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2011 Chevrolet Cruze. (GM/General Motors)
2011 Chevrolet Cruze. (GM/General Motors)

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Should Camry owner Cruze through retirement? Add to ...

I own a 2002 Toyota Camry XLE, which has gone only 97,000 km. It has been an excellent car, never in the shop except for routine maintenance. However, I am now retired and want a smaller car - a compact seems best, but I would want the top model, which hopefully would have some of the features of the Camry. I don't particularly like the current Honda Civic or Mazda3 and am wary of the Toyota Corolla in light of its recent recall. The Chevrolet Cruze looks interesting, but of course it has no record of reliability or of maintaining its value. The Volkswagen Jetta (not diesel) looks like another option. It would be great to receive your advice. - Rick

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Vaughan: Ricky my boy, you've heard of the Cruze! I'm impressed.

You see, when I think of the Cruze I'm reminded of the Chevrolet Malibu - still one of my favourite mid-size cars. I blame the marketing for holding back the Malibu from being a Honda Accord-like success. And I'm worried General Motors is stumbling again with the Cruze introduction.

Cato: Nonsense. Toronto is littered with giant Cruze billboards, like lots of other cities. You need to clean those little round spectacles. And you haven't seen the full-page, all-colour ads touting that $14,995 price?

2011 Volkswagen Jetta

Vaughan: Cato, General Motors seems hemmed in by an over-reliance on traditional media. Where is the earned media - the push of newsworthy information that gets picked up by new, old and emerging media. GM needs to stir up more buzz.

Cato: For a guy who thinks Facebook is a bedtime skin treatment, who believes that Tweeting is something parakeets do in their cages, I am gob-smacked by this lecture on new media.

Vaughan: Don't be a nitwit. We had this conversation about "earned media" and "social media" with Ford's CEO Alan Mulally at the Paris auto show. He gets it and so does his global marketing guy, Jim Farley. Mulally is the first car company CEO I've ever heard talk about earned media.

At Ford, the marketing and media push starts at the top. GM?

2010 Toyota Corolla

Cato: Still a work in progress.

Vaughan: Cato, in the car business, marketing is huge; GM needs to do better here.

Cato: Let's get back to Rick, the retiree. The marketing has reached him, you know.

I like this car quite a bit, though the exterior styling is too "safe" for my taste. The cabin is clean and smart and very well executed. The Cruze is light years ahead of that dud it is replacing, the Chevy Cobalt.

Vaughan: Ricky does not want to buy the stripped-down starter model, Cato.

Cato: He can't; there is no stripper. That sub-$15,000 Cruze in Canada has stability control, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry and 10 air bags. It will not have air conditioning and the transmission is a manual six-speed, however.

And another thing: the entry-level Cruze is $2,000 cheaper than the starter Cruze in the United States. Will my e-mail box fill with complaints about the Cruze being less expensive in Canada? Doubt it.

Vaughan: Cato, our retiree wants AC and lots of other features. He's not roughing it when he day trips from the retirement home.

Cato: Then get the base Cruze Turbo for $19,495. It has everything the least-expensive Cruze has, plus much more power, air conditioning, power/heated side mirrors and even XM satellite radio for 12 months.

Vaughan: The Jetta is also on Rick's list. Volkswagen re-did this car for 2011, lowering the base price to $15,875, which is just a couple of hundred dollars more than the base U.S. pricing.

Personally, if I were going for a Jetta, I'd get the TDI Diesel; it starts for less than $24,000.

Cato: Not Ricky. And frankly, I'm a little disappointed with the repositioned Jetta. Drive the new one back-to-back with the 2010 and you'll see exactly where VW cut costs.

Vaughan: For a third option, you should not walk away from that Corolla without giving it one last look. Toyota claims to have fixed all the problems and there is reason to believe the company.

Cato: Rick, go get all the cash rebates and other giveaways Toyota in putting in the trunk to sweeten the Corolla deal. That said, the Cruze is the new kid and for now I'm inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo

2011 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5 Comfortline

2010 Toyota Corolla S

Wheelbase (mm)

2,685

2,651

2,600

Length (mm)

4,597

4,628

4,540

Width (mm)

1,796

1,778

1,760

Height (mm)

1,476

1,453

1,465

Engine

1.4-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

2.5-litre five-cylinder

1.8-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

138 hp/147 lb-ft

170 hp/177 lb-ft

132 hp/128 lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel drive

Front-wheel drive

Front-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed automatic

Five-speed manual

Five-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)

1,407

1,381

1,255

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

8.5 city/5.5 highway

9.9 city/6.2 highway

7.5 city/5.6 highway

Base price

$19,495

$21,175

$20,285

Source: Car manufacturers

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