Fuel-Efficient American Cars Star at New York Auto Show

Car reviewers often complain that the most stylish and fuel- efficient small cars in Europe never show up in the U.S. But with gas at nearly $3 a gallon and tight new mileage standards to meet (see What You'll be Driving in 2016), General Motors and Ford have gotten the message. On display this week at the New York International Auto show will be three models popular in Europe that their Detroit parent companies have adapted for sale here; each is expected to get nearly 40 mpg in highway driving.

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze (sold in Europe as an Opel) will go on sale near the end of 2010, squaring off against the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf. Ford is adapting its Fiesta subcompact and Focus compact. The 2011 Fiesta, on sale later this spring, will compete with small, high-mileage cars like the Honda Fit and the Nissan Versa. The bigger 2012 Ford Focus, like the Cruze, will be in the same neighborhood as the Civic, Corolla and Golf and go on sale in 2011.
Here's a closer look at these new gas sippers:
Chevrolet Cruze. The Eco version of the Cruze (pictured here) will feature an aerodynamic grille design and lightweight tires that help reduce rolling resistance. The 1.4-liter turbocharged engine is rated at 138 horsepower. With the turbo boost, it can go from 0 to 60 in about 10 seconds, Chevy says. The more upscale LT and LTZ models will be equipped with the same engine and either six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Cruze packs plenty of safety gear, with 10 (yes, 10) airbags and electronic stability control standard. The base price will start about $16,000, while a fully-loaded LTZ will be priced in the low 20's - similar to the Civic.
Ford Fiesta. The Fiesta that Ford marketed here in the 1970s was small and economical but did not sell that well. Ford hopes new styling and comfort imported from Europe will revise that reaction. Fiesta will come in sedan and five-door hatchback models and with five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The engine is a 118-horsepower 1.6 liter four-cylinder. In an early test drive Car and Driver found it outperformed Fit for winding-road handling and went 0 to 60 in 8.7 seconds. The base price will start around $13,300 and range up to $18,000 for a well-equipped model.

Ford Focus. Ford has sold a version of the Focus here since 2000, but in recent years it's been a boring also-ran in the compact car class. Early reviewers are predicting that the more stylish, better-driving, new Focus has a chance to shift consumers' views. The 2012 Focus will have a 2.0-liter 155 horsepower engine. A turbocharged version-Ecoboost in Ford's nomenclature-will likely be available later. And Ford says a newly-developed automatic transmission will boost fuel economy. Some reports (unconfirmed by Ford) say the Focus may include hybrid-like mileage-boosting technology that shuts the engine off entirely at a full stop, then restarts it seamlessly. The base model is expected to start around $17,000. But a raft of options like rearview safety camera, navigation system and keyless ignition could price loaded versions into the low-to-mid 20s.

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