Chevy hopes the Cruze will have the Right Stuff to meet segment leaders like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla on equal terms - unlike previous efforts such as the so-so Cobalt (and the downright awful Cavalier).
The Cruze is all-new "premium" compact economy sedan equipped with standout features like 10 (count 'em) air bags, including a driver's knee air bag as well as front seat and rear seat side-impact bags, a six-speed manual transmission, air conditioning and 40 mpg highway fuel economy potential - if you choose the ECO version. It comes with low rolling resistance tires and a 1.4 liter turbocharged engine designed for maximum economy with acceptable on-demand acceleration (0-60 in about 9.2 seconds).
The only obvious downsides to this car are its fairly high $16k-ish base price - expensive for the segment - and the fact that at least for now, the Cruze is only available in sedan form while many of its competitors are also available as coupes or hatchback wagons.
But given the features you get (such as standard rear seat side-impact air bags, which aren't even available as extra cost options in the competition) the price may well be worth paying.