Hybrids (and a few diesels) are the gold standard in fuel efficiency these days, but there's still a lot that can be done with a small but punchy four-cylinder engine paired with the occasional turbocharger, and the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze hopes to put a point on that. EPA figures revealed today put the standard 1.8-liter Ecotec Cruze LS at 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway when paired with the six-speed manual transmission.
The automatic transmission drops those figures to 22/35 mpg, and the turbocharged 1.4-liter LT and LTZ models are good for 24/36 mpg with the standard automatic transmission. The real green star of the Cruze lineup will be the Eco, due to make its sales debut later this year, with an expected EPA rating of 40 mpg. The Eco gets its green by pairing the turbo 1.4 with the manual transmission.
Starting prices have been known since our first drive of the Cruze back in July, but Chevy thinks the efficiency and features delivered gives the Cruze a competitive value that Honda, Ford and Toyota can't match. For example, Chevy claims the Cruze LS offers between $1,000 and $2,700 worth of additional equipment compared to the Ford Focus S, Honda Civic DX, and Toyota Corolla, while priced from $388 less to $785 more than that trio of similarly-sized sedans.
There's no doubt the Cruze is a compelling car, despite a few weaknesses. As Bengt Halvorson put it in his first drive review, "The 2011 Chevy Cruze certainly isn't a car that will set your heart racing, but it manages to combine the refined ride quality and tactile interior of a Volkswagen Jetta with the no-nonsense, space-efficient packaging of the Toyota Corolla or Hyundai Elantra. Count us as extremely impressed." Be sure to read the full first drive to get the details and analysis that lead to that conclusion.