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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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
Past Experience Doesn’t Make One Optimistic, But Times Are Changing.
Plug-in electric cars had record sales this past year, jumping 84 percent from the previous year’s sales and hitting almost 100,000 in sales. They’re selling better than hybrids did after their introduction more than a decade
100 years of progress, but it doesn’t happen quickly
ago. Optimists expect the trajectory to continue; pessimists point to the waning of incentives from government to offset the increased prices of EVs and the lack of automakers ability to continue the fire-sale tactics that dominated the 2013 market.
As is always the case at the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another, predictions for the future of new technologies abound. Some representative headlines:
- Nissan announced it will have autonomous cars for sale in 2020.
- Eight governors pledged to get 3.3 million more zero emission cars on the roads by 2025.
- Three quarters of vehicles sold worldwide by 2035 will have autonomous features.
- By 2022 there will be nearly 1.9 million natural gas-powered trucks and 1.9 million natural gas buses globally.
But experience tells you to step back and take a breath when you read this kind of prognostication. President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union address called for the country to put a cumulative one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. In that total he included range-extended versions such as the Chevy Volt. Of course, it was not to be since that total was built on the expectation of GM selling 120,000 Volts a year in 2012 and 2013 (as well as 50,000 Leafs and 10,000 Ford Focus Electrics in 2013). Not to mention the expectation that the Fisker Nina would be produced and sold along with the Think City, Fisker Karma and Ford Transit EV. Of course it didn’t anticipate all of the plug-in cars that have some on the market in the past two years, but the cumulative numbers will be nowhere near the expected million.
It reminds me of the Yogi Berra quote: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
Ford On Fuel Cells
Hyundai steps up to retail its fuel cell cars this year
I found an interesting story and quote from less than 13 years ago. Bill Ford, then chairman (now executive chairman) of Ford Motor Company. “I believe fuel cells could end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion
engine.” He then predicted that Ford would offer fuel-cell-powered Focus by 2004.
Well, here we are a decade later and its Hyundai, not Ford, who is putting a fuel cell vehicle on sale (the Tucson FCEV goes on sale this spring at California dealerships). Of course Honda, Mercedes and GM have put limited numbers of fuel cell cars in consumers’ hands, but this is the start of the retailing of this technology.
FedEx’s Pledge & Reality
Another illustrative story comes from FedEx, a leader in adopting new technology. In 2004 they joined with the NGO Environmental Defense and Eaton Corporation pledging to replace its 30,000 medium-duty trucks
FedEx moves slower than expected
with hybrid trucks over the coming years to reduce both pollution and greenhouse gases. It seemed like a win-win with environmental advances also paying off in a better bottom line for FedEx because of increased efficiencies.
Well, again, here we are a decade later and FedEx has deployed 408 electric and hybrid (either gasoline-electric or diesel-electric) trucks. The good news is FedEx’s leadership has led to another 1,400 hybrid delivery trucks hitting the roads with other companies. As FedEx acknowledged, government incentives will continue to play a critical role in rollout of advanced technology vehicles.
These Things Take Time
These things do take time. Wishful thinking won’t get us there. Government money can help, but ultimately it can only play a minor role if the goal is the transformation of a fleet. Cars and trucks that are better alternatives to gasoline ones in every way will be the only way to make it happen. That’s the way gasoline won out over electricity and steam 100 years ago. That’s why diesel won out over gasoline in Europe 15 years ago. That’s why the Toyota Prius is the 10th best-selling car of 2013.
In spite of all of the predictions, 2014 could be one of those years where we see some real change. We at Clean Fleet Report will be here to chronicle it.
What the future may hold
Story & Photos by Michael Coates
Posted January 3, 2014
Other related stories you might enjoy:
Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars of 2013
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Go On Sale in 2014
Cars and Technology of the Future
EPA Rates Them All; Finds Plug-ins Best;
100 MPGe May Be The New 40 MPG.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency spends a good portion of its time and manpower compiling a guide that compares like vehicles’ fuel economy, spaciousness (interior space) and engine technology. The result for 2014 vehicles (cars and trucks) is now available on www.fueleconomy.gov and has a new benchmark – the Top 10 fuel economy cars all feature a plug. Some are pure electrics and others are plug-in hybrids. The fuel economy numbers are astronomical by historical standards, but are setting the new benchmark for what a modern automobile needs to achieve to be considering a state-of-the-art environmental leader.
The side story to this list is that being a high-mileage hybrid or diesel (or gas-powered car) is fine, but it doesn’t set you apart as a true leader in the fuel economy department anymore. Not that long ago we were talking about
Spark EV-King of the HIll
40 MPG being the floor for an efficient vehicle; already, it looks like 100 MPGe (equivalent to gasoline miles per gallon on an energy basis) is now the ticket to be among the leaders.
Here are the Top 10 for 2014, with some commentary about each. Of course the biggest caveat is that these fuel economy numbers by design are miles per gallon equivalent, since some of these cars use no gas at all and others are capable to running for a significant amount of time without any petroleum.
