2011 Chevrolet Cruze ECO: The Review

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I didn’t expect much from the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze ECO. In fact, I’ve never been a huge fan of “econo-boxes”, but expectations are one of the things that can pass or fail a car during a first drive. Those expectations may even continue to sway one’s thoughts during successive encounters. My expectations were pretty regularly exceeded while driving the Cruze. This was the first Chevrolet car I’ve driven which seemed well thought out, designed well, and implemented well.

Overall, the Cruze ECO drove quite well. The 1.4 liter turbocharged engine, wasn’t exactly powerful and may have the smallest turbo I’ve ever seen, but if you use all of the rev range, you can dart through traffic sufficiently. The suspension was set up well…comfortable but not floaty at speed or while taking a curve quickly. Most importantly, and likely what you’re wanting to know, is how it did on mileage. Afterall, it’s the ECO. With the six-speed automatic, I had no problem getting 32 mpg in mixed driving, and I achieved 39 mpg on the highway on multiple occasions.

The interior really surprised me, as the cloth on the seats and some panels looked great and seemed as if it would hold up well. However, due to the design. I’m not sure how easy it would be to clean in the event of a spill or a child smearing mud into the cloth. The seats were comfortable and roomy. You could squeeze three adults in the back if needed for a short trip, and child safety seats are easy to install. The rear folding seat backs came in handy, as I was able to fold down only the larger side, load my bike in from the trunk with only the front wheel removed, and there was still plenty of room for the munchkin in his safety seat.

Every time I drove the Cruze ECO, I found something else I liked about it. It is impressive how much thought went into this $19,000 car and even more impressive how many features it has that some luxury cars didn’t have 5-10 years ago. Here is a quick list of things that stood out in my mind as going above and beyond for an affordable economy car.

• The driver window lock button also activates the child safety locks on the rear doors
• The blinker stalk has a soft-touch 3-blink, lane-change feature
• Setting the speed control gives you a digital readout of your set speed
• One touch auto-down on all windows (not found in $50k+ Chevy SUVs even just a year ago)
• Digital readout of individual tire air pressures (If Nissan/Infiniti is reading, bring this back!)

All in all, I applaud Chevrolet for a great, small car which finally can rival, if not beat, the best of those overseas. It’s about time.


THE RUNDOWN:

Rush-hour commuter: Perfect. It doesn’t get much better for your money. The bluetooth worked amazingly well with my phone, the stereo is decent enough, great mileage, and even OnStar if you need directions.

Highway cruiser: This is another strong-suit for the Cruze ECO. Although, if you primarily drive on the highway, opt for the 6-speed manual to squeeze another few miles from each gallon.

Grocery getter: It practically shops for you. And yes, I realize that makes no sense.

Family & friends hauler: If you don’t have a lot of friends, the Cruze will treat you well. I installed a child safety seat with no problem, and the trunk has a ton of room for a couple more bodies.

Occasional hoon-mobile: If you try, OnStar may activate and ask you to define “hoon”. Then it will direct you to the closest Chevrolet dealership to upgrade to the RS model. If you’re smart and the salesman is good, you’ll leave with a Corvette hoon-mobile. In all seriousness, the Cruze chassis and suspension is capable enough considering what you’re driving, but don’t expect much.

Track toy: Yes, it will crush train track toys if you run over them.

Dragster: After an LS4 swap, sure! (Kudos to those who didn’t have to google it.)