Simply Efficient: 2013 Chevy Cruze Eco

Chevrolet Cruze ECOIf you say fuel “efficient car”, most people automatically think hybrid. Their combination of electricity and gasoline are renowned for trimming major dollars from your regular transportation costs. But hybrids are expensive, and they’re complicated. With an expected lifespan of just 100k-150k miles, the batteries in most hybrids won’t last very long. And those hybrid battery packs can cost $3-$10k to replace.

So let’s look at a relatively simple Chevy that can get near-hybrid fuel economy, and last twice as long. Plus it’s pretty cheap too.

2013 Chevy Cruze Eco – $19,680

America’s best selling domestic compact car is actually quite decent for a cheap Chevy. And the ‘economy’ model isn’t a bad way to get 42+ mpg. The 2013 Chevy Cruze Eco gets a zippy turbo-4 (1.4 liter ECOTEC), with 138-hp, and a torque-tastic 148 lb-ft of twist. In the 2013 Chevy Cruze RS, this engine is a riot to drive hard. But the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze Eco uses taller gearing to reduce the gas-sucking rpms low at cruising speed. It also gets 3 overdrive gears with the 6-speed manual, and lazy-er shift programming for the 6-speed autobox. The result is much slower speed acquisition on the highway, and less overall impact from the torquey turbo setup.

If you can keep the engine in the turbo-fed torque curve, it’ll provide adequate acceleration. But that requires you to constantly ask the transmission for a lower gear. For optimum driveability, the 2013 Chevy Cruze Eco is best served with the 6-speed manual.

The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze Eco achieves its impressive mpg rating of 28 city / 42 hwy / 33 combined (with the manual, the automatic gets 26/39/31) by simply losing weight, and adding some streamlining. The heavy spare tire was replaced with a tire patch kit, the gas tank shrunk to a 10.5 gallon capacity, the rear suspension was simplified using lighter components, and the Eco gets a set of (sharp looking) lightweight polished aluminum 17” wheels. The weight saving measures result in nearly 200 lbs less heft. Something you’ll notice behind the wheel (it feels more tossable), and at the gas pump.

Besides the diet, the 2013 Chevy Cruze Eco also gets low rolling resistance tires, active grill shutters (they close at speed to reduce wind drag), a unique front air dam, and a sporty looking rear spoiler.

In terms of wringing out extra economy, the little Chevy effectively uses the simple formula of less weight, better aerodynamics, and tall gearing. And since ‘simple’ breaks less often, the 2013 Chevy Cruze Eco will be economical now, and in the future. Plus, hypermiling the manual on the highway can help you achieve a lot more than the EPAs suggested 42 mpg.

In a world of complicated smartphones, and touchscreen refrigerators, the simply efficient 2013 Chevy Cruze Eco is a breath of fresh air.

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