• Oct 18th 2011 at 9:23AM
  • 51
It's been argued that General Motors' halo vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, is more or less a bait and switch bit of technology dreamed up by folks at GM for one reason: to draw buyers into showrooms. Once there, loads of potential Volt buyers opt for the Chevy Cruze Eco instead of the pricey plug-in hybrid.

Have these consumers been unknowingly tricked into buying the lesser of the two vehicles? Or is the Cruze Eco the preferable ride in this duo? To find out, Car and Driver put Chevy's fuel-efficient machines to a test: a head-to-head, 1,000-mile showdown. We're quite not ready to reveal the winner, but we will divulge that the margin of victory in this battle was negligible and that only five points separated the fuel-sippers.

First, here's a look at the fuel economy results from C/D's 1,000-mile evaluation: Chevy Volt 43 miles per gallon, Chevy Cruze Eco 39 mpg. It's worth pointing out that C/D charged its Volt on at least three occasions during the 1,000-mile excursion. At times (on two trips of less than 43 miles), the Volt consumed no fuel. But out on the open highway (894 miles at an average speed of 70 miles per hour), the Cruze Eco returned 42 mpg, compared to the Volt's 40 mpg (more fuel economy info here).

Efficiency isn't king. In the end, Car and Driver awarded 190 points to the Cruze Eco (pdf), compared to the 185 points secured by the Volt (pdf). The magazine's staff concluded:
Ultimately, it wasn't gas mileage that convinced us that the Cruze Eco is top dog here. When vital cockpit furnishings such as the clutch pedal and the hand-operated parking brake go missing – as they do in the Volt – we suffer sensory-deprivation anxiety. The electric Chevy is an automatic gas-saving appliance that never hugs its driver. In contrast, the Cruze Eco demands an active partner to reap its high mileage... The lighter Cruze always feels more willing than the Volt.
Price, according to C/D, is the lone category where the Volt ($45,170 as tested) was truly crushed by the Cruze Eco ($20,320 as tested). C/D sums up its evaluation with this quote:
Environmentalists will never give the Cruze the same thumbs-up they give the Volt, but it's quite the little eco-champ.
In Autoblog's recent battle of eco-compact vehicles, the Cruze Eco emerged the victor, too.


