Chevrolet will use the 2010 New York Auto Show, kicking off this week, to formally unveil the Cruze Eco—a conventional gas-burning car that could give hybrids a run for the money. When it hits dealerships in late 2010, it will be the only conventional US model to break 40-mpg, either on the highway or in the city. Every other 40-mpg-plus car, with the exception of the ultra-compact Smart ForTwo, is either a hybrid or a clean diesel.
Moreover, the Cruze Eco uses more affordable internal combustion technology—such as turbocharging—to deliver its exceptional fuel economy. Some forecasters believe the race to greater efficiency will be between hybrids that will become cheaper with greater volumes—and small ultra-efficient gas vehicles, using relatively affordable efficiency strategies like better aerodynamics, lighter materials, low-resistance tires and turbocharging. Chevy has not yet announced official mileage or pricing.
The fuel efficiency battle—fueled in part by higher fuel efficiency requirements starting in 2012—will not be an either-or situation. In the coming years, consumers will have a growing number of choices employing a range of technologies—all trying to offer the highest efficiency in the most compelling package at the greatest value. “The Cruze Eco delivers hybrid-like efficiency without the price tag,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president Chevrolet marketing.
It’s Not A Hybrid, But…
The Chevrolet Cruze Eco is propelled by the new turbocharged 1.4-liter Ecotec inline four-cylinder. The 1.4 turbo is rated at 138 horsepower and a healthy 148 pound-feet of torque. Chevrolet estimates the Cruze Eco will deliver 0-60 mph performance of about 10 seconds with the manual transmission, and 9 seconds with the six-speed automatic. (The automatic versions may not break the 40-mpg mark.)
The Cruze Eco uses other innovative strategies to squeeze out more mileage. For example, the compact car reduces drag at higher speeds by closing of shutters in its lower grille. Also contributing to the car’s elevated fuel efficiency are a deep front air dam and under-body panels.
In addition to the Eco model, the Cruze will also be offered in LS, LT and LTZ trim levels. The LS gets a 1.8-liter four, while the two higher trims get the turbo. Drivers wishing for a sportier appearance can opt for the RS package, which adds fog lamps, rocker panel extensions and a rear spoiler. The RS pack also brings an upgraded interior featuring chrome trim and backlit instrument cluster bezels.
The Eco model is getting attention for its efficiency, but it’s also getting notice for decent looks. Motortrend reports that Eco model will ride on a dropped suspension. “Equipped thus, and riding on unique—and not altogether unattractive—multispoke 17-inch wheels, the Eco model [on sale in Europe and Asia since early 2009] actually winds up being one of the nicest-looking Cruze models we’ve yet seen.”