The non-hybrid 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco delivers an EPA-estimated 42 mpg on the highway (manual transmission models), with city fuel economy of 28 mpg. Cruze Eco’s highway fuel economy beats non-hybrid segment competitors—including 23% greater highway fuel economy than the Honda Civic—as well as the Ford Fiesta subcompact and hybrid models, including the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid. The Cruze Eco carries an MSRP of US$18,895 (including destination charge). It goes on sale in January.
Cruze’s engineers focused on aerodynamic performance (with some improvements derivative of GM’s work with the Volt), mass optimization and powertrain enhancements.
We left no stone unturned or piece of sheet metal un-weighed. Our engineers were comprehensive and thorough when it came to evaluating and modifying the aspects of the car’s performance that contribute to fuel economy.—Chuck Russell, vehicle line director
Aerodynamics. Aerodynamic improvements over non-Eco manual-transmission models contributed approximately six mpg to the Cruze’s EPA-estimated 42 mpg highway fuel economy. Many were developed and refined in more than 500 hours of wind-tunnel testing of the Chevy Volt, which shares a core architecture with the Cruze. Examples include the upper grille, which has more “closeouts” to improve aerodynamics, a lower front air dam extension, a rear spoiler, a lowered ride height and underbody panels that smooth airflow beneath the car.
The Eco model also features an all-new technology in the compact segment: a lower front grille air shutter that closes at higher speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag and opens at lower speeds to optimize engine-cooling airflow. Another contributor to reduced drag is the use of ultra-low rolling resistance 17-inch Goodyear tires (used with lightweight wheels), which are also used on the Volt.
As a result of the aero enhancements, aerodynamic drag was reduced by 10% over a non-Eco model, with a coefficient of drag of 0.298. That places Cruze at the top of the class for mainstream compact cars, according to GM.
Mass optimization. More than 42 changes were made on the Eco to reduce weight. It weighs in at 3,009 pounds (1,365 kg), compared to the 3,223 pounds (1,462 kg) of the Cruze 1LT. Cruze engineers looked at all aspects of the vehicle’s construction, including hundreds of weld flanges on the vehicle. They were reduced 1 mm to 2 mm in length, which saved several pounds, while the sheet metal gauge thickness was reduced by about 0.1 mm in select components. This saved weight while preserving structural integrity.
Lighter wheels and tires are used on the Eco. They’re 17-inch alloy units with Goodyear tires that weigh 36.5 pounds (16.6 kg) apiece—5.3 pounds (2.4 kg) less than the 16-inch wheel/tires of the Cruze 1LT for a complete savings to the vehicle of 21.2 pounds (9.6 kg).
Efficient powertrain. Cruze Eco is powered by the power-dense Ecotec 1.4L turbocharged engine and a standard six-speed manual transmission. The transmission’s gearing is optimized for the model’s specific 17-inch wheel/tire combination and includes aggressive ratios for first and second gear coupled with a highly efficient, “taller” sixth-gear ratio for highway driving. That means engine rpm is reduced on the highway, which in turn reduces fuel consumption. A six-speed automatic transmission is available, with EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 26 city and 37 highway.
The Ecotec 1.4L turbo’s power ratings are 138 horsepower (103 kW) and 148 lb-ft of torque (200 N·m) between 1,850 rpm and 4,900 rpm. The wide rpm range for the maximum torque—a specific trait of turbocharged engines—helps the engine deliver a better driving experience and performance. The turbocharger is integrated within the exhaust manifold, for reduced weight and greater packaging flexibility.
The engine also features premium design elements that give it smoothness and durability while also contributing to the Cruze Eco’s lower curb weight. They include a cast iron block with a hollow frame structure, hollow-cast camshafts and a plastic intake manifold.
|Cruze Eco and segment competitors|
|Model||EPA city fuel economy||EPA highway fuel economy|
|Chevrolet Cruze Eco||28 mpg||42 mpg|
|Chevrolet Cruze (1.4L turbo, auto 6)||24 mpg||36 mpg|
|Toyota Corolla||26 mpg||35 mpg|
|Honda Civic||26 mpg||34 mpg|
|Ford Focus||25 mpg||35 mpg|
|Hyundai Elantra||26 mpg||35 mpg|
|Cruze Eco and select hybrids|
|Model||EPA city fuel economy||EPA highway fuel economy||Price|
|Chevrolet Cruze Eco||28 mpg||42 mpg||$18,895|
|2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid (FWD)||41 mpg||36 mpg||$27,950|
|2011 Nissan Altima Hybrid||33 mpg||33 mpg||$26,780|
|2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid||31 mpg||35 mpg||$26,150|