When they unveiled their plans to build a 40 mpg “Eco” version of their upcoming Chevy Cruze at the New York Auto Show last April, GM claimed that the Cruze Eco would have the fuel economy of a hybrid at a much lower price. Today GM put an actual number on what a much lower price means: a starting price of $18,995 for the base Cruze Eco when it goes on sale later this year.
Whether that is really a much lower price than the hybrid competition is a whole ‘nother thing entirely.
Given that the Cruze is technically a compact car, its closest hybrid competition is the Honda Insight. The base Insight starts at $19,800 and returns 40 mpg city/43 mpg highway. The Cruze Eco is expected to get 40 mpg highway, and GM hasn’t yet released what its’ city numbers will be. Because of this, and the fact that GM hasn’t released a list of features that come at the Eco’s $18,995 price tag, there’s no way to directly compare apples to apples between the Cruze Eco and the Insight yet — but the Insight does come with a large list of standard features.
Even if the Cruze Eco returned 35 mpg in the city (doubtful), that would still be an average of about 4 mpg difference between it and the Insight, or at today’s fuel prices about $150 per year. In light of that, is that extra $800 savings really a coup in the hybrid versus efficient conventional car world?
Certainly a well-built, 40 mpg, 4-door, small family-sized conventional car that doesn’t look like a Prius for less than $20K is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a great accomplishment. I’ve also sat inside the Cruze and can say that it is unquestionably more comfortable than the Insight, and, although I haven’t driven the Cruze yet, it would be hard for it to get worse ride and handling reviews than the Insight — which has been almost universally panned. But in the end, it appears the Cruze Eco’s price tag is right in line with comparable hybrids that get better mileage, so I don’t think that GM can keep up the “lower price” charade for much longer.