Hybrids are the hot thing in the auto industry but they are not so quietly being upstaged by a group of gas-powered compacts that get great mileage at cheaper prices.
Chevrolet enters the fray with the Cruze, a compact with near midsize accommodations and hybrid-like fuel economy.
Well, at least according to Chevy. The Cruze Echo is rated at 28 miles per gallon in the city and 42 on the highway.
I spent a week with this model and my overall mileage was near 30, but not the claimed 33 mpg. That was according to the on-board full economy tracker.
What I averaged was 27 mpg overall with an observed high of 34. Not bad, but no where close to the claimed numbers.
I’ll take the blame. Maybe I didn’t reset the computer or just wasn’t paying attention. Everyone else seems to be glowing over the Cruze’s miserly gas consumption.
There’s so much else for me to like about the Cruze. It’s one of the better-built Chevys offered. Didn’t see much in the way of flaws. The interior is one of the best for this sized class. The dash has a tailored look while the switchgear felt substantial.
There’s a host of standard equipment included at such a modest price. The stuff we’ve come to expect is here – ABS, traction control, air, air bags, power windows and mirrors – as well as premium features as XM radio, stability control, turn by turn navigation, keyless entry 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, usb interface and driver info center.
The news under the hood is a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine that makes 138 horsepower and 148 pounds-feet of torque. This makes the Cruze feel a bit spirited, especially with the six-speed manual. The stick feels good in the hand and can be navigated easily. It is geared to give you the best mileage possible so the gears feel a bit tall. You can launch the thing with authority. The traction control will kick in because the tires will spin.
Once launched I found the car to be best suited for the non-aggressive driver. Those all-season tires howl at the first hint of sporty driving. The suspension feels a bit feeble as well. The ride was about what I suspected, meaning comfortable and compliant. Bumpy roads were a bit more of a problem but not anything to complain about.
With that said, the Cruze is something to consider. Great gas mileage, good looks, polished interior and comfortable size make this a well sorted car. It’s not perfect but what is? There’s much competition in the field with Corollas, Civics, Sentras and Elantras and the Ford Focus, but the Cruze is made well enough to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. I’d say Chevy is going to have smooth sailing with this one.