Chevrolet has far surpassed the fuel economy of the outgoing Cobalt XFE with the new 2011 Cruze Eco. Go with the six-speed manual transmission and the car is rated 28/42 mpg city/highway, or 26/37 mpg with the six-speed automatic.
With the manual transmission, the Eco will cost $18,895 when it goes on sale in January, or $1900 more than a base Cruze. Unlike a base Cruze, the Cruze Eco gets lightweight 17-inch alloy wheels and the same ultra-low rolling resistance Goodyear tires on the Volt (each tire weighing 5.3 pounds less than those on the Cruze 1LT), but there's far more to the Cruze Eco than different tires and wheels.
"We left no stone unturned or piece of sheet metal un-weighed," said Chuck Russell, vehicle line director. "Our engineers were comprehensive and thorough when it came to evaluating and modifying the aspects of the car's performance that contribute to fuel economy."
One of those modifications is a lower front grille air shutter that reduces aerodynamic drag by closing at higher speeds and opening at lower speeds to optimize engine cooling airflow. The ride height of this Cruze is lower than the regular model, and you'll also find a rear spoiler, a lower front air dam extension, and underbody panels to smooth airflow under the car. Overall, aerodynamic drag was reduced by 10 percent and the Eco model has a coefficient of drag of 0.298.
Power comes from the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Chevy says the Cruze Eco is 214 pounds lighter than the Cruze 1LT, the lowest trim level with the 1.4-liter turbo engine.
The Cruze Eco with the manual transmission is the only Cruze model with a 12.6-gallon fuel tank, compared to the regular 15.6-gallon size. This means that, if you were to actually achieve the EPA's fuel economy ratings in the city and on the highway, the Cruze Eco with the automatic has a range of about 406-577 miles while the manual model can go about 353-529 miles.
Although official EPA numbers haven't yet been released, Ford claims the 2012 Focus with a 160-horsepower four-cylinder engine will reach 40 mpg on the highway. The 2011 Honda Civic -- in its last year on the market -- still boasts competitive fuel economy to the regular Cruze, but its 25-26/34-36 mpg can't match the Cruze Eco. The 2010 Toyota Corolla with the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine gets 26/34-35 mpg.
One of the only cars currently on sale that can compete with the Cruze Eco using the automatic transmission, rated 26/37 mpg, is the 2011 Kia Forte Eco with an automatic transmission, coming in at 27/37 mpg. The non-Eco Kia hits 26/36 mpg.
Future Cruze ads will no doubt tout the 42 mpg rating but we'd like to know: Would you buy a Chevrolet Cruze Eco?
All prices include destination charges.