All photos by Chevrolet
General Motors has a long history of trying to build the "right" small car, but many of those nameplates that didn't make it for all sorts of reasons. Enter the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze with her stylish exterior , solid quality out of the gate and fuel economy that rivals the best from foreign and domestic manufacturers. All of a sudden, GM is back in the game. We drove a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze for a week for this review and, as always, we give it to you straight.
First impressions are extremely important with any new product and, although the 2011 Chevy Cruze isn't going to "wow" anyone, the Cruze shouldn't offend anyone either. Our model came in with an impressive looking Jet Black paint job that, when washed, looked fantastic. The Cruze Eco has some distinct exterior enhancements that are aimed at achieving the best fuel economy possible while adding to the Cruze's exterior appeal. After numerous hours in wind tunnel testing, GM designed “a lower front grille air shutter that closes at higher speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag and opens at lower speeds to optimize engine-cooling airflow. Another contributor to reduced drag is the use of ultra-low rolling resistance 17-inch Goodyear tires (used with lightweight wheels), which are also used on the Volt." The front end of the Chevy Cruze has more than a hint of the current Malibu, with aerodynamic front headlights , moving toward more traditional lighting and a spoiler on the rear of the vehicle. The beveled hood, sculpted fenders and muscular fenders give the Cruze a more refined look than many competitors in this segment.
It's clear that the engineers at GM spent a lot of time designing the dashboard on the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze as it was well placed and user friendly. The Cruze Eco we tested was equipped with a CD player, deluxe cloth seat trim, XM radio, 6-speaker audio system, cruise control, USB audio interface, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth support, leather-trimmed shift lever and steering wheel controls. The cloth from the seats carries over to parts of the dashboard which dressed up the overall look, although the feature was received with mixed reviews from our team. The front seats were sturdy and comfortable with very good sight lines from most angles. We did, however, feel the back seats were restricting for good sized adults with legroom at a minimum. If GM could find a way to increase legroom in the rear seats, the Cruze would be even more attractive to drivers who are carting people around on a regular basis.
I wasn't sure what to expect from a model listed as an "Eco" when we're talking about performance. The Cruze Eco we drove had a 6-speed manual transmission with a 1.4-liter Ecotec VVT DOHC engine that provided 138 horsepower. Fuel economy was superb at 28 mpg city driving and an astonishing 42 mpg highway driving. The gearbox was sturdy and very smooth. Handling was very impressive for a sub-$20,000 vehicle. Chevy made over forty-two changes on the Eco version of the Cruze to lower the overall weight about 200 lbs, down to approximately 3009 lbs. The power from the 138-horspower engine is sufficient in daily use but there were times when we would have liked a little more kick.
The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco was a long time coming from the General and I'm sure those employees in Lordstown, OH have to be proud of this car. Good enough just doesn't cut it anymore in the auto industry, especially in the compact and midsize segment. Our media loaner 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco had a sticker price of $19,615, which is very competitive. When you add 42 mpg on the highway it's no wonder that the 2011 Cruze is selling very well. The fit and finish of the Cruze is miles ahead of previous models from GM and comparable to the best in class which is a big accomplishment. Hopefully these are the signs of a new Chevrolet. At some point in the future, Bullz-Eye would like to see Chevy reconsider building a hatchback of the Cruze to grab every sale possible and dig deeper into this very important segment.
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