2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco Quick Drive and Live Photos
The Chevrolet Cruze has been on sale for a few months at this point. Sales seem to be doing well, and the advertising is definitely aggressive. Chevrolet even calls out the competition by name in its advertising. The introduction of the Eco model was slightly behind that of the regular Cruze models, though we recently had the opportunity to drive the new Cruze Eco in sunny California to see if it lived up to Chevrolet's promises.
Upon arriving at Los Angeles we were given a choice: a Cruze Eco with a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. Knowing that the six-speed manual is they model rated at 42 mpg, we quickly expressed our preference. Chevrolet was happy to comply.
Our drive consisted of 120 miles on the freeway, from Los Angeles to San Diego. We decided not to use the cruise control, and made no attempt to hyper mile. We wanted to see what kind of real-world freeway gas mileage we could get. During our drive we cruised at speeds north of 70 mph with light traffic. With only one quick stop to switch drivers, we recorded an average of 44.1 mpg. Color us very impressed.
Something very important we noticed is how normally the Cruze Eco drives. It isn't a watered-down model with ridiculously boosted steering and lazy driving dynamics.
The six-speed manual had long, but easy to find shifts, while the clutch was feather light. The six-speed actually has two tall over-drive gears as fifth and sixth for highway cruising. In our experience, to do any sort of passing or acceleration, you must drop from sixth gear to fourth or third gear.
Much of what makes the Cruze Eco an Eco model are things that you will not notice on a daily basis. The active grille louver system is an air-on-demand system that allows air into the engine bay when needed, and closes when not needed. This makes the Cruze Eco more fuel efficient. The light-weight chrome wheels on the Eco are unique to this model, and the lo-rolling-resistance tires are shared with the Chevrolet Volt. A small rear trunk-lid spoiler, and under-body panels are in place to also help with aerodynamics. Together, all these Eco-specific modifications help the Eco achieve its 42-mpg EPA highway rating.
Overall, we were impressed with the Cruze Eco. It delivers on its highway fuel economy promises, while still driving like a normal car. The model seems like a real value to those buyers who want higher fuel economy without the driving experience of a hybrid.