Chevrolet has pinned its latest hopes for success in the compact market on the Cruze world car, which eventually will replace the Cobalt. At the recent New York International Auto Show, the company introduced perhaps one of the more interesting editions of its compact model, the 2011 Cruze Eco, a pared-down version that is intended to get great fuel economy.
The car, which gets an estimated 40 mpg on the highway, “provides hybrid-like fuel efficiency and near midsize space at an affordable sticker price,” according to Gary Altman, Regional Chief Engineer. “We searched for any way we could think of to squeeze out a few more miles per gallon,” he said. Chevy did not release city mileage numbers for the new Cruze Eco.
The compact fuel-miser emerged when “General Motors engineers took a second look at the basic Cruze design with a view toward maximizing fuel economy, primarily through mass optimization,” Altman explained. The development team stripped weight from the structure, using as a guide the validated engineering model for the basic Cruze, which has logged more than 4 million miles in quality and durability testing worldwide.
“We knew that we could, for instance, take a few millimeters from the weld flanges and a tenth of a millimeter from the sheet metal because the fully validated digital model told us we could,” Altman explained. Mass was even stripped from the sound system by using lightweight speaker magnets.
The Cruze Eco, which is to hit showroom floors late this year, is powered by a 1.4-L Ecotec turbocharged four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing that produces an estimated 138 hp (103 kW) and 148 lb·ft (200 N·m). The car should travel at least 500 mi (805 km) on a single tank.
With the standard a six-speed manual transmission, the Eco is expected to have “reasonable acceleration,” he said, taking about 10 seconds to travel from zero to 60 mph; a second more with the automatic. The axle ratio on the manual-transmission model is also optimized for fuel economy.
The car’s aerodynamic performance benefited from insights developed when GM wind-tunnel specialists spent around 500 hours testing and optimizing the aerodynamic performance of the forthcoming Chevrolet Volt extended-range hybrid, Altman continued.
As a result, he said, the Cruze Eco boasts a 0.300 drag coefficient. Aero add-ons include an active louver in the lower front grille that closes electrically at higher speeds to improve aerodynamics and opens at lower speeds to optimize engine-cooling airflow. There are also streamlined underbody panels, a lower front air dam extension, and a rear deck-lid spoiler. The revised edition also features a lower ride height and lightweight aluminum wheels fitted with low-rolling-resistance Goodyear tires.
Chevrolet also exhibited at the show an optional RS sport styling package for the Cruze LT and LTZ trim levels that improves the car’s performance look with racy fascias, rocker moldings, rear spoiler, and fog lamps as well as a special instrument cluster.
Altman noted that all Cruze models for the domestic market will be produced at GM’s Lordstown, OH, assembly complex, which has been retooled with $350 million in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment. GM recently added a third shift at the plant—1200 workers—to support the smooth ramp-up of Cruze production.