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Road Test: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel LT

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GM’s High-MPG King

Chevrolet Cruze Diesel: General Motor’s High Mileage King.

The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is rated at 46 Highway/27 City with an average of 33 MPG. Sounds pretty good, but it can get even better because, if you have a light foot on the accelerator, you might even get closer to 50 MPG on the highway. So, what’s not to like about GM’s Mileage King?

The Cruze Diesel, when at idle or slow, city or parking lot speeds, is loud and you can feel the engine vibration inside the passenger compartment. Once at speed, where the Cruse Diesel really shines, the noise is not noticeable due to ambient road noise and the radio. So what’s the big deal with a little noise? If the Cruze Diesel was the only compact sedan on the market, then there would be no issue, but it isn’t. The recently reviewed Volkswagen Jetta TDI sells directly against the Cruze Diesel and it is smooth and quiet at low speeds. Not as quiet as a gasoline engine, but not leaning towards the noise of the Cruze Diesel. So, should this affect your consideration of buying a Cruze Diesel? Let’s dig a bit deeper and see.

Drivetrain

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Smooth driving, once you get moving

The five-door hatchback Cruze Diesel is powered by a 2.0-liter, DOHC, direct injection, turbocharged diesel inline 4-cylinder, with 151 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. There is a unique “boost” feature offering about 10 seconds of 280 lb-ft of torque, which is welcome when passing cars or entering a highway. The excellent fuel economy and a fuel tank of 15.6 gallons gets you down the road for more than 700 miles. The Cruze Diesel comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission with no manual option.

General Motors has designed the Cruze Diesel to run on ultra-low sulfur (petroleum) diesel and it’s B20 compatible. B20 is 20 percent biodiesel (80 percent petroleum diesel), which can come from refined oil seeds (usually soy in the U.S.), cooking grease or animal fats. According to the EPA, biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57-86 percent compared to petroleum diesel. Biodiesel also can reduce tailpipe pollutants and is a renewable fuel.

There is approximately a $2,000 premium for the clean diesel engine over the 1.8L, 110 hp/125 lb-ft I-4 gasoline engine. However, if you are a road warrior into driving long, long miles, then the diesel is the way to go.

Interior

The Cruze LT model I was driving came with the navigation, enhanced safety, premium Pioneer audio and the driver convenience option packages. The front leather and heated seats were separated by a center stack with just the right amount of silver paint on the trim and instrument gauges. I liked the knobs with rubber edges that made gripping easy and the two-toned dash, which had good fit and finish. The driver seat was 6-way power adjustable and the front passenger seat was 6-way manually adjustable. I was able to find a comfortable driving position thanks to the height and lumbar adjustments.

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The only external indicator

All controls were easily accessible, either on the steering wheel for audio and telephone functions or the center stack. The heating and A/C systems were intuitive and it was not difficult to find a proper setting.

Driver comfort can only be as good as driver confidence in the vehicle’s safety equipment. The Cruze Diesel LT with the enhanced safety package comes with eight airbags, cruise control, remote start, outside power and heated mirrors, rear vision camera, rear parking and cross traffic assist and side blind zone alert along with the power disc brakes, ABS and Stabilitrak system.

The 60/40 folding rear seat can accommodate three adults, but is best for short trips only. Foot access for the rear seat was a bit tight and was indicated by tell-tale scuff marks on the lower door panel. Compact sedans are not intended to haul adults very far and the Cruze was no better or worse than others in this segment.

The 6-speaker Pioneer Premium sound system (with SiriusXM, CD, MP3 and USB ports) sounded good. This was part of the MyLink infotainment system that included OnStar, Bluetooth with hands-free smartphone integration with voice recognition, Pandora, Stitcher and audio streaming. The complete system became easier to use the longer I spent with it, but it has a learning curve to be able to use it without diverting attention from the road.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more

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Power you can hear on the road

enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader and is well worth renewing after the initial six month service plan expires.

Exterior

The Cruze exterior styling has been around for a few years and is holding-up well.  Nothing fancy or head turning, but solid with a long hood and swooping roofline leading to a short trunk lid. The Diesel comes with the aero performance package consisting of lower front grille air shutter, mid-body aero panels, front fascia air dam and a nicely integrated trunk lid spoiler. It’s all tastily done, adding to the look and function of the vehicle. For even a sportier look you can order the RS appearance package.

The Driving Experience: On The Road

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Not much to look at, but it moves you

The first thing you will notice is the 264 lb-ft of torque. It is strong off the line and stays that way through the powerband. And don’t forget the boost feature mentioned earlier, which delivers 280 lb-ft of torque for 10 seconds to get you past that slow poke 18-wheeler or get you up to highway speeds.

The Cruze Diesel is smooth on the road and handles confidently, but suffers from a momentary and annoying slight delay, or lag, in off-the-line acceleration. At 3,475 lbs, the Cruze Diesel is carrying an additional 400 lbs over its 1.8L gasoline sibling (probably from the heavier diesel engine), therefore making it more of a highway cruiser than a zippy handler. But with the excellent highway mileage, you most likely will be spending most of your time on the open road rather than hunting down twisties.

The Cruze Diesel LT model I was driving came with 17-inch alloy wheels, all-season tires, four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes with ABS and GM’s Stabilitrak system with stability and traction control, all delivering straight and true stops.

Back to the noise levels. Once on the highway, the diesel engine rattling is not noticeable or an issue, but it is when idling or at slow speeds. Maybe this is the norm in Europe where this diesel engine has been in service for many years powering Opel vehicles. But not in the USA. I have to figure GM is working on a more refined, smoother and quieter engine right now.

Pricing

The 2014 Cruze is offered in four trim levels and three engine and transmission options. The Diesel LT I drove was priced at $28,105, including the $810 destination charge. Starting price for the Cruze diesel is $25,695.

The 2014 Cruze comes with these warranties:

Basic:                             3 year/36,000 miles

Powertrain:                     5 year/100,000 miles

Scheduled Maintenance: 2 year/24,000 miles

Drivetrain:                      5 year/100,000 miles

Roadside Assistance:      5 year/100,000 miles

Rust:                              6 year/100,000 miles

Observations: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel LT

Clean diesel powered cars and trucks will are becoming a more common sight on the roads and driveways in the U.S. Currently the diesel car market is dominated by German manufacturers Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. It won’t be long before the other domestic (and Asian) manufacturers get into this space and General Motors is off to a good start with the Cruze Diesel.

However, if you are looking to buy an American-built diesel compact sedan, then right now the Cruze is your only option. But before making your purchase decision on country of origin (the Cruze is built in Lordstown,

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Compact but full of features

 

Ohio) you need to know the Cruze gets its engine from Germany, transmission from Japan and many of its parts from Mexico and Canada (not unlike many of the other models out there). This makes the Cruze Diesel a truly world car, with its engine and transmission tested and proven on hundreds-of-thousands of cars driving the roads in Europe and Australia.

The Cruze Diesel is economical to drive, getting close to 50 mpg on the highway in the real world, has good acceleration and build quality. Go take a test drive at your Chevy dealer, but also take a look at the Volkswagen Jetta TDI for a comparison between the two clean diesel cars available in this segment.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

Cruze Diesel Competitors

VW Jetta TDI – fuel economy (city/highway/combined) 30/42/34

VW Passat TDI – 31/43/35

BMW 328d – 32/45/37

Story & Photos by John Faulkner

Posted January 6, 2014

Other related stories you might like:

Road Test: Jetta TDI vs. Jetta Hybrid

My Top 10 High-MPG Cars of 2013

Top 10 Best Fuel Economy Cars for 2014

 

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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