High-Mileage Chevy Small-Car in the Offing

GM’s next-generation Chevy small-car will vault the company into the 40 mpg range, according to industry insiders. Spy photographers have captured the front-drive car in action, powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine. Originally planned as the next-generation Cobalt subcompact due in 2010, it will now get is own name and be put forward as part of the company’s eco-stance along with the plug-in hybrid Volt. Plans for the Cobalt may now continue on their own, though Chevy may switch to different underpinnings from its current platform.

The architecture for the new high-mileage Chevy is part of GM’s worldwide push to communize vehicle structures, allowing it save money and have more flexibility. In addition to the new small-car, this same platform will be the basis for the Volt. In other markets, it will be the basis for up to five different body styles, including sedans, hatchbacks and minivans in markets as diverse as Korea, China and South America. Among the models are a Daewoo-badged Korean sedan, a Chevrolet for Europe, an Opel seven-passenger minivan (replacing the Zafira), a premium Buick for China, and unnamed models for Africa and South America.

Though a team of engineers from around the world was involved, the platform was put together at GM’s Opel research and development facility in Germany. Powertrains, safety features, standard equipment and chassis tuning will differentiate the regional brands and models. Some vehicles will share the same sheet metal with models sold in other regions, according to Peter Mertens, GM’s global compact architecture line executive. He added that, at least in terms of drivability, the variety of vehicles sharing a common heritage will not be clones.

“If you drive them next to each other, you will certainly see there is a difference in chassis performance between an Opel and a Chevy or between a Buick and a Chevy,” he said. “Each is engineered to compete against very specific competitors.”

The diversity possible out of this new architecture may help put GM on an equal footing with its international competitors down the line, but it raises the question of what Toyota and others will have on the market in the intervening years. All auto companies are scrambling to get higher-mileage models to the U.S. with demand so high, but the long product planning time involved in the auto industry makes it hard for any company to quickly overhaul its line-up.

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  • Anonymous


  • Jerome

    2 things:

    #1 it is good to see the volt glossed as a plug-in hybrid

    #2 this is ready in 2010?? WHAT?? A little slow isn’t it? NOW – better late then never – but having one chassis take the place of multiple lines – hmmm seems the competition has been doing that for years – I hope this means GM will become more competitive. Would like to see a US automaker rival Toyota and Honda in the green field – but not holding my breath

  • Anonymous

    Is the new chassis for 2010 in response to pressure from gov regulators to increase fuel standards? Lets say its nice to see GM actually have a smart business plan but it makes me wonder what the other car companies are up to in terms of future models. Also sorry for being skeptical but is this just PR due to GM’s low stock value of late. Lets hope that lawmakers keep putting pressure on the auto manufactures to develop more efficient vehicles. Also lets hope GM has finally got the message and is committed to future products that customers actually want.

  • Bryce

    The platform that this vehicle will be on is called the Delta platform and was created years ago. The Saturn/Opel Astra already sits on it and lots small cars in the coming years throughout GM will be put on it. This car is not exactly a Cobalt replacement though seeing as it will be sold alongside the CObalt atleast for a few years, though GM is unsure of whether they want to keep the Cobalt after their contractual obligation. It may simply be dropped in favor of our new little 40 mpg delta platformed friend here. Supposedly a 1.0 L turbo is in the works for the future Beat/Aveo. If Opel is designing this car, it should certainly look pretty nice. The whole revamped Saturn line is essentially Opel transfers stateside or greatly influenced by Opel engineers in the designing process. This should be something very entertaining to watch in development.

  • Bryce

    O, and the Volt is a series hybrid, not a parallel hybrid as most are today. Parallel has a combustion engine tied directly into the drivetrain while in a parallel, the combustion engine is essentially just a generator. Just thought that should be clarified! : )

  • Dr. Suess

    Are you kidding me? “Vault the company” – have you seen the Aptera? GM has already missed the boat. With the predicted future increase in oil prices we ALREADY need vehicles that get w-a-y better mileage than 40 mpg.

  • Bryce

    hmm, well I could say some things about the Aptera……but instead I would like to say, “what boat?” To my understanding, there isn’t a gasoline internal combustion engine that gets 40 mpg commercially available. As for the Aptera, we need mainstream vehicles that cost a reasonable ammount of money, not science projects. As I see it, a year and a half from now, if I can drive a cheap little 40 mpg car, it sounds good to me. No other automaker is presenting us with such efficient little cars. : )

  • Shines

    Well when I read the article and I read in it a lot of marketing hype. A lot of old news treated like new. So far the only car on the epa site that officially gets over 40 mpg that is not a hybrid is the Smart – and you lose the advantage because you have to pay for premium.
    The other cars that come close are the Corolla and Mini. I suppose if the car gets 38 mpg you could “round up” to the nearest 10 and say it gets 40. Still, if GM can come out with quality cars that get over 40 mpg, that will be great.

