At first glance, there’s no apparent difference between automatic-transmission-equipped 2011 Chevy Cruze models and their 2012 Chevy Cruze counterparts, yet the new model manages to get an additional two miles per gallon in highway fuel economy, according to a new report.
Unlike the 2012 Camaro V-6, which gains fuel economy (and increased performance) thanks to a new design that integrates the exhaust manifold into the head casting, there is no such cutting-edge tech on the Cruze. Instead, Chevy’s engineers went back to the drawing board to reexamine gear ratios and the final-drive ratio in the well-received new compact. In the end, changing the final drive ratio from 3.83 to 3.53 on cars with the 1.4-liter turbo engine and the automatic transmission was enough to boost highway fuel economy by 5.5 percent, raising it from 36 mpg to 38 mpg.
The downside, of course, is that the 2012 Chevy Cruze will be slower than the 2011 Chevy Cruze, which wasn’t exactly a sport sedan itself. Chevy could have boosted fuel economy even further by using the 2.87:1 axle ratio found in the Equinox crossover, but their engineers realized that doing so would create a car that few buyers would embrace. Fuel economy is important, but then again so is reasonable acceleration.
For 2012, Chevy will be offering more Cruze trim levels with a six-speed manual gearbox, including both 1LT and 2LT models. In fact, only the range-topping LTZ comes without a manual transmission option this year, a big change over 2011 when a manual gearbox was available only on base (LS) and Eco models.