Next week at the 2010 New York Auto Show, Chevrolet will unveil the compact 2011 Cruze Eco. Visually, this car isn’t going to be big news – it’s OK, but nothing you haven’t seen before. With a six-speed manual transmission, however, it should achieve an estimated 40mpg on the highway – what Chevrolet calls “hybrid-like” fuel efficiency. With that kind of mileage, but without a hybrid’s complexity or price tag, the Eco could prove pretty popular. By comparison, the hybrid Toyota Prius and Honda Insight get 49 and 43mpg highway, respectively, while the non-hybrid Honda Civic sedan gets 34.

An Ecotec 1.4L turbocharged engine, with variable valve timing, powers the car. It is said to offer the efficiency of a small-displacement four-cylinder engine under most driving conditions, but to be able to perform like a larger engine when needed. It delivers an estimated 138hp, and 148 foot-pounds of torque. Chevrolet says the car should go from 0-60mph in about 10 seconds with the manual transmission, or 9 with the automatic.

The engine isn’t the only part of the Cruze designed for fuel-efficiency. A front air dam and underbody panels add to its aerodynamics, as does another interesting feature - an engine-cooling front grille shutter that stays open at lower speeds, but automatically closes at higher speeds. The car also has lightweight aluminum wheels, low rolling-resistance tires, and an axle ratio that has been maximized for fuel efficiency.

The Cruze Eco will be available late this year, and will be joined by the Cruze LS, LT and LTZ trim versions. Fuel economy estimates for city driving, and for the six-speed automatic transmission, should be available closer to the launch. No word on pricing as of yet.

View gallery - 2 images