1. Chevy Spark EV – 119 MPGe – Chevy’s spunky little electric car takes top honors in the fuel economy race with its efficient electric powertrain. When we tested it, the Spark EV lived up to its billing.
2. Honda Fit EV – 118 MPGe – Honda comes close to Chevy with its slightly larger Fit EV, though neither car has scored significant sales this year. Price cuts brought buyers into the showroom, but sales are still averaging less than 50 per month.
3. Fiat 500e – 116 MPGe – Right in the mix (after all, what a few MPGe’s when you’re into triple digits) is the fun little Fiat electric car. We gave it a spin and came away very impressed with the Italian approach to the EV.
4. Nissan Leaf – 115 MPGe (2013) – Even though it’s the best selling pure electric car, the Leaf was not included in the EPA listing for 2014 models since its 2014 model doesn’t launch until next month, but it is unlikely its
Best-seller and Top 4 MPGe
MPGe will change so we’ve included the 2013 numbers. We have spent plenty of time in the Leaf and find it to be well-suited to the task of almost replacing your internal combustion car.
5. Honda Accord PHEV – 115 MPGe – Honda’s engineers have scored a very impressive feat by producing a plug-in hybrid that turns in fuel efficiency numbers on par with pure electrics. Well received in the marketplace – and just named Green Car of the Year – we were impressed when we first had a chance to drive the Accord.
6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV – 112 MPGe (2013) – Another model missing from the 2014 EPA listing is Mitsubishi’s quirky electric car. As is the case with most plug-ins, it has struggled to find customers (although selling twice as many as the Fiat 500e or Honda Fit EV), which led to a price drop in the new model.
7. Smart fortwo ED coupe/conv – 107 MPGe – The diminutive Smart has a couple things going for it – it’s the only convertible electric car on the U.S. market right now, and it’s on its third generation and shows the lessons learned from earlier iterations. The zippy two-seater is primarily found in car-sharing programs.
8. Ford Focus Electric – 105 MPGe –
9. Ford Fusion Energi PREV – 100 MPGe –
10. Ford C-Max Energi PHEV – 100 MPGe (2013) – We can close out the Top 10 with a triumvirate of Ford models – its pure electric Focus and two plug-in hybrids (dubbed Energi), the Fusion sedan and C-Max wagon. having three models gives Ford the most variety of any automaker in the high-MPG stakes, although even with three models its cumulative sales still trail the single model sales of the segment leaders – the Leaf, Chevy Volt and Tesla Model S. That said, they are competent vehicles and have been building sales. They also represent a piece of Ford’s strategy that has the plug-in models offered along with non plug-in hybrids.
Ford Offers 3 Ways to Plug-in
Bubbling under the Top 10: While the task of being in the Top 10 in MPG (or MPGe) is getting more difficult every year, three models that are right below the No. 10 cutoff can claim other marks that may be even more impressive. They represent three of the top four best-selling plug-in cars (the other is No. 4 Nissan Leaf) of the most recent month (October 2013), a mark that in some ways is more impressive than their still-hefty fuel economy numbers. The three are:
- Chevy Volt – 98 MPGe
- Toyota Prius PHEV – 95 MPGe
- Tesla Model S 60/85 – 95 MPGe/89 MPGe (2013 numbers)
BMW’s i3 will probably land in the Top 10
Two more to keep an eye on: Two vehicles (with three models) appeared to have not made the testing deadline for inclusion in the EPA guide, but can be expected to be in the mix as soon as their numbers are finalized. BMW’s new i3 (which will have a pure electric as well as a range-extended version with a small gas engine) will probably make it into the top 10 and bump out one of the Fords. Cadillac’s ELR coupe, since it is based on the Chevy Volt architecture, will probably turn in similar numbers to its four-door cousin so not crack the Top 10.
Missing in action: Gone from last year top fuel economy list are the Scion iQ electric, Coda sedan and BYD e6. None of the three made much of an impact although the latter two did represent the first Chinese cars on sale in the country and BYD is still likely to return with more models later in the decade.
Two new cars for 2014 that didn’t have reported numbers in the EPA guide and probably won’t make the Top 10 are exotic hybrids – the McLaren P1 and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Both are wonderful examples of technologies but are unlikely to have the efficiency of the more mundane models on the list. The price for the Porsche starts at $100,000 while the McLaren will run a staggering $1.15 million.
Story & Photos by Michael Coates
Related stories you might like:
Luxury Electric Car Market Heats Up
Cars & Technology of the Future
How To Find the Best Price For an Electric Car
MPG: 40 Years of Politics
The past 40 years of our automobile’s fuel efficiency has been largely helped – and hurt by our government. Here we break down the past 4 decades of MPG ratings and how they were determined.
1970′s – Average MPG: 14
- The oil price shock of the 1970′s pressured Congress to introduce CAFE standards in 1975.
- This new law called for the doubling of passenger cars’ fuel economy to 27.5 MPG within the next 10 years.
1980′s – Average MPG: 27.5
- Due to CAFE, vehicle efficiency increased steadily throughout the decade, hitting the required 27.5 MPG mark set by Congress.
- Ford and GM lobbied Congress to lower the standard, to 26 MPG in 1986.
