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Cruze Eco delivers on mileage with style
The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze. - photo by Photo Contributed

The 2013 Cruze Eco features a few fuel-minded nip/tucks that also help make its looks more appealing.

First, Chevrolet cut almost 100 pounds from the base Cruze’s curb weight by tossing out the spare tire in favor of a patch kit, shrinking the gas tank to 10.5 gallons, and simplifying the rear suspension.

Next, Chevy lowered the car and made the forged alloy wheels standard equipment.

But that’s not all. Chevrolet also added an “active front fascia” with slats that close
during highway speeds to reduce drag and improve mileage.

Aside from functional features, the Cruze generally looks good, with a high beltline to make the car more masculine. That, combined with a chiseled front end and the Eco package’s rear spoiler leave the car looking presentable despite being a less than heart pounding drive overall.

From a daily driver’s perspective, the Cruze is a solid choice. Despite its high beltline, the  car is easy to see out of from all directions.

You’ll notice touches like mesh cloth covering much of the ugly plastic panels and convenience features like a dash-top compartment perfect for storing a porky wallet, pens or anything else you wouldn’t want to be caught digging in the center console for.

Between its gauges, an information screen controlled by a knob mounted on the turn signal stick offers typical trip stats, but it also provides an “average mpg gauge.” It offers current as well as average fuel consumption figures that show exactly where the car sits compared to the trip’s recorded gas usage.

With reasonably comfortable seats, the Cruze feels good on a long drive – unless you’re relegated to the back.

Especially around town the Cruze Eco’s turbo 1.4-liter 4-cylinder feels surprisingly peppy. Shifting into second gear, the car tugs with enough power to find the speed limit without feeling taxed.

Customers can opt for a six-speed automatic for an extra $995, but making that choice defeats the car’s purpose on a fundamental level.

Opting for the automatic drops the car’s economy to 26/39, though that’s only an EPA estimate. During testing, we found that the manual version kept up EPA’s ratings of 28/42 and even beat them on the highway when driven gently.

Unfortunately, those unusual ratios rob the car of any highway passing power. Aggressive downshifts don’t do much, even with the car running near its redline.

But that’s not a big deal in this car because you won’t be buying it for the performance. Nor are you likely to complain too much while achieving up to 45 mpg on the open highway.