the PFE and this valve causing exhaust valves to burn out without even an error code. Pinch bolts on the struts, and that crazy sub-frame design making it near impossible to replace an AXOD-E transmission. Using cold rolled steel bolts in aluminum, took me 15 hours to change a water pump, all four broke off with little effort.

But have to say, Ford was my favorite car until model year 1948, been miserable ever since that. If the Focus got that right, won't know. But if driving one, least want to know what I am hitting. Had to move my upper body forward so I could hold my head straight, but only to look at outer space.
 

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Nice write up. My dealer will be delivering mine today! It will be exactly like yours minus the fog lights. Congrats!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Nice review - thanks for the taking the time to type it all up. It sounds like you went to a lot better dealer than Rick Hendrick in Durham/Cary (bought mine from them). They really just came off to me as pretty lazy, but I think I did get the best price on the car from them.I test drove everything in the class too, and was between the two. I did like the Focus's engine, but it just didn't feel as "nice" as the Cruze does. The second I stepped into the Cruze (even the bargain LS model), I loved it. There were a few tempting offerings in the mid-size class, but I wanted a manual and really didn't need a car that big.
The folks at Bobby Murray in Raleigh are top notch, and I would highly recommend them. Plus, I will end up taking it to them for service, because it would be more expensive to do it myself, considering the prices they give customers who buy cars there. I felt I got a good deal/fair price. None of the other Chevy dealers had any more to offer off their '12s, so I'm comfortable that I made the right choice. If Ford would have had 0% financing, the choice would have been alot tougher since it was easily a few grand cheaper with their rebates.
Nice review. I might be wrong, but I believe the rear seats can fold down flat. You have to remove the headrests and fold the rear seat bottoms forward, then the seat backs lay down flat. That increases the rear cargo from 23.8 to 44.8 cubic feet of storage. Yes, they need to get a 6 speed manual as standard. The five speed and clutch is really good though and shifts and engages very well compared to most vehicles. Very easy and natural and pretty snickity, with a good feel. Ford seems to do steering and handling with a good balance with ride pretty good too the last few years.The Eco is a compelling and solid choice and hope you have years of enjoyment. Good luck.I had a greyhound for a few years. Great dogs!
Well the salesman at the Ford dealership apparently had no idea that the seats could fold flat either. He didn't know the rear seats pulled forward, and it didn't feel like they were supposed to when I tried. I agree that the Ford definitely has the powertrain and suspension feel down; very enjoyable to drive. Both my wife and I feel like we made the right choice. The Eco is SUCH a good commuting car, and even with trying to break it in (varying speeds, keeping it under load, etc), I'm getting almost 40mpg (computer reads 40, so probably like 38mpg or so). On my Focus test drive I got 26mpg driving it the same way. This car is idiot proof when it comes to decent gas mileage.

After our happy commute this morning:
cruze.jpg
 

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dcx,
Thank you for sharing this. I would like to congratulate you on your new Cruze! Also welcome to the forum! I am always here and happy to help in any way that I can so please feel free to contact me anytime with any questions, comments or concerns that you may have. Enjoy your Cruze!!
Thank you,
Stacy Chevrolet Customer Service
 

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DCX Quote:
..."Well the salesman at the Ford dealership apparently had no idea that the seats could fold flat either. He didn't know the rear seats pulled forward, and it didn't feel like they were supposed to when I tried."...
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I had the exact same experience when I went to look at them. Started to tug on the seat bottom and was corrected by the salesman that as far as he knew, they would not fold up and that the seat backs could not fold flat.

I found out for sure later. It is not very intuitive and there are too many steps involved, along with even less front seat leg room once you do fold up the seat bottoms.
Picks of the fold flat feature.
2012 Cargo Area in Hatchback - Focus Fanatics
Demo of sedan with the higher trim level 60/40 seats folding pretty flat. Sedan's lowest trim lines are non folding one piece back, I believe.
2012 Focus Sedan: Cargo flexibility - YouTube

I think you made a great choice, good luck.
 
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