- “We are about to put up a tombstone: “Here lies America’s energy policy.” – Chrysler Chairman Lee LaCocca
1990′s – Average MPG: 26
- Senators Richard Bryan (D-Nev) and Slade Gorton (R-Wash) sponsored legislation that would raise fuel economy standards over 40% in the next decade.
- The bill was filibustered on the Senate floor by Michigan senators. If it were to pass, the US would be saving over 1 million barrels of oil per day.
- Congress then passed an anti-fuel economy rider that remained in effect from 1995 – 2000, barring the president from changing fuel economy standards.
2000′s – Average MPG: 25
- Congress lifts the freeze on fuel economy in 2000, standards are raised on light trucks only by 2%.
- In 2005, after 4 years of debate, Congress failed to increase the MPG standards.
2010′s – Average MPG: 27
- New CAFE standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks are introduced, improving standards by 10-20% by 2018.
- The EPA has raised standards for passenger cars to 54.5 MPG by 2025.
“This will be win, win, win; it will reduce reliance on oil, strengthen energy security and mitigate climate change.” -Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
By Chris Piper
Flex-fuel Jeep at ZeaChem plant
Update: March 12. ZeaChem announced today that it is now producing commercial-grade cellulosic chemicals and ethanol at its Oregon plant.
The goal is to replace the petroleum that powers 96% of our vehicles with something more environmentally friendly, preferably produced domestically and renewable. To that end California has awarded $4.6 million to ZeaChem Inc. of Lakewood, Colorado, and Menlo Park, California, to build a pilot plant to push along the process to develop an advanced replacement for gasoline using woody biomass and agricultural residue.
Most of the ethanol currently in use comes from corn, which works just fine in most engines in low blends and actually provides a higher octane (though it has less energy as it takes a gallon and a half of ethanol to equal the energy of a gallon of gasoline). But corn ethanol, while functional and widely used in E10 blends around the country, doesn’t meet the sustainability criteria set out by some governments or environmental organizations, hence the push for solutions such as the one offered by ZeaChem. Working with a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ZeaChem aims to develop a “drop-in” biofuels that could replace not only gasoline, but diesel and jet fuel. The company expects to have diesel and jet fuel replacements ready this year while the gasoline replacement (a step beyond cellulosic ethanol) are due in 2015.
“With our process we have a 90% CO2 reduction compared to fossil fuels,” said Robert Walsh, Chief Commercial Officer at ZeaChem. The company’s patented fermentation process, currently in use in a 250,000 gallon-per-year demonstration plant in Oregon, takes local trees grown specifically for this purpose and converts them into cellulose-based acetic acid, ethyl acetate, ethanol, jet fuel and diesel. They can also use residue from sawmills and other cellulosic material leftover from agricultural crops. With less inputs for fertilizer and water than corn or other crops, the ZeaChem process strikes the right environmental balance for a petroleum replacement fuel.
ZeaChem has been funded by venture companies along with some investment by at least one oil company. They use a patented process that takes biomass (ZeaChem prefers hybrid poplar trees such as the ones growing adjacent to its Oregon plant or fast-growing eucalyptus trees as a feedstock for plants in the southern hemisphere) through a process of fermentation, esterification and hydrogenation. The result is 135 gallons of ethanol from each ton (bone dry ton in their parlance) of biomass, a yield up to 40 times what can be pulled from corn, sugarcane and other cellulosic feedstocks.
Ethanol isn’t the only product ZeaChem can produce; its process can produce acetic acid and ethylene vinyl used in paints, coatings and consumer goods, cellulosic acetate used in adhesives, ethyl acetate for solvents, ethylene for plastics and ethylene glycol that’s used in polyester. If anything, all of these other potential uses for their output create a pull away from fuel production since the returns for other chemicals are higher than that offered in transportation fuels.
Harvesting poplar trees for conversion to ethanol
Those other products may be critical to the company’s survival as the costs of cellulosic ethanol production remains high and the biggest challenge in this portion of the renewable fuels industry appears to be finding financing for production facilities. After financing hurdles, ethanol producers also face high feedstock costs and declining gasoline demand, creating negative margins that have idled many traditional ethanol plants and slowed cellulosic development.
But, as Walsh explains it, ZeaChem is committed to fuel production for the long term. They have support from government loans and incentives that prop up prices from the national renewable fuels standard (RFS2) and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. They and a handful of other companies such as Poet-DSM, DuPont and Abengoa Bioenergy, are on the leading edge of cellulosic ethanol production. Walsh said ZeaChem expects to be at commercial scale (25 million gallons per year) for fuel production within a couple years and will follow with other chemical products soon after. They’ve already signed a memorandum of understanding with Chrysler outlining the two companies mutual goals of bringing cellulosic ethanol into vehicles consumers can buy, so expect to see some future Chrysler product getting a factory fill of ethanol, something like what the company did in supplying B5 (5% biodiesel) from the factory with its Jeep Liberty vehicles in the mid-2000s. Since liquid fuels are going to used in hundreds of millions of vehicles for decades, it’s a move that can’t come too soon.