A Little Bit of Chevy Volt in Chevy Cruze

The recent announcement of the $41,000 price tag on the Chevy Volt disappointed many fans—and spurred debate about the taxpayer dollars required to bring the plug-in hybrid to life. But the new Chevrolet Cruze shows how General Motors is hedging its bets on the Volt’s high-cost components by installing them on a high-volume model.

The Cruze, in its own right, represents a new front for G.M. As John Zinser, compact vehicle program manager at G.M., yesterday told a media audience at the vehicle’s San Francisco, Calif., introduction, “We’ve played in this market segment before, but we didn’t play strongly.” The Cruze represents the first truly competitive Chevy compact, designed to go head-to-head with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra that lead the small car segment. And, based on an extended test drive, the car is the real deal—solid road handling, a refined interior with a high-level of standard equipment, and a spunky turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

No Car Is an Island

The 1.4-liter turbo-four Ecotec engine is the main intersection of Volt and Cruze. While G.M. will need about 50,000 of the Volt’s 80-horsepower normally aspirated version of the engine during 2011 and 2012, the Cruze will take nearly 300,000 units of a 128-horsepower version to meet its sales target through 2012. No car is an island; the volume production helps G.M. lower its cost for the Volt.

But the Cruze and Volt will have more than just the engine in common. Zinser said interior components and acoustic treatments used to lower interior noise levels are shared between the two models. A big under-the-skin common feature between the two is the rear suspension. Both will utilize similar electronic power steering systems. The Z-link design gives the Cruze more trunk space and allows the Volt to more easily package its complex propulsion system.

40 Is the Magic Number

The Cruze Eco— mates a six-speed manual transmission to the Ecotec engine— will have some advanced technology not found on the Volt—for example, an automatic air shutter system that aids the car’s aerodynamics. It uses sensors to sense wind and temperature conditions. Electric motors hooked to the sensors open and close the shutters, closing them at high speeds to reduce drag. At lower speeds, they are open to let in more air to cool the engine. That cool system adds nearly a half mile per gallon of fuel economy.

Another common bit between the two new Chevys, besides their similar profiles, is the number 40. Forty is the number of electric-only miles the Volts is promising. Forty miles per gallon is the distance the Cruze Eco model will travel using a single gallon of gas. In that sense, if you drive 40 miles per day, the Cruze Eco will consume one gallon of gas (costing around $3), while the Volt will use about 8 kilowatt-hours of electricity (ballpark that at $0.80). The Cruze starts at $17,000 versus the Volt’s $41,000. We’ll leave the rest of the economic calculations to you.

Check out G.M. videos promoting the Cruze’s design and technology.

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  • JamesDavis

    Nope! Chevy, those stupid excuses for that over inflated price did not get you a sale. You sounded like one of those dumb dealer TV advertisements from the 70’s. 40 is not a magical number; 40 is the number where you start whoring around on your spouse.

  • Indigo

    I find it friggin’ hilarious that the Cruze gets better highway mileage than the Volt (which is 3x more expensive.) For the Volt, 300 miles of cruising range on a 9 gallon tank is 33 MPG. For anyone considering a thrifty automobile, the Cruze, not the Volt, is the smart choice.

  • oscarw

    In my opinion the Volt is a stepping-stone to more advanced vehicles but the target buyer will be a well-to-do person who strives to show a “green” side to their life…sort of a badge of honor. “Looky here, I’m saving our world, saving our environment”.

    In one expensive move they can be respected and loved by others of that genre.

  • Dom

    I think it’s awesome that the most fuel efficient Cruze model is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission!

  • Roger Conant

    The Cruze and Volt are the “foundation” for Chevy’s small car success. Cruze has already sold over a quarter million units world wide. But Chevy will have to get it in the hands of the intenders before they go to Honda or Toyota. Thanks will take some sharp marketing…probably “event marketing.

  • Music Man

    I like the direction G.M. is going in. I definately agree with Oscar as well about the Volt. The Cruz is going to sell in China, (the largest automotive market in the world) like rice patties. Any grumpy taxpayers, mad about the loan to G.M., should buy stock when it comes out. China’s just getting started and so is eneral Motors.

  • calvin

    It’s rice “paddies”, and it’s not what you think it is. A rice paddy is a field where rice farmers work. So if the Cruze sells like rice paddies, then it’s not selling very well at all.

  • MarvK

    $41K too much for you? Then buy the Cruze for $17K. There won’t be anywhere enough Volts to go around.

    You can spend a whole lot more for a car and get 100 year old piston technology. I’ll pay the $41K for the VOlt, the highest technology production car ever built.

  • john davidson

    The Cruze is also significant because Chevrolet claims it ushers in a new styling strategy for the brand. We have to wait to see what that means for future Chevys, but we can say that the Cruze definitely looks good from nearly every angle. The front end is aggressive and powerful, and the rear impresses with its wide stance and taillights similar in shape to those of the BMW 7-series and Lexus LS. Vehicle Logistics

  • Richard Baxtor

    The EPA puts the Volt’s miles per gallon mark at 35 miles per charge, at which point the car resorts to its gas tank. The Cruze Eco should get around 28 mpg in the city and 42 on the highway, according to the report. Although the Cruze’s numbers don’t match up as well as the Volt’s, the report said its efficiency was certainly respectable for a non-hybrid car. Driving Days