What is it about General Motors that their new vehicle introductions seems take two years? GM first announced that it would offer a diesel passenger car in fall of 2010, then tipped that it would show up in the Cruze in February of 2011. Last year GM took top-ranked American automotive journalists to Europe to drive the Euro-version of the Cruze diesel. Finally, February 2013 at the Chicago Auto Show, the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel was introduced to the media. It goes on sale this summer.
Was it worth the wait? We think so, even though we haven’t yet had a chance to get behind the wheel. we’ve had enough experience with the gas-powered Cruze to validate it as a solid automotive platform. The diesel option will give compact car buyers and high-mileage option and give the Volkswagen Jetta some real competition in price, volume and performance.
The Cruze diesel is expected to return similar fuel economy numbers to the Jetta, i.e., 42-43 mpg (final EPA numbers have not been released), and will retail for $25,695, compared to the Jetta’s starting price of $23,850, although that’s with a manual transmission compared to the Cruze’s automatic-only set up. A Jetta automatic lists for $24,950, although the standard equipment on the two models is not identical.
The Cruze’s 2.0-liter direct-injection, common rail turbocharged diesel engine is rated at 148 horsepower and puts out 248 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm. It’s paired with GM’s six-speed automatic transmission.
To meet U.S. emissions regulations, the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel uses an exhaust-gas recirculation system and a urea aftertreatment cut emissions of nitrous oxides and particulates to roughly one-tenth the level of earlier diesels without those systems. The Jetta uses a lean NOx trap, but not a urea aftertreatment system.
The National Biodiesel Board just announced that the Cruze CTD will be approved for B20 (20 percent biodiesel) use, putting it on par with most of the diesel pickup trucks now on the market. Due to quality concerns and a different emissions systems, the Jetta is only approved for B5. This may or may not be a significant issue based on the local availability of either B5 or B20, but it does give the Cruze more options when it comes to displacing petroleum.
Cruze Diesel Compared to Cruze Eco
The Cruze diesel will be present an option for Cruze buyers looking to maximize fuel economy. Up to this point, the Cruze Eco (a gas-powered version using a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine) has been the Cruze’s most environmentally friendly model, if only by offering marginally better mpg. That engine offers 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, similar horsepower numbers to the diesel but quite a bit deficient in torque, that all important measurement felt when you first try to accelerate.
The Cruze Eco with a manual six-speed transmission delivers 42 mpg on the highway, 28 in the city and 33 combined. With an automatic transmission (a closer comparison to the diesel) the Eco is rated at 39 mpg highway, 26 in the city and 31 combined. As for price, the manual version is $20,490 and the automatic is $21,685. A quick look at the numbers (acknowledging again that the equipment levels are not identical) indicates that the Cruze diesel will cost a premium of about $4,000 yet probably deliver only a few miles per gallon better than the Eco model. That said, the diesel will undoubtedly deliver that fuel economy with an easier driving experience. The low-end torque of a typical diesel provides great off-the-line performance from a stoplight or accelerating onto a freeway without a significant fuel economy penalty.
Bottom line: Like hybrid models, buyers looking for a quick recoup of their price premium from fuel savings will probably be disappointed by the Cruze diesel. But those who appreciate power and a positive driving experience along with great fuel economy, will likely find the Cruze diesel a model that will save them money and satisfy them from the moment they turn the key.
Published Jan. 11, 2013