The Chevrolet Cruze is a compact sedan, has front wheel drive, seats five, and gets good gas mileage. So is this any different from the other manufacturers who are all trying to do the same thing? The simple answer is yes and no. Test-driving the Cruze around the Fort Worth and Dallas area can be interesting, especially driving the new ECO version. Fort Worth, Dallas, and other cities across the US are generally interested in the ecological movement, especially if it can save on fuel.
General Motors actually introduced the Cruze back in 2008, but it was in other countries and not here in the United States. Chevrolet has finally brought the Cruze to market to consumers here. Actually, it replaced the Cobalt in the Chevy line-up, with some obvious improvements.
Due to those government mandates, all the manufacturers are taking at least one of their products and making some major changes to get high gas mileage. For the little Cruze, the attention is being focused on the new ECO model that is rated at 42 mpg fuel economy. Take note, however, that this mileage figure is for the standard-shift and not the automatic with all the premium features.
The standard 2011 Cruze is available in five trim levels. The LS base model is offered at a low price of just $16,995, with a 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine matched with a six speed manual transmission. Next in line is the LT that has a 1.4 liter turbo four-cylinder and a six speed automatic for $18,895. Moving up the ladder, the 2LT adds a lot more premium features including power seats at a beginning cost of $21,395. The ECO model plays with the middle road LT but with a different six-speed manual and a different aerodynamics configuration to get great gas mileage and that begins at $18,895. The top-of-the-line LTZ is the 2LT model with a whole lot more added on and it begins at $22,695. A popular add-on package for the LT and LTZ models is the RS group for $665 that adds fog lamps, a rear spoiler, a different front fascia, and a few more changes.
The ECO model is just now becoming available at Chevrolet dealerships. The 2011 Cruze Eco uses the same 1.4 liter inline four cylinder engine that is being put in the new electric car, the attention-getting Chevy Volt. The Volt, which is actually a hybrid and not a pure electric, uses the 1.4 as an electrical generator to keep the batteries charged. The GM engineers took that engine and added a turbo, then mated it to the standard six-speed manual transmission. The “Wow” factor suddenly appeared. The lost-in-the-crowd compact pushed ahead with great fuel economy, is fun to drive, had a fairly peppy engine, and appealed to drivers who like a standard shift. Many drivers prefer manual shifts in smaller cars because it makes them feel involved with the driving dynamics and allows more active control.
Obviously, the moniker ECO is an abbreviation for ecological. The General Motors engineers pushed the mechanics and aerodynamics to achieve an efficient package. The overall mass of the compact Cobalt changed to become the Cruze and then was refined further for the Eco model. The powertrain was optimized as much as possible. The aerodynamics was enhanced. These three elements come together to allow great mileage while having a fun and attractive car to drive. The aerodynamics was mostly improved by changing the upper grille area and then putting motorized shutters on the lower air intake. This allows the air intake to be closed off at higher speeds. The Eco model is also slightly lower to the ground than the other Cruze models that smoothes the airflow underneath. The air spoiler is thinner. These all working in harmony create a more efficient air flow and add those precious mile-per-gallon improvements.
The Chevy surgeons did not stop with the outside changes, but operated on the interior also. The center armrest was removed from the rear seating. The size of the fuel tank was reduced. The wheels have less weight. All this reductions in weight help the movement of the vehicle. It is like a heavier person who has dropped a lot of poundage. They can move faster and easier because there is not as much weight to be moved. The Cruze Eco benefits from that same idea.
The great gas mileage has a down-side. It is measured with the manual transmission without all the add-on features that so many customers desire. Automatic transmission adds $1450 to the cost. A Connectivity package for the manual shift costs an addition $525 but adds cruise control, steering wheel audio controls, a USB port, and more.
Bottom line – The Chevy Cruze models are very good compact cars that look good and drive good. But if you want a special vehicle that is lighter in weight, lower to the ground, more fuel efficient, and simply a fun car to drive, check out the Cruze Eco with the manual transmission. Visit a Chevrolet dealership yourself to learn more about the Cruze.