2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel First Drive

"I heard someone got 47 mpg on the drive down," someone murmured at the dinner table after I arrived in Indianapolis for the 97th Indy 500 race. I had driven from Detroit in the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, the highest-mileage variant of Chevy's successful compact sedan.

I was that hypermiling driver, and no, I did not draft semi-trucks or drive 10 below the speed limit. Over 267 miles, at an average speed of 68.7 mph, I averaged 46.9 mpg. (The Cruze's trip computer optimistically read 47.1 mpg.) According to a neat economy gauge in the Cruze's instrument cluster, my best mpg average over a 25-mile period was 55.2 mpg. I used just 5.7 gallons of the car's 15.6-gallon tank. In theory, that means the 2014 Cruze Diesel could go about 800 miles before refueling, but with an EPA rating of 27/46 mpg city/highway, Chevrolet quotes a range of 717 miles.

The heart of this mileage champ is a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder. The engine is a revised version of the 2.0-liter unit used in the Opel/Vauxhall Astra, Insignia, and Zafira overseas. However, for its U.S. application, General Motors engineers gave the four-cylinder numerous updates. Most important is the addition of a particulate-scrubbing urea filter, necessary to meet American emissions standards. The North American unit also gets a new intake cooler, a higher-capacity ERG sensor, ceramic glow plugs to aid cold starts, a low-friction vacuum pump, an improved timing belt system (that only needs to be serviced every 100,000 miles), and an optional oil pan heater ($100).

The result is that the Cruze Diesel is good for 151 hp at 4000 rpm and 264 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm, with 250 lb-ft available from 1750 to 3000 rpm and a maximum of 280 lb-ft with overboost. The oil-burning Cruze pulls strongly, without turbo lag or sudden wallops of power.

There is one direct competitor for the Cruze Diesel here: the Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The VW is down 11 hp and 28 lb-ft; its EPA city rating is better, at 30 mpg, but its highway figure of 42 mpg is 4 mpg lower. The Chevrolet's additional torque makes it feel like the faster car off the line -- it's half a second quicker to 60 mph -- but your ears will pay dearly for it. Unlike the Volkswagen, there's no mistaking the Chevy for anything other than a diesel. Whereas the Jetta's engine noise is subdued, the Cruze's clatter is reminiscent of an old diesel Mercedes-Benz. That said, it's most audible at idle and at low speeds; it fades away once the car gets moving, and the cabin is one of the most hushed in the compact sedan segment.

Even though they thrum loudly at highway speeds, the 17-inch low-rolling-resistance tires (fitted to the Diesel and Eco models, P215/55R17 all-seasons wrapped around split five-spoke alloy wheels on the Diesel) aren't Chevy's only mileage-increasing trick. The Cruze Eco also donates active aerodynamic shutters, revised grille baffling, and a redesigned undertray to aid airflow on the highway.

Despite the additional 200 pounds of weight from the diesel engine, the 2014 Cruze Diesel drives just like any other Chevy Cruze. The chassis is retuned to cope with the weight increase -- the steering calibration, suspension, and pedal mapping have all been modified. The steering is well weighted with a nice heft, but communicates little of what the front tires are doing. The ride is firm, but not punishing; however, it's not as well sorted as its VW competition -- the Chevrolet exhibits harsh impacts over larger bumps.

The Cruze Diesel also uses a different transmission than gas-powered models. Unfortunately, the Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic (no manual is offered on the Diesel) -- is slow to respond to inputs and is just as clunky as the GM-designed six-speed in non-diesel models. The Cruze's traditional automatic isn't any worse than the Volkswagen's dual-clutch unit, however, and the Cruze is never jerky on shifts or confused as to which gear to be in, the way the Jetta often is.

Impressive build quality, good ergonomics, and high-quality fabric inserts on the dashboard make the Cruze cabin feel as though it belongs in a more expensive vehicle. The firm seats are comfortable for long drives, although I would have liked an adjustable lumbar support. The base six-speaker sound system on the Cruze Diesel helps drown out highway tire noise and trumps the Jetta TDI's optional Fender system (Chevrolet also offers an upgraded nine-speaker Pioneer audio system for $445). The Cruze's cabin falls short of the Jetta's in space -- it's down on front head- and shoulder room and by a full 2.7 inches of rear legroom, and feels it. Where the Volkswagen's interior is bright and airy, the Chevy's is more cosseting and sporty. That said, outward visibility is very good, save for the thick A-pillars that sometime make parking-lot maneuvers difficult.

Compared with the gas-powered Cruze models, there are almost no aesthetic changes to the Cruze Diesel. Eagle-eyed onlookers will notice the unique wheel design, four-wheel disc brakes, and small green 2.0 TD badge. Otherwise, there's little to differentiate the Diesel from any other Cruze.

