GM Unveils Chevy Cruze Eco, Touts “Hybrid-Like” Mileage at Lower Price

GM had already planned three variants of the upcoming, and fuel efficient, 2011 Chevrolet Cruze — an LS, LT, and LTZ — the same labeling scheme that Chevy has for lots of its vehicles. But Chevy plans to unveil yet another Cruze model at the New York Auto show this week: the Cruze Eco.

Using a variety of innovative techniques, including a 1.4 liter Ecotec engine, various aerodynamic improvements, weight saving features, and low rolling resistance tires, Chevy claims to have squeezed at least 40 MPG out of the Cruze Eco on the highway.

Having broken the 40 mpg barrier, GM is using these stats to claim “the Cruze Eco delivers hybrid-like efficiency without the price tag.” That’s according to Jim Campbell, Chevy’s vice president of marketing.

Along with the upcoming Chevy Volt, the Cruze has been one of the poster children that GM is using as a mea culpa to the taxpayers who saved it from certain doom… a way to exclaim “See everybody, we’re doing green things!” Certainly the Cruze is a car for the modern buyer, reflecting a clear trend all across the US marketplace for downsized, yet solidly-built and feature-rich vehicles. Whether or not it helps to save GM’s tushy is another question entirely.

GM says that, although the Cruze is technically a compact car, like the Corolla, it offers enough interior space to rival other midsize cars.

It should be noted that GM only claims the 6 speed automatic version of the Cruze Eco will reach 40 MPG highway, also adding that the manual transmission will have a slower 0-60 time of 10 seconds, while the 6 speed auto will get you to 60 a whole second earlier.

Along with the miserly 1.4 liter engine, GM included a laundry list of features to squeeze out every last drop of fuel economy:

  • A lower front grille air shutter that closes at higher speeds to improve aerodynamics and opens at lower speeds to optimize engine-cooling airflow
  • The upper grille has more “closeouts” to improve aerodynamics
  • A lower front air dam extension, extensive use of underbody panels and a rear spoiler enhance aerodynamics
  • A lowered ride height improves aerodynamics
  • 17-inch lightweight aluminum wheels
  • Ultra-low rolling resistance 17-inch Goodyear tires.

With all those extra features, I’m not sure how much less expensive the Cruze Eco will be than a similarly sized and equipped hybrid. I’ll see if I can’t get some pricing estimates out of GM while I’m at the NY Auto Show this week.

Up until now, and without official EPA estimates, GM had been saying that the 2011 Cruze would get about 40 mpg on the highway. With the announcement of the Cruze Eco it is now clear that, out of the 4 variants of the Cruze, only the Eco will break that 40 mpg ceiling.

This leaves me wondering two things: 1) what kind of mileage can we expect from the other trim levels, and 2) will we start seeing the “Eco” moniker on other GM models? Camaro Eco anyone? Somehow I don’t think so, but it does seem to indicate a new naming convention for the General.

Chevy anticipates that the Cruze Eco will start hitting showrooms in the 4th quarter of this year. You can check out the full press release on the next page.

Source: GM

 

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.