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2011 Chevrolet Cruze ECO Review

MPG-o-Matic 2011 Chevrolet Cruze ECO Review Summary: The 2011 Chevy Cruze ECO sedan is the most fuel-efficient vehicle in General Motors 2011 lineup, outside of the extended-range electric Chevy Volt. When equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, the Cruze ECO is capable of gas mileage that rivals many of the current hybrid cars on the market. The combination of a tiny turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, advanced aerodynamics, and an optimized manual gear set (with overdrive) deliver excellent real-world fuel economy, at a very attractive price point.



The front-wheel-drive (FWD) 2011 Chevrolet Cruze ECO is equipped with a tiny turbocharged 1.4-liter ECOtec VVT DOHC inline four-cylinder engine producing 138 horsepower (HP) and 148 foot pounds of torque.


The official fuel economy estimates for the manual-equipped 2011 Chevy Cruze ECO are 28 city / 42 highway miles per gallon. The six-speed automatic-equipped Cruze ECO is rated at a significantly lower 26 city / 37 highway.

We rolled up more than 500 miles in our Ice Blue Metallic review unit and had no problem slipping past the official mileage estimates, with an average of 43.9 MPG on the Interstate highway and 36.3 MPG combined, with temperatures ranging from the mid-teens through the high-thirties. The test vehicle was delivered with just over 1000 miles on the odometer.

Interstate Mileage Testing:

  • Cruise control set to 68 MPH, A/C off, windows up: 42.2 MPG
  • Cruise control off, target speed 60-72 MPH, A/C off, windows up: 45.7 MPG

The 2011 Cruze ECO is equipped with 17-inch forged polished alloy wheels clad with P215/55R17 ultra low rolling resistance Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max all-season tires.

Highway driving range is good when equipped with the manual transmission. The 2011 Cruze ECO is fitted with a 12.6 gallon fuel tank and is designed to run regular unleaded fuel. Standard Cruze models are fitted with a larger 15.6 gallon tank.

The four wheel anti-lock (ABS) disc brake system uses front disc and rear drum brakes. Four-wheel disc brakes are not available in the Cruze ECO, although they are optional in the Cruze 2LT and standard in the Cruze LTZ.

The Cruze ECO’s dash is designed with gas savings in mind. The center-mounted Drivers Information Center includes an individual tire pressure display, and a simultaneous display of both instant and average fuel economy data. A green upshift light begs for the manual transmission to be shifted into a higher gear at fuel-efficient RPMs.

With a six MPG highway bonus over the automatic, the most fuel-conscious drivers will opt for the ECO-Overdrive six-speed manual.

While the Cruze ECO isn’t fast, it handles well and is fun to drive … proving how enjoyable it can be to shift for yourself. Aerodynamic tweaks include a lower front grille air shutter, front air dam, mid-body aero panels and rear decklid spoiler.

Although the Cruze ECO’s interior is handsomely designed and the front buckets are supportive, luxurious touches are reserved for the 2LT and LTZ models. The Cruze ECO is not available with heated seats, leather seating surfaces, or lumbar support.

Our test unit was equipped with the Connectivity Plus option package, which includes cruise control, USB iPod integration, and hands-free Bluetooth, along with a leather wrapped steering wheel with integrated controls and a leather trimmed shifter.

There are two 12-volt outlets: one on the center console (between the shifter and cupholders) and one at the back of the center console. The USB jack is located inside the center console.

GM’s OnStar is standard, with six months of complimentary Directions & Connections service. A navigation system is not offered in the Cruze ECO, although it’s optional in the Cruze 2LT and LTZ.

The Cruze ECO’s rear seat provides 37.9 inches of head room and 35.4 inches of leg room. The rear seat lacks a center armrest and will be snug for taller passengers.

The trunk provides 15 cubic feet of cargo area, with a 60/40 fold-down rear seat to accommodate longer cargo. To save weight, the Cruze ECO uses a tire sealant and inflator kit, in lieu of a spare tire.

All-in-all, the 2011 Chevy Cruze ECO is an affordable, economical, and fun-to-drive compact sedan when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission. It’s been said that we Americans have become too lazy to drive manual transmission-equipped cars. The Cruze ECO just might be the car that reverses that trend.

Parts Content Information:
U.S./Canadian Parts Content: 45%
Major Sources of Foreign Parts Content:
Mexico: 15%
Austria: 19%
Final Assembly Point:
Lordstown, Ohio
Country of Origin:
Engine: Austria
Transmission: Austria

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23 comments ↓

#1 Doug on 03.05.11 at 4:43 pm

Hello,
great road tests! Are the EPA & your MPG testing done with straight gas or 10% ethanol?

#2 mpg-o-editor on 03.05.11 at 5:48 pm

Thanks, Doug! The gasoline in all our road tests uses 10% ethanol (E10), unless otherwise noted. It’s extremely difficult – if not impossible – to find a service station in this state (NJ) that sells straight gasoline, although I’ve found one station in south jersey that sells E85 …. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6tok5np8G4 We hope to test straight gasoline vs E10 at some point in the future.

