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Fuel efficiency has been slipping on the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze even before its North American debut. A couple years ago, then-General Motors chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner announced the car would achieve 42 mpg highway with a manual transmission. Since then, GM officials have toned that down just slightly, to "about 40 mpg" on the EPA highway loop. Whatever the actual mileage, the Cruze will achieve it with a 1.4-liter turbo four. But that new engine will be an option over the base 1.8-liter normally aspirated four that powers the European-market Cruze already on sale.

Enter the Special Project, GM's high-fuel-mileage version of the Cruze, fashioned after Chevy's Cobalt XFE and Silverado XFE. Engineers reassigned from GM's Performance Division are tweaking the 1.4-liter turbo and the Cruze's six-speed automatic with the goal of achieving 44 mpg in EPA highway-mileage estimates. A Cruze XFE would better take advantage of the Volt's halo and would put some extra distance between itself and the 2010 Malibu, which is rated 33 mpg highway (22 mpg city) with the base 2.4-liter Ecotec four and six-speed automatic.
 
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