  • Vgtech

    Do they mean 40 MPG EPA or 40 MPG CAFE? The way I understand it, CAFE is calculated the way the EPA used to calculate fuel economy and the EPA figures are now about 20% lower than that. The 35 MPG figure that all cars must eventually achieve is based on CAFE calculations.

    Can’t GM just stick a better engine in the Cobalt? Take a 1.8L Ecotec block, add direct injection, variable valve timing, a 6-speed tranny, and tune the whole thing for mileage instead of acceleration and they’ll have a car right now that gets better fuel economy than a Corolla and accelerates better than the 2.2L Cobalt.

  • Bryce

    That is essentially the idea. They are taking out the standard 2.2L and sticking a turbo 1.4L. The reason for the vehicle change is because though the Cobalt is leaps and bounds ahead of the CAvalier it replaced, it is still not quite the vehicle Chevy is looking for to compete in the compact car market. The new model is being introduced to better compete with Honda/Toyota. Being designed by Opel, the European arm of GM, the car will probably be a very attractive and functional car indeed. With this new engine, this could very well be my next car. 🙂

  • Jerome

    Bryce – how long have you worked for GM or one of their subsidiaries? You post quite a bit but always 100% in defense of everything and always GM….

    there are ICE engines that regularly get 40 mpg HWY right now….

  • Yep

    I have been a toyota fan for all my car buying years – lol. However, if GM brings this car to market ASAP I will be happy to join the GM family. My next vehicle will be a car that gets over 25-30 mpg so to GM I say”Hurry please”.

  • kfly

    hey Bryce, I bet IBM thought the hand built Apple 1 was just an impractical “science project”. I bet Microsoft thought the development of the first Google algorithms was an interesting but impractical “science project”. Welcome to the year 2008 were “science projects” quickly become “reality” in the blink of an eye. leaving top heavy dinosaurs to ponder what just happened.

  • CardInAustin

    Hey….is that the new Corvette?!?! I mean, I can barely distinguish between this prototype and the Vette! (sarcasm….smell it?)

    Some of this does seem like the typical hype from GM. A company that clearly was very very late to the mpg party (well, at least as far as market commitment is concerned). But if they can produce a better widget and actually get it to market (commercials and press stories are cute, but I want something I can buy), then we are all better off for it. GM can do great things IF they are serious about it….and I am still not entirely convinced of that.

  • John in Seguin

    Yeah! I knew they couldn’t make the Volt. They would rather make a “40 mpg” version of the Cobalt, but I doubt they can get that much mileage out of it.

    It’s the kiss of death and not what will cure what ails them.

    I like the name…. Chevette. Sounds like a baby Vette.
    Why not use that? Oh yeah, that one was used in their disaster of a small car in the 70’s.

    When you find your horse is dead, it’s time to dismount.

  • Butch

    Don’t knock the Chevette!! In 1984, you could buy it with the 4cyl. Isuzu diesel and 5spd stick and get almost 54 MPG on the highway…………and that’s with 1984 technology !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And they brag about 40 mpg’s in today’s vehicles. Who’s kidding who ??

  • John Dyke

    Why not reintroduve the GEO Metro ? I had a 1992 that got 50 MPH and still drive a 1995 4 dr. Metro that gets 43 city and 48 highway .What is wrong with this picture? Chevy abandoned this car to make more profit on large cars ,So now is time to bring the GEO metro back .I need a new one as the 95 has over 120000 miles ,runs great but need to look ahead . JOHN Dyke

  • dyke


  • Bryce

    I also defend Honda alot. : ) I just think that GM gets a lot of heat for very silly reasons. Toyota, I would have to say, is not the end all, best, hands down vehicle producer. They are, in many many ways, just like GM. The only reason Toyota never sold very many “gas guzzlers” is because they weren’t that great. small, with not enough horse power. (inneficient as well if I might add. I believe a tahoe will get about 14-15 mpg while a seqouia will get around 12-13 tooling around the city) GM’s cars sucked for a decade or two, that is definetly for sure. THen again, it was really a sad decade for a lot of vehicles. Half of them were death traps. Anyways, from the vehicles I am seeing on the lots and coming off the line in the future, Honda and GM have REALLY stepped up there game. Alot of people would agree. Kelly blue book, edmunds, car and driver, all rank the accord and the malibu above the camry. Though I enjoy the camry’s exterior, its interior is exactly the same as my mom’s ’99 Suburban. Compare that to the fine styling of the other two, it made sense why those 3 sources before mentioned kept bashing on its interior. Finally, TOyota makes good cars, but so does GM, and so do a lot of other automakers. There are reasons that GM and Toyota are neck and neck. They both produce fine vehicles. : )

  • Bryce

    and geos are death traps.

  • EBC Brakes

    Hey nice article you have here. Can i have this reposted at EBC Brakes? I’ll credit this site. Thanks.


  • carLover

    This is a good move for GM, maybe another plan that can move them to the top spot of car manufacturers again. Autopartswarehouse.com got some tricks and ideas for simple cars to be great-looking. I like GM for their big and bulky rides and this one maybe would be the simplest but cool.