The Honda Civic hybrid gets approximately 45 mpg on the highway, while the similarly-sized 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco gets 40 mpg. That's pretty decent on the Chevy’s part, considering it isn’t even a hybrid. Of course, because it isn’t a hybrid, that means it doesn’t sport a hybrid’s price tag – the Cruze Eco will start at $US18,895, as opposed to the Honda’s $23,800. So, how is it possible for a combustion-engined car to almost match a hybrid’s fuel efficiency? Well, lowering the weight and the ride height help a bit, but according to Chevrolet, the real reason lies in the car’s unique front air shutter system.

The shutters are located behind the Cruze’s front grille, and utilize sensors to determine ambient wind and temperature conditions. At higher speeds, electric motors automatically close the shutters, to maximize aerodynamics. At lower speeds, the shutters open, to improve engine-cooling airflow.

All told, the shutter system reduces the car’s drag coefficient by a factor of 0.016, which translates into about about one mile per gallon of added efficiency on the highway, and about half a mile per gallon combined city and highway.

The Cruze Eco will be available Q4 of this year.