Pricing for the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel starts at $25,695, including destination. It's not quite an apples-to-apples comparison with the Volkswagen Jetta TDI because Chevrolet offers just one trim level with standard features like leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, 17-inch wheels, and a touchscreen infotainment system. (The VW is available in three trim levels.) With all the option boxes ticked, the American and German cars are almost at parity in price and equipment. It comes down to a matter of badge prestige -- Volkswagen still holds an edge over Chevrolet in that respect -- the importance of highway fuel economy, and personal preference. Thanks to its better interior and its outstanding real-world fuel economy, the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel edges out the Volkswagen Jetta TDI in the two-car compact diesel sedan segment.

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

Base Price: $25,695
Price as Tested: $25,695
On Sale: Now
Engine: 2.0-liter turbodiesel I-4
Horsepower: 151 hp @ 4000
Torque: 264 lb-ft @ 2000
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel
Wheels: 17-inch aluminum wheels
Tires: P215/55R17 all-season tires
Curb Weight: 3475 lbs
Fuel Economy: 27/46 mpg city/highway
Doors/Passengers: 4/5
Cargo: 13.3 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 42.3/35.4 in
Headroom (front/rear): 39.3/37.9 in
Towing: N/A
Bryan Nepveu
What?!?  No manual transmission?  No spare tire?  Weellll GM, NO SALE!!!!!!!!!!
We own a Mercedes E350D, 2012 VW Passat TDI - SEL, a 335D BMW, and two work trucks - A E350 Econoline 6.0 Diesel and my 2011 GMC Allison Diesel 2500 truck.  All of these vehicles are great vehicles but our VW Passat build quality is the worst - unbelievable that we have to put up with so much road noise from this cavernous vehicle.  I love the size and relative price but with less than 20k miles, it is falling apart.  Given that my GMC diesel is great - I would love to see a Cruze Diesel in the space that my Passat holds now.  As for the additional expense of diesels - I not that the same argument is not made against HYBRIDS with all of their variable costs and maintenance that far exceeds the cost of diesel.  With all of their torque, today's diesels are simply fun to drive. See you at the green pump out on the edge of the edge of the gas island.   
One thing they never mention in theses articles it the increased cost of maintenance.  More frequent oil changes and they use more oil, the cost of the fuel filters, urea, and in Denver the increased cost of emission tests vs. gas.  With the added cost of the vehicle, you'd have to drive a lot of miles before you'd break even if ever.  Diesels are to be driven, not just short trips to the grocery, etc.  I have a friend that retired and now drives his Chevy pickup a lot less. When he went to the testing station he didn't pass.  Spent quite a sum of money to get it to pass.  Thanks, now that I'm retired, I'll just pass on the diesels, especially GM diesels.  I remember the junk they put out in the 70's.  I'd wait to see how they perform before I'd buy one.
The question is GM moving in the right direction? The diesel is a euro that needed "upgrades"? Does the GM tranny need work? I think so on all accounts but obviously need to do some catching up as VW has had allot of time working out diesel issues. But I like it. I really want a diesel hybrid in a more useful body say a station wagon or mini mini van, not very exciting but great mpg for a family.
Even if I wanted a Cruze with the automatic (which I don't) I would take the 6 speed manual, which works quite nicely.  The automatics in the Cruze that I have driven are just unwilling to work with the driver.  In order to downshift you will need to slowly push down on the accelerator and wait... and wait, and then it will downshift abruptly, and usually two gears down.  This is the way the Cruze gets its 26/38 EPA numbers. I have driven new automatic Ford Fusions, new Chevy Malibus, and the new CVT Accord.  All of them were very nice.  Maybe Chevy should retune the Cruze's automatic and drop the EPA numbers a few mpgs.  Who wants to drive a car that doesn't want to do what you want it to?By the way, one of the goodies in the Jetta TDI is that the manual transmission is a 6 speed.  The GLI also has the 6 speed, but the 2.5 models only have a 5 speed.  I am pretty sure that all VW TDI models have the 6 speed manual, although some of the top trims (especially the Passat) can't be had with the stick.
No manual transmission available??  The only trim level available is the most expensive fully loaded model??  GM, don't you understand that most of us diesel lovers are basically the no frills type, just want the basics, and that we are about the biggest economy minded cheapskates around?  What you have here is about the most completely opposite of that which you could have ever thought up.  I would love to buy American if only I could, but there is just nothing here I want.
red rotors
The author failed to mention an important point when comparing to the Jetta. The Cruze uses urea additive. The Jetta does NOT need urea (add-blue). If I am willing to buy a new car that has to use urea I'll get a Passat which gets same to better real world fuel mi. than the Jetta due to the Jetta engine loss to emissions tuning vs. Passat w/urea. I'll be curious to see what the Cruze gets real world but it seems like it's the worst of both, small car, needs urea but doesn't get any better fuel mi. for it. That in addition to no 5 door, no manual and to me it adds up to major FAIL for GM. Sad, I really would love to buy American.
