GM Unveils 2011 Chevy Cruze at Los Angeles Auto Show

General Motors’ 2011 Cruze will “challenge preconceived notions about what a compact car can be” according to Chevrolet vice president, Brent Dewar. The compact sedan was unveiled at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show and is intended to compete directly with the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic in the rapidly-growing small-car sector.

Dewar said “We believe that Cruze will raise the bar in this highly competitive, value-oriented segment.” The model also marks the genesis of GM’s efforts to make the Chevy nameplate synonymous with small, reliable, fuel-efficient vehicles. Toward that end, the Cruze offers stylish lines and a reported fuel economy of up to 40 mpg on the highway.

GM recently announced that its much-anticipated Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid is not expected to generate profits for several years. The revelation has shifted the spotlight squarely onto the Cruze as the company’s best hope for restoring its bottom line.

Dewar said, “It changes the rules for the compact car class. Cruze will reinforce our ‘gas-friendly’ theme by delivering best-in-class fuel economy with u to 40 mpg highway in the high-efficiency model.” The automaker has not released fuel efficiency ratings for city driving.

The high-efficiency trim package features a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that delivers 138 hp and 148-pound-feet of torque. The model is available with the standard automatic and optional manual six-speed transmission and electronic power steering to further boost efficiency. Chevy will also offer an LS model with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine.

Standard safety features included anti-lock braking, electronic StabiliTrack stability control and 10 airbags for a 5-star safety rating. Optional creature comforts include a six-speaker Pioneer audio system with an MP3 input. Other options include Onstar navigation, XM satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Cruze features an attractive, aerodynamic body design with a wide stance, dramatically raked windshield and arched roofline. Mike Simcoe, Chevy’s head of design, said, “It’s fresh, clean and modern – an expressive design with a timeless sense of style.”

The long wheelbase and short overhangs give the Cruze a more muscular profile than the Corolla or Civic. The interior features what Simcoe calls a “twin cockpit” layout that draws inspiration from the iconic Chevy Corvette.

There is no specific word on the sticker price, but GM has said that it will be higher than those of the Civic and Corolla; both of which are priced below $20k.

The Chevy Cruze will begin appearing in dealer showrooms next fall.

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