By on November 11, 2010

Just when you thought that Ford was winning the compact-sedan mileage war, the Cruze ECO 1.4L Turbo manual-transmission model has claimed a 42/28 rating for highway and city mileage. How’d they do it?

It looks like the high-mileage Chevy has a full aero package (air dam, rear spoiler, and a flattened underbody) as well as that old NASCAR trick, lower-than-normal ride height. “Weight reductions” are claimed. Prius-style low-rolling-resistance tires wrap around 17″ wheels.

Price is $18,895, but you can’t get one yet. Nor should GM get too cocky: the automatic-transmission model returns just 37 miles per gallon, well behind the PowerShift Focus and its more powerful (by 22hp) normally-aspirated 2.0 liter. When you look at the sales mix for American-brand compact sedans, it’s plain who has the better mousetrap, at least for now. And, of course, nobody’s heard a rating on the new Elantra…

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31 Comments on “Cruze Eco Reaches For 42 MPG...”

  • avatar

    >”Weight reductions” are claimed.

    Yep, see below.

    LS = 3056lb
    Eco = 3009lb
    LT = 3146lb
    LTZ = 3177lb

    Also the gear ratios are different vs. the LS’s 6MT, the Eco 6MT’s 4-5-6 gears are all overdrive, apparently.

  • avatar

    Same engine, less weight, lower ride height, lighter wheels, and better aerodynamics.  Other than the iffy tires, could this be the best performing Cruze as well?

    • 0 avatar

      Slap on some stickier tires and figure out how to tweak the boost controller and this could get interesting; assuming the Eco-transmission doesn’t totally kill the fun. And it’s still 3000lbs.

      Better solution would be to shoehorn the Cobalt SS’s turbo mill in there somehow.

  • avatar

    Till today, I thought the Cruze ECO was manual only.  Was this announced before today?  1 mpg highway and 2 mpg city doesn’t seem like a big boost for the auto.  I would think that the aero improvements would help on the highway more than the weight reduction does in the city.  I guess I am wrong.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Written before the jump…

    “How’d they do it?”

    The old ’80s toolbag of aero effects, super-tall gearing, and a shift light, plus the new trick of really loafy throttle programming.

  • avatar

    air dam, spoilers, underbody smooting, lowered chassis, low resistance tires..
    Isn’t the real question why doesn’t GM do these low buck MPG upgrades to more of the product line?
    Jeez. What’s the total cost on all that aero work? $500? I’d pay it. Put it on the option sheet.

  • avatar

    How do they do it?

    They game the system.  To the best of my knowledge, the automakers provide the EPA with the EPA figures. 

    When it comes to real world testing, it appears some brands have real world results in the range of the EPA figures, while others miss by a mile.

    Not long ago, a Motor Trend test found the Fusion Hybrid to miss by a longshot, while the Camry missed by a little.

    The automakers do this so they can claim “my vehicle gets the best mileage in the class.”  The EPA, controlled by the government, seems to ignore the misses. I bet they would call Toyota and Honda in for congressional hearings if their vehicles missed by a longshot.

  • avatar

    Wow, a TTAC thread about a small Chevy and nobody says anything bad about GM. It must be a first. Not just positive comments about the Cruze but also about the dreaded Cobalt (even GM haters admit the Cobalt SS is a lot of bang for the buck).

    Why not lower the ride height and add the aero package to the full line up? Not everyone will want low resistance tires and high gearing, but it seems to me that the aero stuff should be applied across the board instead of just on a PR driven high mileage model.

    • 0 avatar

      There are many B&B here that will give credit where credit is due but we will then express our displeasure where it is deserved.  Case in point, for a very long time GM had given us garbage, lied about how well they are doing and on par with its competition, often hiding and denying its myriad of problems and extremely poor management.
      That aside, I like the direction they are going with this.  As noted above EPA ratings are “estimates” done by the OEM to brag on paper.  Real world results will vary as some OEMs take the generous number (often was the case with GM and Ford) where others took a more reasonable estimate (like Honda’s IMA system though an also compared to Toyota’s synergy drive typically give you EPA estimated mileage or better).  I’ve been waiting a long time when automakers will apply these efforts to all mainstream cars and not low volume hybrid poster children of cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I figured that a “compact car” with “weight reductions” still being north of 3000lbs was enough of a punchline on its own. And the Cobalt SS is indeed a rocket in a rental car’s clothing.

      No idea why at least the aero package isn’t offered across the line, it seems like it would make sense. Maybe for 2012 if the Eco sells enough it’ll become standard equipment.

    • 0 avatar

      Case in point, for a very long time GM had given us garbage, lied about how well they are doing and on par with its competition, often hiding and denying its myriad of problems and extremely poor management.
      But now with Ford doing that exact same thing…people praise them like they are the best thing since sliced bread.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      No idea why at least the aero package isn’t offered across the line, it seems like it would make sense.
      Let’s not forget that a Hybrid Tahoe and Escalade were 25% slipperier than their non-hybrid counterparts.  Why the hell didn’t GM give all those SUVs the areo treatment?

