2011 Chevy Cruze Eco

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  • Competes with: Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic
  • Looks like: The Cruze with an extra badge
  • Drivetrain: Turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, six-speed manual or automatic transmission
  • Hits dealerships: Late 2010

The new Chevy Cruze will hit dealers in about six months, powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. It will come in LS, LT and LTZ trims. It’s a pretty standard rollout for the company’s all-new compact sedan. What’s not standard is the Eco trim just announced ahead of the New York auto show.

Unlike past efforts by Chevy to add high-efficiency trims, the Cruze Eco does more than just add low-rolling-resistance tires, though it does that, too. The big difference is under the hood, with a unique turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder with variable valve timing. Chevy predicts the Cruze Eco will achieve highway mileage of 40 mpg. A Honda Insight hybrid gets 43 mpg highway.

Besides the engine, other advanced efficiency changes include a lower grille on the front of the car that closes at highway speeds to improve aerodynamics. The upper grille doesn’t feature as many openings as the standard model, again to improve aerodynamics. The Cruze eco also rides lower to the ground, and the 17-inch aluminum wheels are lightweight. And you get the low-rolling-resistance 17-inch Goodyear tires.

A six-speed manual transmission comes standard; the six-speed automatic is optional. The manual will get to 60 mph in 10 seconds, the automatic in 9 seconds. If you’re worried about zero-to-60 times, this is not likely the car for you.

Because of all these added features, we don’t expect the Cruze Eco to be a less expensive variant of the lineup, like the current Chevy Cobalt XFE. We guess it will be priced as high as an upper LT or LTZ trim level when it goes on sale late this year, but not as expensive as an Insight. Chevy also announced there will be an optional RS appearance package for those upper LT and LTZ trims. While no price has been released, the RS package adds unique bumpers, body moldings, rear spoiler and fog lamps. Inside, the gauge cluster gets chrome accents and a backlighting effect.

More photos of the Eco and RS package are below. For more information on the Cruze, go here.

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Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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