Guide to Green Cars > The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide > Chevrolet

2012 Green Car Buyer’s Guide, Chevrolet

2012 model year highlights from Chevrolet: the Cruze, Sonic and Volt. 


Compiled by Megan E. Phelps, John Rockhold,
Hannah Kincaid, Emily Glover,
Bradley Berman and Zach McDonald

See “What the Numbers Mean” in The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide, 2012 for a full description of the metrics we collected for each model.

Chevrolet Cruze

Gasoline, Compact 

Chevrolet-Cruz-ProfilePrice Range: $17,600 – $24,000
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 26/38/30
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,950
Air Pollution Score: 6
Greenhouse Gas Score: 7
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 46/Above Average
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 5-star NHTSA rating
Space: 94.6 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 4
Similar Used: 2011

Good to Know: 

  • The Chevy Cruze has five available trim levels. The greenest options are the 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder model with a combined rating of 30 mpg , and the 1.4-liter turbocharged Eco model, which is rated at 33 combined mpg.
  • At 42 mpg, the Cruze Eco’s highway rating is on par with that of some hybrids.
  • The Cruze Eco’s 10 percent combined fuel economy boost comes at a 15 percent price premium.
  • More than 20 percent of new Cruze buyers opt for the Eco version.
  • The Cruze’s underpinnings provide the framework for the Chevy Volt.

What the Press Says: 

  • “The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze sedan’s 4-cylinder turbocharged engine not only delivers ample torque for a fun drive, it’s also quiet and fuel efficient.” — Kelley Blue Book 
  • “It feels solid and substantial, handles nicely, and has a firm but steady and controlled ride.” — Consumer Reports 
  • “We wouldn’t exactly call it a class leader, but the wholly competent Cruze shows that Chevrolet can now do ‘small’ as well as ‘big.’” — 

What Drivers Say: 

  • “I got a new 2012 Chevy Cruze Eco, and I’m thrilled to report that it absolutely lives up to the hype. I’ve been getting the advertised 42 mpg without babying it. And it’s a comfortable ride, too — a great car for my long commute to work. Best of all, it runs on regular gasoline — no special high-tech equipment needed. This car saves me big money on fuel!” — Faith Baumann, Pensacola, Florida 

Chevrolet Sonic

Gasoline, Compact or Hatchback 

Chevrolet Sonic ProfilePrice Range: $14,700 – $18,300
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 25/35/28
Annual Fuel Cost: $2,000
Air Pollution Score: 6
Greenhouse Gas Score: 7
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 46/Average
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 5-star NHTSA rating
Space: 90.6 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 4
Similar Used: New for 2012

Good to Know: 

  • The Sonic is an all-new model, replacing the Chevy Aveo.
  • The Sonic, as well as the Cruze, put an end to GM’s series of small car flops, according to critics.
  • The shift to a turbocharged, 1.4-liter engine — instead of the standard 1.8-liter — increases the Sonic’s combined fuel economy by nearly 20 percent.
  • Unlike the Cruze, the Sonic comes in a hatchback, adding extra cargo space.
  • In a play for sharper styling, Chevrolet based the design of the car’s headlights and instrument gauges on motorcycle aesthetics.
  • The Sonic’s turbo engine is shared with the Chevy Cruze Eco. The two have similar power levels and fuel economy.

What the Press Says: 

  • “The all-new Chevrolet Sonic’s style, ride quality and fun-to-drive nature land the new car well past the Chevrolet Aveo it replaces and establish it as a competitive player in the exploding compact field.” —  
  • “What GM has done here is to banish all the cheapness and disappointment that used to be part of the small car experience, and it’s done so smartly, making the right calls on all the compromises that need to be made to sell a car for 15 grand.” — Autoblog 
  • “If you’re looking for standout styling or go-get-’em driving feel, you can indeed do better than the Sonic. But if you like the idea of an entry-level subcompact that drives more like a comfortable compact car, consider the Sonic an early favorite in your quest for affordable and efficient wheels.” — Kelley Blue Book 

Chevrolet Volt

Extended-Range Electric, Compact Hatchback 

Chevrolet-Volt-ProfileBase Price: $40,000
City/Hwy/Combined MPGe: 95/93/94
Annual Fuel Cost: $650 (electric)
Air Pollution Score: 10 (electric)
Greenhouse Gas Score: 10 (electric)
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 53/Superior (electric)
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 5-star NHTSA rating
Space: 90.6 cu. ft. p.v./seats 4
Drive Score: 4
Similar Used: 2011

Good to Know: 

  • The battery has a range of about 35 miles on electric power alone. It takes about 10 hours to recharge on a standard 120-volt outlet, four hours on a 240-volt outlet.
  • Drivers with relatively short commutes almost never burn a drop of gasoline.
  • With 375 total miles of range via electric and gas, the Volt can serve as a family’s sole vehicle.
  • The combined mpg rating after electricity has been depleted is 37 mpg .
  • Don’t believe recent misinformation: Volt batteries do not catch fire (read The Truth About Electric Car Safety).
  • Winner of a Kelley Blue Book Total Cost of Ownership Award for the best “real-world bottom line” among electric cars.

What the Press Says: 

  • “The result of all this is a practical extended-range electric vehicle that can do it all, enabling zero-emission electric capability for most everyday driving and seamless high-mile-per-gallon drives of any distance.” — Green Car Journal 
  • “The Volt is one of the most significant cars to come out of Detroit in the 60-year history of this magazine.” — Motor Trend  

What Drivers Say: 

  • Tammie Haley of Portland, Ore., gets 35 miles to the charge. That’s perfect for her, because she drives 15 miles each way to work, which means she can usually drive on all-electric power, but can run the car on gas if she needs to go a longer distance.
  • Mark Raymaker of Shaftsbury, Vt., also likes the ability to run mostly on electric but switch to gas when needed. He notes that there are few public charging stations in his area, which made the Volt a more practical choice for him than an all-electric car.

More 2012 green cars: Find details about many more green cars from other automakers in The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide, 2012.

Photos from Chevrolet 

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