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry, Dan, the aero tweaks only improved the Tahoe’s cD from 0.36 to 0.34.

      The reason these tweaks aren’t offered across the line is that they cost money, and most people won’t pay more for a car with them.

      Looking forward to learning whether there’s much impact in the real world.

  • avatar

    Anyone know what trim equivalent this will compare to?  Or what the city mileage is?

    • 0 avatar

      Pretty much feature-identical to the LT, and can get most of the same options, save for the Convenience Package and the sunroof.

      Quoted city mileage is 28 as per the article.

  • avatar

    A number of recent GM vehicles have claimed class leading MPG based on EPA tests only to under deliver in real world testing (new Nox and the Cobalt MPG special come to mind).

    Also, turbos tend to react a bit like hybrids on the treadmill, shoot out numbers that are inflated vs. the real world.  I suspect that it may stem from the placid nature of the EPA test rarely invoking boost.

    If the real world tests deliver class leading mpg I will make sure to praise the Cruze performance on TTAC.  With those weight numbers I feel pretty safe.



    • 0 avatar

      In my experience, turbo Saabs will easily beat the EPA estimates as long as you don’t drive like a complete idiot. My ’08 9-3SC, EPA rated at 29mpg highway, will return in the low 30’s driven 75mph on long trips. This on 10% corncrap gas too. 6spd stick. On the couple of occasions I have been able to get real gas, I have seen 35+ mpg.

      In fact, I got nearly the EPA figure today doing Ithaca, NY to Keene, NH. 1/2 Interstate, 1/2 cross country on 2-lane, and I did it in 4hrs flat. I’ll reveal the average speed THAT involves when the statute of limitations runs out, but lets leave it that a turbo Saab is a most excellent and very efficient tool for making time on windy up and down 2-lanes. Nothing like a good dose of boost to dispatch all those VT Priii and Stupidrus doing 5-under the speed limit.

      As to the Cruze ECO, I have no doubt that the car is completely optemized for the EPA test, and not the real world. I would imagine the big difference with the automatic is that they could not afford to change the gear ratios on the slushbox. That is pretty cheap for the manual.

    • 0 avatar

      @krhodes: I agree, a turbo car is a great tool for eating up plenty of road. I had a turbo Dodge Lancer years ago, and it was a great tool for traveling on the windy, hilly roads of Northeast Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and Western New York. With the old 2.2 turbo and 5 speed if you kept it on boost, it would climb any hill you could find. And fuel mileage was good too. I had a 5.0 Mustang at the same time, even with the V8, on that terrain the performance was not significantly better.

  • avatar

    And btw that’s a really nice looking car in that trim!

    • 0 avatar

      I agree! I think I’d actually spring for one of those, it looks like the sweet spot in the lineup. 1.4 turbo & 6 speed, sweet. Don’t need sunroof and other crap. Just A/C and a decent stereo. Once the OE tires wear out, get something a little grippier and live with the mileage penalty. Since I don’t drive like a banshee anymore, I’d bet I could easily get the advertised mileage figures.

  • avatar

    That’s better than the Volt’s highway mileage.
    Oh wait, the Volt isn’t for the highway.  It’s a commuter car, so one can never drive enough miles to justify its 2X cost over the Cruze.

  • avatar

    I’ve heard of Sonata GDIs getting this kind of highway mileage, or better.

    • 0 avatar

      It gets mid 30’s highway with the GDI real world. But even more startling is that the competitor to the Cruze will have Hyundai’s GDI 1.6 engine that is in the upcoming 2011 Elantra, 2012 Accent and 2012 Veloster.  It is mated to a 6 speed manual or (IIRC) 6 speed auto transmission and should deliver performance on part with most hybrids – all at a substantial decrease in price.  Who’d have thunk Hyundai beating Honda or Toyota to the GDI punch and improving the normal ICE engine efficiency and power.  This is one of the main benefits of why diesel engines were so much more efficient than their port injection gasoline counterparts.

  • avatar

    Seriously, and this goes to all manufacturers. My 1986 Ford Sierra, with what is technically a 1970 pinto engine with a 1985 Bosch L-jetronic injection, a transmission designed in the 70’s and a playful 3.93:1 rearend put in a body with a drag coefficient of 0.34 (well, probably closer to 0.31 since it had a full XR4i bodykit) could do an average 30mpg, and I managed 35 on the highway averaging 50mph. It may only have weighed around 2500 pounds, but it could easily seat 5 in comfort and all the luggage needed for our holiday. Why is evolution so slow?
    (edit: during spirited driving I did manage to get it down to 25 mpg )

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    How’d they do it?

    Hmmmmm.  GM and the EPA have the same “owners”?

    Nah, couldn’t have anything to do with it….

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