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  • 51 Comments
      PR
      • 3 Years Ago
      Spiffster -- Good point on the turbo, I failed to take that into account. That cuts the HP drop down to nearly unnoticeable. Yea, the taxes and financing charges are a big variable that are hard to generalize, because there are so many variables. That's why I lumped them together as "junk expenses" and sorta glossed over them. With getting a good deal on your Eco, you should be in good shape the next time you need to buy a car. Hopefully by then the 2nd generation EV's will be out, and you won't be stuck trying to ride a motorcycle in bad weather just to buy an EV. I had a Yamaha FZ600 as my only ride in Seattle for an entire month of November. God that sucked. sirvix, you are vexed for legitimate reason. I intentionally left out the whole resale value thing because I had fairly firm and provable numbers for the rest of my math, but predicting resale values here on this website usually lead to speculative debates that detract from the central point. I didn't want to get my central point diluted by a debate about resale values that nobody can win, so I left it out. But you are right. The Volt will have a proportionately higher resell value vs. the Eco, similar to a Jetta TDI vs. a Jetta gasser.
      Smith Jim
      • 3 Years Ago
      I used to read a lot of car mags like C/D and I always thought it was stupid the way auto writers ALWAYS drive fuel sippers as they were driving a formula 1 car. Don't get me started (too late) They run the piss out these cars and bitch about the poor fuel mileage. That makes about as much sense as hypermiling a Lambourgini. I honestly think these guys believe everybody else drives exactly like them. In 2001 C/D test drove a Prius and got 35 MPG. They were puzzled and called Toyota representatives to ask why they could only manage 35 MPG. I'm not making this up. http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/car/00q1/2001_toyota_prius-road_test Knowing what I know about automotive journalists the MPG numbers for Volt and Cruze are damn good numbers!
      Smurf
      • 3 Years Ago
      A Chevy Volt comparison to "any" other vehicle is "apples to oranges", including comparisons to hybrids. You just can't measure the Chevy Volt using ICE sandards. On the other hand...... The Chevy Cruze, "can" be compared to hybrids and other ICE vehicles on an "apples to apples" level, and in such a comparison the Chevy Cruze does very well.....
      @bobbleheadguru
      • 3 Years Ago
      Would be much better comparison if both cars were driven daily for a month and the Volt was plugged in every night. In real world, this is far more likely to be how these cars are used. For my first month with the Volt, I did this. I found that will be saving $160/month in fuel, enough to offset the +$160/month in higher payment (v. an Impala). Without too much effort, I am well over 110MPG... and I have a longer commute that average (about 55 miles roundtrip). So I am break even... just paying more to US Bank (the leasing company).. and less to Exxon/Mobile, BP and Shell.
        Smurf
        • 3 Years Ago
        @@bobbleheadguru
        This is how I was able to justify ordering a Volt. The ownership cost of the Volt is about the same as a $25,000 ICE vehicle that gets 25 mpg. The Chevy Impala, or Toyota Camry are a good examples of such a vehicle. After 9 months on the waiting list, I finally have an official order number. I can't wait to pick it up!!!
      theflew
      • 3 Years Ago
      Car and Driver apparently misses the point with the Volt. No all electric car could even do this trip and no ICE can match the Volt's MPG's when driven locally. Yes the Cruze was more efficient on a 1000 mile trip. But given you don't do that daily it's guaranteed the Volt would be more economical (MPG) as a daily driver - assuming you planned on plugging in the "electric" car you purchased.
        Michael
        • 3 Years Ago
        @theflew
        C&D is an enthusiast magazine for gear heads, not eco-oriented folk. A writer must always remember to speak to their target audience.
          Ford Future
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Michael
          The volt's Electric Motor Torque should appeal to their target market. Driving 40 miles a day on No Gas should appeal to their target market. Unless their target market is only in Irving, Texas home of Exxon.
      Ford Future
      • 3 Years Ago
      Shock! "Auto" magazine comes up with Worst Case Test of the Volt! Interesting, there's NEVER a Best Case Test comparison. It's almost as if this was a "commissioned" piece, like an oil industry funded Propaganda piece, instead of real auto journalism. But, that can't be, C&D doesn't SELL Tests, do they?
        Smurf
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ford Future
        So they are saying that the Volt on its "worst" day is about about even with the Cruze on its "best" day? OK. Fair enough.... How about doing a second comparison of the Volt on it's best day and the Cruze on its worst day? No? Why not?
      Sasparilla Fizz
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well you can compare vehicles for two completely different target markets, but the real question is why? Anyone that's going to really buy a Volt isn't going to be interested in a Chevy Cruze Eco... It's like comparing a loaded Prius with a Corolla - what's the point?
        Grendal
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Sasparilla Fizz
        Well said. They are different cars. Next do a comparison where you drive both vehicles to work on a daily commute and you get completely different results. Big surprise, you get no gas usage from the Volt and the Cruze gets 36 MPG. Sounds like they could have done the whole exercise on paper just to prove that in a mixed usage situation the gas mileage result is similar. How about the next article compare a Civic to a Civic Hybrid.
        Julius
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Sasparilla Fizz
        I don't know about that... I'm sure people brought in to a Chevy dealership intrigued about a Volt might notice how efficient the Cruze Eco really is - and decide to buy one. Obviously, that doesn't mean that they would have BOUGHT the Volt, but that the Volt pulled them in the dealer in the first place.
      Dave
      • 3 Years Ago
      Both of my vehicles are stickshifts. I feel for those Car & Driver writers. ;)
        Dave D
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dave
        I'm with you on that one. If it's not a stick, what's the fun in driving it!!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Its clear that both of these cars either get poor highway mileage (mpg) or they were driven as if they were sports cars.
        Michael
        • 3 Years Ago
        FTA - But out on the open highway (894 miles at an average speed of 70 miles per hour), the Cruze Eco returned 42 mpg, compared to the Volt's 40 mpg (more fuel economy info here). I'd love it if my car (2004 Chevy Cavalier) got 40+ on the highway.
        Spiffster
        • 3 Years Ago
        These guy drive Lamborghinis and Ferraris when they are not driving Chevys and Toyotas... cant really blame them for driving aggressively. The Cruze can easily score in the 50s on the highway.
        JR
        • 3 Years Ago
        It sounds like the were driven like regualar cars, not babied for hypermiling.
      paulwesterberg
      • 3 Years Ago
      I bet the stage coach drivers complained about the lack of road sensory feedback provided by horseless carriages operated without reigns and a whip.
      sirvixisvexed
      • 3 Years Ago
      PR, you are right, I won't know for sure what a 5 year old Volt will be worth until the time comes. So in the meantime, I try to pay close attention to the depreciation numbers for regular hybrids, which prove very favorable against the ICE's! Anyone can research it anytime, VIA autotrader searches. Another part of that comparison logic is the whole idea that one cannot compare gas, worth $0 after you've used it, to a hybrid system, worth far greater than $0 after you've used it; because it still works for the next owner. Sort of like how leather and a nav system will cost you $1500 at purchase, but your loaded model will always be worth a bit more than the cloth, non-nav models that are the same year with the same mileage.
      Grendal
      • 3 Years Ago
      I sure would like a $6K state tax rebate. My state hasn't gotten on board with the program. But then again, we haven't got the Volt or the Leaf yet. Maybe next year...
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