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Roadshow Video Reviews
2011 Chevy Cruze EcoAs lean as you get without a hybrid
It's a Chevy that might make you forget imports, not to mention hybrids. Let's drive the 2011 Chevy Cruze Eco and check the tech. The 40+ MPG club is rarefied air, and this is one of its few members, 42 MPG on the highway, that's better than a Smart Fortwo yet in a car that holds 2 times as many people, but the technology in this guy mostly lives under the hood, not in the dash. Now, yes, we're driving a skinny, lean, green, eco car but the carmakers all know you don't want the car to feel that way when you're in it, so in here is a nice cabin. GM and Ford and Chrysler have all been doing nice interior materials for a while now, pretty much without exception, and this guy shows that. Nice, different textures. Good surfaces. Whether you like this sort of Darth Vader mask design is a matter of taste but everything is done well and feels solid, with the one exception of this very strange dash panel, seat insert, and door insert material which I think is just stock on an Eco and looks like a horse drawers got stretched all around you. Not real big on that. Here's your display. It's the only one you'll ever gonna see. There's no big color LCD nav available on this car so you're gonna have this more basic, sort of LCD monochrome deal. It shows your AM and FM radio, your XM radio, no HD on this guy. Your other media options include a CD player here and then we've got an optional aux and USB under a tiny little door right there in the console. And the sound comes out of 6 speakers of indeterminate type and wattage. It's straightforward on that and there's no upgrade on the factory build sheet. Now, without navigation, yes, but with navigation, yes. What I mean is you've got OnStar Directions and Connections. That means this comes stock, as just about every GM car does, with the ability for you to call OnStar here, get directions, and they'll be downloaded to the car and you'll see them right down here on that helper screen. Basic directions. You can also make cellphone calls here. This is a calling service, but bring your phone. We have Bluetooth handsfree on this guy, that is part of an option package, not standard. And that same package rolls in the cruise control you see here and also audio controls in the steering wheel, bunch of stuff you probably want, so check that one off. Now, note the shifter. Yes, the six-speed manual, that's kind of your preferred default gearbox on this guy. They've got a big green dot around the 6th, the overdrive, that's always overdrive on every manual gearbox I know, but they call it 'eco gear' which I guess is just a taller overdrive. On the freeway at 60, it's turning about 1800 RPM. Okay, now, Cruze Eco has got a very special motor. It's a little thing and it's turbocharged, 1.4-liter sidesaddle inline four. It delivers 138 horsepower, 148 diminutive foot pounds of torque, although being a turbo motor, that torque's kind of an elevated number so that really helps. Zero to sixty is like a 10.2-second affair. This car is not about being fast. MPG is what it is all about, 28 city, 42 highway, with the six-speed manual with the eco gear, unless you get the automatic, then you get a hell of a haircut on the highway MPG, it comes down to 37. Let's look at some of the technologies they're using here. If you look in the very back, you can see the electric power steering rack. That takes drag off the engine. Here's the turbo down here and notice it's integral in the exhaust manifold, lighter, smaller, cheaper. Now, down here, in the lower grill, you've got some louvers that shut, I think during highway speeds or when you're cruising, because that cuts down some of the air disturbance flowing through the car, and over here in the wheel wells, we're taking a look at ultra low rolling resistance tires, all of this adds up to the package that puts the Eco ahead of a standard Cruze. Oh, yeah, and don't forget the weight. They shaved 200 pounds off this guy over a similarly engined base Cruze. Okay, what's it like driving a 1.4-liter turbo in a decent-sized car? It's actually pretty good. You never get this feeling of brawn. It needs to be stroked and spun up all the time but that's just turbo motors for you, especially small displacement ones. The power comes on very smoothly, feels pretty linear, turbo lag is less of an issue here than in some bigger engines with turbos I've driven. The car feels like it's hewn from an ingot of aluminum, very impressed by the build quality and the overall balance, you know, for a tail dragger, it's got really nice road manners. It's not a performance car but I'm on a twisty canyon road here, some off camber sort of turns, some of them are decreasing radius, and only when you push it pretty hard do you feel those low rolling resistance tires kind of balleting around a little bit, but not badly, not for the kind of car it is. I really enjoyed driving it. I found it was just kind of fun and energizing is the right word. The electric power steering is really nicely calibrated. It doesn't have any sort of-- any sort of what, switching that some electric systems seem to have where you feel it kinda get lumpy or weird at places. This one's always kinda linear and smooth. The only thing I don't like is this shift light. It's quite bright and it gets your attention and it's stupid. I don't like its advice. If you follow that light's advice, you're driving around at 1300 RPM all the time even when you're going up a grade. I mean, it's just stupid. It lugs the engine all the time so I wish I could turn that stupid thing off, but, if you gotta live it, you gotta live with it, and, of course, the great option on this car is that if you happen to be driving along and you meet a prostitute on the side of the road who's missing her underwear, you can fashion her a new pair from the dashboard. No other car I know does that. Okay, pricing. Now, unlike a lot of hybrids, the Cruze Eco starts cheap and eats cheap, $19,200 to buy the car and, of course, the MPG is great. Couple of packages you wanna throw on it to get it CNET style-- well, sort of. One's called the Convenience Package. It's gonna give you backup sensors, remote start, and power driver seat adjustments, a few of them anyway. The other one is a connectivity package, it's only like five and a quarter, and for that, you get a whole lot of features. The USB in the console, steering wheel audio controls, that's where you get Bluetooth handsfree also with that package, and it also rolls in cruise control. That's about it for teching this guy up, but you can do a lot in the aftermarket with the money you're gonna save on gas.