When Chevrolet unveiled the compact Cruze, a key message was fuel efficiency that would be world class.
We already have the 1.4-litre turbo, the 1.4-litre Eco model and 1.8-litre naturally aspirated engine that more than fill the bill.
Now added to the lineup is the 2014 Diesel with promise of 4.2L/100 km highway operation.
Chevrolet claims that is the best mileage of any non-hybrid on Canadian roads.
The heart of the Cruz Diesel is, of course, its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels through GM’s ubiquitous six-speed automatic transmission.
While the Cruze Diesel is built in Ohio, the engine comes from GM Europe, which has been operating the Cruze with diesel power for some years now.
It produces 151 hp and 264 lb/ft torque with 0-96 km/h (60 mph) performance of 8.6 seconds. Chevrolet claims this is better than the Volkswagen Jetta TDI automatic and competitive with other German diesel cars that currently dominate the North American market.
The engine is considered a “clean diesel” in that it produces about 90 per cent less nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate emissions when compared to previous-generation diesels.
Much of this is due to a 17-litre tank that holds enough diesel emissions urea fluid to provide at least 16,000 kilometres (10,000 miles) of driving between refills.
But even more important, and the raison d’etre for the car, is its range.
With a fuel rating of 7.5L/100 km in the city, the highway mileage is 4.2L/100 km. With a 59-litre tank, it is theoretically possible to cover 1,400 km on a single fill-up. That would be Toronto to Halifax or Vancouver to Regina.
That’s pretty fanciful but 800 to 1,000 km, assuming one is judicious on the throttle, is possible in the real world to make trips such as Vancouver to Banff or Toronto to Quebec City, as examples.
The engine starts with just a hint of diesel clatter, but is well muffled, thanks to the turbo. Using dash mats and an engine hood blanket, a lot of work went into cutting noise intrusion into the cabin.
It is impossible not to notice the abundance of torque throughout the rev range. Off the line, you must remember not to floor it as 264 torques would be a lot even in a big V6 mid-size sedan.
Other than that, the Cruze Diesel drives like any other compact sedan except for all that grunt the torque delivers to the front wheels. For instance, least 250 lb-ft of torque is on tap from as low as 1,750 rpm.
And if that is not enough, there is an overboost function that pumps up the torque briefly to 280 lb/ft for short bursts of stronger acceleration when needed such as merging onto a busy highway.
I drove the Diesel for a very short period during a GM-sponsored ride-and-drive for its fleet customers to whom the Cruze Diesel would be very attractive. I noticed the Diesel comes with a set of ultra-low resistance all-weather 17-inch tires.
While they are great in terms of cutting road surface friction, they are like India Rubber balls in the cold. Anyone buying the Diesel, in my opinion, would be wise to invest in a second set of wheels with snow tires for winter.
The Diesel I drove came in a very deep purple that almost looked black. With the interior also in charcoal, I’d probably opt for a brighter exterior like a rich red I’ve seen on other Cruze.
With a starting price at $24,945, plus a $1,550 destination charge (excludes tax, title, licence and dealer fees), the Diesel comes with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, 3.20 final drive ratio, 140-amp alternator, 800-cold-cranking-amps battery, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, performance package and leather-appointed seating.
Other standard features include Chevrolet’s infotainment system MyLink, and a five-year/160,000-kilometre powertrain warranty.
MyLink is a very comprehensive infotainment system that Chevrolet has invested a lot of time and money into getting to work right.
Old Luddite that I am, I still find there is more data than I will ever need. But for drivers like my 23-year-old daughter and 21-year-old son, this kind of connectivity is second nature.
About the only other difference is a slightly smaller trunk volume of 376.6 litres compared 425 litres for the gasoline versions of the Cruze. This is due to the mounting of the urea container in the rear.
Now you can opt for the 1.4-litre Eco version of the Cruze which has a similar highway rating but the advantage of the long-wearing diesel engine and, thus, higher resale value, are major considerations, not to mention the savings in fuel dollars over a long run.
All in all, the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel offers the alternative of thrifty operation without the weight and cost of a hybrid.