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CHEVY CRUZE LEADS THE MPG WAR (FOR NOW)

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Published on Sat, Nov 13, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ
Chevrolet Cruze

New Chevrolet Cruze Eco Achieves Segment-Leading 42 MPG On The Highway LA CAR REPORT & NEWS WIRE (November 2010)—For the past several months, there’s been a war going on, with car makers battling each other for bragging rights on the MPG front—particularly with respect to non-hybrid vehicles. Hyundai fired the first salvo with its new Sonata that achieved an EPA rating of 35 miles per gallon—an incredible accomplishment for a full-size family sedan with a regular internal combustion engine. Word has it that Hyundai’s achievement sent Honda back to the drawing board for its new Civic, which has been delayed for one year. Ford followed it up with its non-hybrid 40 MPG Fiesta. Now Chevrolet has entered the battle, firing off its non-hybrid Cruze Eco missile, which the EPA just certified with an estimated 42 miles per gallon on the highway (manual transmission models). The city EPA rating is a none-too shabby 28 miles per gallon. To put this into perspective, the Cruze Eco’s highway fuel economy beats all the non-hybrid segment competitors – including 23 percent greater highway fuel economy than the Honda Civic –and many hybrid models. In fact, it’s better than Ford Fusion Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid. “Chevrolet Cruze continues to redefine the compact segment, offering class-leading standard safety features, upscale amenities – as well as hybrid-like fuel economy without the price,” said Chuck Russell, vehicle line director. “The Cruze Eco is in a league of its own and will challenge perceptions of the efficiency available in a more affordable non-hybrid.”

2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ
Chevrolet Cruze

The Cruze Eco carries an MSRP of $18,895 (including destination charge). It goes on sale in January. To achieve its segment-leading fuel economy, Cruze’s engineers say they focused on aerodynamic performance, mass optimization and powertrain enhancements. The refinements in each area paid dividends towards the car’s overall efficiency, while providing engineers with valuable information to help enhance the efficiency of future Chevrolet models. “We left no stone unturned or piece of sheet metal un-weighed,” said Russell. “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.” Aero enhancements Aerodynamic improvements over non-Eco manual-transmission models contributed approximately six mpg to the Cruze’s EPA-estimated 42 mpg highway fuel economy. Many were developed and refined in more than 500 hours of wind-tunnel testing of the Chevy Volt, which shares a core architecture with the Cruze. Examples include the upper grille, which has more “closeouts” to improve aerodynamics, a lower front air dam extension, a rear spoiler, a lowered ride height and underbody panels that smooth airflow beneath the car. The Eco model also features an all-new technology in the compact segment: a lower front grille air shutter that closes at higher speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag and opens at lower speeds to optimize engine-cooling airflow. Another contributor to reduced drag is the use of ultra-low rolling resistance 17-inch Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires (used with lightweight wheels), which are also used on the Volt. As a result of the aero enhancements, aerodynamic drag was reduced by 10 percent over a non-Eco model, with a coefficient of drag of 0.298. According to Chevrolet, that places Cruze at the top of the class for mainstream compact cars.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze
Uh no, this is not the standard interior in the Cruze Eco

Mass optimization More than 42 changes were made on the Eco to reduce weight. It weighs in at 3,009 pounds (1,365 kg), compared to the 3,223 pounds (1,462 kg) of the Cruze 1LT. The diet program for the Cruze challenged engineers to look at all aspects of the vehicle’s construction, including hundreds of weld flanges on the vehicle. They were reduced 1 mm to 2 mm in length, which saved several pounds, while the sheet metal gauge thickness was reduced by about 0.1 mm in select components. This saved weight while preserving structural integrity. Lighter wheels and tires are used on the Eco. They’re stylish, polished 17-inch alloy units with Goodyear tires that weigh only 36.5 pounds (16.6 kg) apiece. That’s 5.3 pounds (2.4 kg) less than the 16-inch wheel/tires of the Cruze 1LT for a complete savings to the vehicle of 21.2 pounds (9.6 kg). Efficient powertrain Cruze Eco is powered by power-dense Ecotec 1.4L turbocharged engine and a standard six-speed manual transmission. The transmission’s gearing is optimized for the model’s specific 17-inch wheel/tire combination and includes aggressive ratios for first and second gear coupled with a highly efficient, “taller” sixth-gear ratio for highway driving. That means engine rpm is reduced on the highway, which in turn reduces fuel consumption. A six-speed automatic transmission is available, with EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 26 city and 37 highway. The Ecotec 1.4L turbo’s power ratings are 138 horsepower (103 kW) and 148 lb.-ft. of torque (200 Nm) between 1,850 rpm and 4,900 rpm. The wide rpm range for the maximum torque – a specific trait of turbocharged engines – helps the engine deliver a better driving experience and performance. The turbocharger is integrated within the exhaust manifold, for reduced weight and greater packaging flexibility. The engine also features premium design elements that give it world-class smoothness and durability while also contributing to the Cruze Eco’s lower curb weight. They include a cast iron block with a hollow frame structure, hollow-cast camshafts and a plastic intake manifold.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ

Comparing the competitors As a result of aerodynamic improvements, mass reduction and powertrain optimization, Chevrolet says the Cruze Eco offers the best fuel economy in the compact segment, while delivering hybrid-like fuel economy without the hybrid price. There are other contenders looming over the horizon, such as the TDI version of the new Volkswagen Jetta. The previous generation Jetta TDI managed 41 miles per gallon on the highway, but the new one is expected to be considerably lighter (and hopefully cheaper). In the meantime, it appears that for the here and now, Chevrolet leads the MPG war in the compact segment.

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