#3 JIm_E85 on 03.05.11 at 7:51 pm

Thanks for the info on the Cruze. The plan was that the Eco Cruze was going to be E85 powered, but that seems to have been dropped about a year ago. I will buy nothing EXCEPT E85- I’m a retired U.S. Army Officer and I won’t ever buy gasoline again.

Thanks also for your review of the Buick Turbo Regal – that was the first time that the E85 direct-inject engine was reviewed for real MPG numbers. I really appreciate that. Keep up the great work.

#4 mpg-o-editor on 03.05.11 at 10:43 pm

Many thanks for your service to our country and for your kind words, Jim. There’s huge potential in E85, but our politicians need to stop playing football with the future of ethanol. We need many more FlexFuel capable vehicles, as we move past the nearly singular reliance on corn to the second phase of ethanol production. I just spent a week in the 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee and was very happy to learn that the new Pentastar V6 is a FlexFuel engine …

#5 NikonF7 on 03.21.11 at 5:03 pm

If I thought using E85 would reduce oil imports, I’d use it. But I’m pretty sure that using more E85 just reduces the amount of ethanol put into E10, which on average isn’t anywhere near the full 10 percent maximum. Having said that, I did refill a FlexFuel rental car with it in Vegas, with it cheaper than E10 and my not caring what mpg the next renter got from its lower energy content.

#6 NikonF7 on 03.21.11 at 5:21 pm

I do like most of the specs of the Cruze Eco, though 3100 pounds seems heavy for an eco car not lugging a hybrid system/battery around. But the mpg speaks for itself. It drives me nuts when a car I’d otherwise want (e.g. Elantra Touring) gets 31mpg hwy due to a stupid final drive ratio giving 3000rpm at 60mph. My first new car was a 1979 Corolla 5-speed 1.2 liter 58hp rated 40mpg EPA hwy. Who knows what its rating would be under the 2011 EPA rating scheme, but I normally got 43mpg at 55mph on trips, despite a carburetor and not a modern slippery shape. A lower power Cruze SuperEco without the turbo would be even more interesting.

#7 Blueflippy on 03.28.11 at 9:37 am

Guys, I don’t think it’s legal to sell “straight” gasoline in the US; it must be blended with ethonol. This change occurred about 3 or 4 months ago.

#8 Doug on 03.29.11 at 5:25 pm

Are the epa mileage tests conducted using pure gasoline or the 10% ethanol crud they are forcing on us? Curious, Doug.

#9 Boodrow on 04.02.11 at 5:13 pm

Ethanol is not mandated and many areas outside the midwest and east have straight gasoline. I don’t have a problem with ethanol but the subsidy should go away and let it be competitive in the market place.

#10 Marie on 04.11.11 at 3:48 pm

I’ve heard elsewhere that they got the Eco up to 60MPG, but 45 isn’t bad either, especially for a car not marketed as “hybrid.” And this makes me seriously consider learning how to drive a manual for such an improvement in MPG.

Thanks for the helpful review. I was originally reading about the Cruze at the Johnny Londoff Chevrolet blog, so having some supplement information is really useful.

#11 EJ on 04.17.11 at 5:58 pm

Ive being reading alot of reviews on the Cruze Eco and most magazines have got a little bit more than the EPA 42mpg on the highway. Most EPA estimates are not accurate so it was reassuring to see through the test of this vehicle that 42mpg was acheviable. I plan to purchase a more fuel efficent or electric vehicle this year and the Cruze is very high on my list. Good Job GM.

#12 Hotrodmann on 04.23.11 at 12:12 am

As a Chevy Cruze Eco owner, I must say this is the gas sipping, fun to drive car that America needed to build! Test drive one and you’ll be hooked. My wife averaged 35.2mpg “in town” driving. 3 mpg better than the advertised. With a little freeway driving I did with it, we got 434 miles to a tank of gas. The tank held 11 gallons which brings our overall to an average of 39 mpg. We love this car! It is a solid built car at our local Lordstown Ohio plant. I would highly recomend this car to anyone…and oh yea, we had a guy 6’2 in the back seat with plenty of room…this car left the Cobalt predicessor in the dust.

#13 Lance on 05.11.11 at 8:59 pm

Ethenol is a joke. It is only affordable because it is heavily subsidized. It take 1.5 units of energy to produce ethenol to deliver only 1 unit. It also consumes an increadible amount of fresh water and for every gallon produced it produces 8 gallans of waste water.

I had the honer of fighting an ethanol plant from poping up im back yard and have researched the facts.

#14 mpg-o-editor on 05.11.11 at 9:47 pm

@Lance – With all due respect, ethanol is not a joke. That said, our government should end the billions of dollars of subsidies to the oil companies for blending ethanol into their products.

Some things that you may have not considered …

Corn-based ethanol is simply the first generation feedstock for this country. Brazil does quite well with sugar cane.

There are plenty of sources of feedstock, many of which intercept a waste stream, such as cheese whey, municipal garbage, brewery wastewater, and spoiled produce.

