Recently, hi-mpg.org drove from Colorado to New England and back, racking up over 4000 miles on the odometer of a brand new 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. This gem of a car—very possibly the highest quality compact car General Motors has ever built—was in LT trim and equipped with a turbocharged 1.4L engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
The EPA gives this model a 24/36 city/highway MPG rating. Its real-world fuel economy numbers? We got 33.2 MPG for the trip, which was 95% highway.
Interestingly, for the segments where we could only go 55-65 miles per hour (e.g., much of New England), we were averaging over 36 MPG and as much as 38.6 MPG. Also of note, the trip computer consistently read about 4% too low—one of the few cars we’ve tested where the trip computer was actually pessimistic.
But whenever we were able to cruise at 75 MPH, the gas mileage went way down. For example, there were whole segments were we averaged only 29.9, 31.0, 30.6, and 28.4 MPG through Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. Rarely before have we seen such a dramatic difference (~6-8 MPG) in gas mileage for 60 MPH vs. 75 MPH. It appears to us that General Motors was almost gaming the system to provide a high MPG yield within the EPA’s test parameters, with a large dropoff outside of them.
On the other hand, in city driving we were easily able to achieve 32-35 MPG, well over the EPA estimated 24 MPG. It seems that the base model Cruze with Ecotec engine is very economical up to about 65 MPH, after which mileage drops significantly.
In any case, we thoroughly enjoyed driving the Cruze, which was very Audi-like in design, quality and handling. More on this “it seems a lot more expensive than it is” vehicle soon.