With today’s gas prices, squeezing every possible kilometre from a litre of fuel is a priority.
That’s the idea behind the Chevrolet Cruze Eco, a gas-miser version of the company’s compact sedan.
By modifying its aerodynamics and powertrain, GM’s engineers are able to wring an official highway figure of 4.6 L/100 km out of the stick-shift Eco, which is as good as some hybrids.
Like the Cruze LT and LTZ trim lines, the Eco uses a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine. It’s turbocharged, but unlike thirstier sports cars that use turbos for speed, the Cruze’s provides larger-engine power with smaller-engine fuel economy and runs on regular-grade fuel.
(The LS, the entry-level Cruze model, uses a less-powerful, non-turbo 1.8-litre engine.)
The Eco starts at $19,495 with a manual transmission and $20,945 with an automatic.
The various body tweaks reduce wind resistance, which in turn improves mileage.
These include a slightly lower suspension, special underside panels, low-rolling-resistance tires, rear spoiler, and the neatest item, electronic air shutters.
Tucked behind the lower grille, which protects them from road debris, the shutters work like a Venetian blind.
They close when extra engine cooling isn’t necessary, such as at highway speeds, or to help the engine warm up faster after starting, since it works most efficiently at its optimum temperature.
GM says the Eco has about a 10 per cent aerodynamic improvement over the regular Cruze, over half of that due to the shutters.
They’ll show up on some other GM vehicles in future, including the upcoming redesigned Malibu.
The Cruze is one of the best cars in the compact sedan segment right now.
Its smooth ride, roomy interior and very quiet cabin make it feel larger and more expensive than it is, although it’s still small enough to easily manoeuvre into tight parking spots.
The interior quality is a new high for a compact GM, and the Eco comes with numerous standard features, including ten airbags, air conditioning, stability control, keyless entry and satellite radio.
The engine is smooth and peppy on acceleration.
With the manual transmission, a light prompts you to upshift for better fuel economy, although rolling terrain will have you downshifting frequently to keep the little engine from getting too winded on hills.
Unable to do a full mileage check, I used the car’s trip computer during a day’s drive, with an average of 5.6 L/100 km overall.
With the price of fuel these days, that’s the kind of number many buyers will like to see.