A promising contender for top honors in next-season's great mileage-maxing derby, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco combines a host of cost-effective fuel-saving features with some tasteful styling touches that are both functional and visually pleasing. While formal EPA numbers won't be released until closer to its quarter-four on-sale date, Chevy says the most miserly version of its new front-drive compact is expected to net 40 mpg on the highway when fitted with the standard six-speed manual transmission. A slightly less-frugal variant with an optional six-speed autoshifter also will be offered.
What makes the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco so adept at stretching a gallon of gasoline? It's all in the details, which trim weight and aero drag as well as its basic thirst. Although using the Cruze's standard 138-horsepower/1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder engine, a slightly taller axle ratio replaces the base cog whenever it's teamed with the manual gearbox. Up front, the Eco boasts a modified grille that features more "closeouts" in its upper portion and incorporates a moveable lower shutter that opens at low speeds to improve engine cooling but closes at freeway speeds to tidy up the aerodynamics. The Eco also is fitted with a bespoke front air dam extension element, special underbody fairings and a rear spoiler. Rounding out the wind cheats, Chevy engineers lowered the Eco's ride height while unique 17-inch lightweight alloy wheels wrapped in custom ultra-low rolling resistance Goodyear tires trim mass and road-induced resistance.
No word yet on pricing for the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco but on the performance front, insiders say one with a manual transmission should run 0-60 mph in about nine seconds while an autoshifted version will need about 10 ticks to hit the benchmark.