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Chevy Cruze off to fast start in compact game

January 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
When executives from the auto industry went before Congress a couple of years ago seeking financial help, one of the promises they made was to gear up to build more fuel efficient cars.At General Motors, the electric Chevrolet Volt has gotten the most attention, but it's the Chevrolet Cruze that will sell in much greater numbers to many more buyers.

Replacing the mostly unloved Cobalt, GM says the Cruze is a serious player in the compact car game.

"This is probably the first time that we brought in a compact car that I can say is really competitive in that segment up against the (Honda) Civic and (Toyota) Corolla as the leaders," said Richard James, a GM spokesman.

The Cruze is a clean sheet car, taking cues from a similar model sold in other markets, like Europe.

Under the hood is the new trend in engine efficiency: an optional four cylinder with a turbocharger. It provides good gas mileage, yet great acceleration from a relatively small size.

The sticker price is relatively low, too, even loaded up it's not much more than $20,000.

Past efforts, like the Cobalt and the Cavalier, never quite measured up.

GM's designers made sure there was plenty of room inside, as well. The front seat can go back far enough to accommodate an NBA player.

That might be part of the plan to convince American buyers that a small car doesn't have to necessarily feel small.

Overall, the Cruze is GM's way of trying to convince American taxpayers that the bailout of the company was money well spent.