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Chevrolet hopes for a Cruze Craze

Posted by: Mark Bilek

Brand Manager Margaret Brooks with the 2011 Chevrolet CruzeStarting with the Corvair in the '60s, Chevrolet has had a long string of forgettable subcompact cars. The latest, Cobalt, sold 100,000 units last year--a number that pales in comparison to the nearly 300,000 Civics and Corollas Honda and Toyota move each year.

General Motor's bowtie brand hopes to change that late this summer with the launch of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. Claimed to be the first "global" product in Chevrolet's lineup, Cruze is already a hit in Europe and China. Built in Lordstown, Ohio, Chevrolet says the U.S. spec Cruze will deliver a class-leading EPA highway fuel economy rating of 40 MPG.

Interestingly, that fuel economy rating comes with the more-powerful turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that's offered on the upscale LT and LTZ trim levels. The base LS gets a normally aspirated 1.8-liter four that has the same 138 horsepower as the turbo motor but significantly less torque.

Other Cruze highlights include ten standard airbags, six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation system and electric power steering. According to Chevrolet the base model will start at $16,995.

Shortly after the arrival of Cruze, Chevrolet will launch an all-new Aveo subcompact and the intriguing Spark small crossover coupe. That will give Chevrolet a completely new small-car lineup that is hopefully better positioned to take a bigger chunk out of the market.

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