Already a well made, affordable, and good looking car, the diesel option will only add significantly to the popularity of the Cruze.  Well done, GM!  This is also a great move to keep the lineup fresh ahead of the 2015 redesign.
That's great for Gm! Lets see how they can mess up the diesel market for another twenty years this time. If your going to do something let's hope GM can do it right. I am sure Chrysler / Fiat group is ready to unleash its wide assortment of small Diesel engines on its line up of cars but now all these Chevy owners will be fueling up at the wrong pumps and that will be the end of it.
No stick, no spare tire, a smaller trunk than the gasoline Cruze, front seats too skinny, cramped rear seating-- no thanks.  While I probably wouldn't buy a VW, if I had to choose between these two cars, I would get the VW.  There are so many VWs with the TDI-- 3 doors, 4 doors, 5 doors, convertible, etc. The VW corporation could simply survive by only having the diesel.  This one-trip-pony Cruze will probably be overcome by the Jetta diesel, et al.
red rotors
50k mi. Passat SEL TDI here, solid as the day it rolled off the lot. Routine maint. only. The last GM we owned fell apart around a still running motor at around 135k mi. At least everything broke and rusted out at once so it didn't nickel and dime us to death before we realized it needed to go to the salvage yard, not that there was much to salvage other than the long block.
red rotors
While I agree that diesels like to run and it would be silly to buy one if you drive 5k mi. a year just about everything else you wrote is wrong in my experience. In my state diesel car and light truck inspections cost less than gas engine. I do my own oil changes, the OCI is 10k mi. diesel vs. 5-7.5k mi. gas. I use "the best" syn. oils and they cost the same diesel and gas. We (extended family) have several over 250k mi. (one over 500k) so, yes there is nothing wrong / bad with 10k OCI. Fuel filter? Yep needs to be changed but so do gasses, usually 2 to 1 diesel vs. gas but then the gasser needs spark plugs. I could go on re maintainance
red rotors
Agree. Re equipment/options, Some say they do this to help absorb the cost of the diesel in the options markup margin.Re the manual, I guess they felt the take rate wouldn't justify the certification cost.VW does the same (re equipment/trim) though not as bad with the TDI. TDI is pretty much it's own trim level in some models. Try to get a gasser base spec. Jetta or Golf w/the TDI engine - not gonna happen.
red rotors
At least in the last article re the diesel Cruze the urea tank in the trunk was mentioned, of course the fact that the Jetta doesn't use urea was never mentioned so the articles on the diesel Cruze here get even less informative here. Spin perhaps?
@ed124c That's because VW is selling us their European cars. Only now it's changing with the new Passat. The European not only did not kill the diesel, like we did, but, they nourished these engines for decades and now are so far ahead of Detroit that it makes no sense anymore to try to compete with engine design. GM would be better off taking ready Opels and modifying them to meet US needs. The VW, BMW, Mercedes and now Fiat appear to succeed this way. GM tried it, out of desperation, just before the bankruptcy with Opel Astra selling a few here as Saturns and then stopped and returned to the old practice.
red rotors
re maintainance but my experience is that diesel costs less than gas and I spend less time working on them. Urea, yep, some of the new ones need it, have you priced a jug at a truck stop? Like buying dry gas for your gasser. If you remember the 70's GM diesels then GM and other diesel sellers today hope that the younger generations looking at the new diesels will take your "experience" in the same light as the rest of your outdated "old timely" grandpa stories.
@red rotors They do it to justify the higher initial cost of the diesel to the buyer. Make you compare the diesel with other upscale trims. Easier for marketing to push the cost increase onto the buyer this way.
@ChevroletFan @ed124c I think you are right.  Actually, it sounds a bit scary.  I guess I would, grudgingly, have to add "freshman/ unknown engine for the US" to the list of this Cruze's problems.  It does seem that GM is always lagging behind.  Too little, too late.
red rotors
That's exactly what I said - hide the cost of the diesel in the margins on a loaded model vs. a stripper.
red rotors
Ummmm....... Did you guys even read the article? Third paragraph, might want to give it a look. They did take a euro Opel engine and modify emissions to meet USA anti-competition (no sound scientific basis) standards. VW does the same w/their engines for N. American market sale cars. The Cruze diesel engine is not a repurposed Olds gas engine. I suppose the emissions mods could cause some teething pains, if they do then the car is a sure flop vs. a probable flop."The heart of this mileage champ is a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder. The engine is a revised version of the 2.0-liter unit used in the Opel/Vauxhall Astra, Insignia, and Zafira overseas. However, for its U.S. application, General Motors engineers gave the four-cylinder numerous updates. Most important is the addition of a particulate-scrubbing urea filter, necessary to meet American emissions standards. The North American unit also gets a new intake cooler, a higher-capacity ERG sensor, ceramic glow plugs to aid cold starts, a low-friction vacuum pump, an improved timing belt system (that only needs to be serviced every 100,000 miles), and an optional oil pan heater ($100)."

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