If it takes 1.5 units of energy to produce 1 unit of ethanol, as you state, what if those 1.5 units were domestically produced? Farm equipment can run on domestically-produced biodiesel and ethanol. Plants can produce heat from domestic natural gas.

While ethanol production does require a significant amount of water, that water can and should be recycled.

#15 Bighead on 06.30.11 at 5:28 am

Like Lance said, ethanol is a joke. Because it consumes more energy than it produces, it does nothing to lessen our dependency on oil. It also drives up food prices. In some third world countries, there are literally people starving because of ethanol production. Even if they stop making it with corn, whatever other ethanol crop they use will occupy farmland and continue to drive up the price of food.

#16 mpg-o-editor on 06.30.11 at 8:58 am

@Bighead Consider that you may have been purposely misled. Take a few moments to read this recent article from Wired that dispels five common myths:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2011/06/five-ethanol-myths-busted-2/

… it’s an eye-opener.

#17 Daniel on 07.12.11 at 11:50 am

I rented a 2011 Cruze from Hertz with automatic trans for 1610 mile trip. I returned approx 33.5 mpg @ 68 mph with AC on medium. I consider myself a patient and gentle driver and I have logged over a million accident free miles. The automatic transmission was horrible because it wanted to downshift every time power was required like merging and increasing speed to clear yellow light intersections. There was also a huge blind spot due to the wide B pillar. You could clear it, but if another car decided to come over suddenly into that area from a third lane, you would never know until you made contact. The brakes and interior were excellent compared to my normal vehicles (98 Escort, 2003 Frieghtliner, 68 & 74 Chevy pickups) I would not consider buying this vehicle due to its price and lackluster MPG. We had the Chevy Chevette and Citation in the 1980s getting close to this mpg with carbs.

#18 G. on 09.15.11 at 10:49 pm

Great job on the reviews. Test drove an ECO a few weeks ago and was very impressed overall. Perhaps best GM drive ever for me. I think the biggest downfall was lack of lumbar adjustment and seat foam was a bit stiff, especially for US market where we have the long highways to explore the potential gas mileage of this otherwise great vehicle.
Thanks for your hard work.

#19 Steve on 09.18.11 at 6:20 pm

I’m intrigued by the high mpg with the manual Cruze but wonder about resale value and also about the lack of spare tire, despite the tire inflator kit. Comments?

#20 Dieter on 12.09.11 at 2:35 pm

Could somebody give a definite answer about the use of E85 in the Cruze Eco? Can it be used without damage to the engine or other parts? Highly appreciated since Chevy does not want to commit to a yes or no.

#21 Anonymous on 03.11.12 at 9:30 am

I am sending this message from thailand. I have chevy cruze 1.6 2011. Wondering to use E85 fuel. Does it works or not? The fuel price is too high now so if possible want to use economic fuel.
One of my friend told me that can use E85 in any petrol car. Just put one E-kit.
Is that possible?
Very excited to know the answer.

#22 David Slavik on 01.29.14 at 12:54 pm

I purchased a 2013 Cruze LT with the standard 1.4 non-turbo and the 6-speed auto and noticed the same thing about the official mileage compared to what I get in the real world. I got a solid 44 mpg commuting on the freeway with minimal city driving and the overall average after 6 months of ownership is 34 combined highway and city. Yes, much better than what was promised on the sticker but one can’t complain about that.

I am also totally impressed with the overall build quality, fit and finish and having the upgraded electronics with MyLink only makes it that much better. The handling and performance are more than acceptable, the ride is phenomenally tight and yet quiet. Altogether the car feels as good as my old Mercedes and at the price paid it is hard to figure anyone else offering so much for so little. Chevy really did a great job with this car.

Lastly, for those asking about using E85 in the Cruze… The old rule was if the car does not ping or knock then you are okay. The biggest difference is the lower octane. The fuel system is designed on ALL new cars to handle ethanol as a component of the fuel since many places require at least 10% ethanol in any case. Do I recommend it? Not really and this is why – ethanol as a fuel offers lower calorie potential than an equal volume of petrol (gasoline) and so given a steady state demand more ethanol is required to do the same work. In simple terms you will experience lower fuel economy which will obviate any advantage and that is why the manufacturer is non-committal about recommending it.

Cars designed to run on E85 (the Cruze Eco is one unless it is the diesel) are engineered differently so that they can gain fuel mileage at the expense of performance, running regular petrol in an engine that allows for E85 will allow the engine to retune itself to give higher performance by changing the spark curve so you get lower fuel economy with higher performance potential. The key thing is that a normal person cannot tell that the car is accelerating a bit quicker, if you drive the car a bit less demandingly you get the same effect as switching to E85. E85′s real purpose is to take the driver’s throttle foot out of the mpg equation by forcing lower performance at any given throttle setting.

#23 dave on 03.10.14 at 7:28 am

MPG is meaningless. It is all about the Do Ray Me. ECO, pay $2000 extra up front to save $10 bucks a month on fuel —dumb

1.4L with Turbo — is that durable? what’s it cost to fix a turbo and buy a clutch?

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