Quick Spin: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

2014 Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel Engine

It is pretty amazing, but General Motor’s past experiences with diesel-powered cars still remain a punch line of many jokes. It’s no surprise then that it has taken them decades to very carefully come out with a new diesel offering. That new diesel, a 2-liter, four cylinder was installed under the hood of the midsized Chevy Cruze, a significantly more conservative choice than the company’s diesel models of the past.

Chevy makes no secrets that the Cruze is aimed directly at the hot-selling Jetta TDi. Chevy will quickly point out their car is more powerful, with 151hp and 250lb-ft, more efficient, and less expensive when comparably equipped (MSPR: $25,695). If Volkswagen was here to defend themselves, they would say that their car has a lower starting price and is available with a manual transmission, which has a very high take.

2014 Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel side

In my quick spin of the new Cruze Diesel I found the Opel-sourced engine to be sufficiently powerful, if a bit loud at idle compared to the VW TDi standards. The problem is the six-speed automatic transmission which is eager to upshift and slow to downshift, all in the name of fuel economy. A manual mode allows the driver to shift, but there should really be a sport mode, as on the Beetle TDi, which would keep the driver from shifting yet remain entertaining to drive.

Also unlike the Jetta TDI, the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel has urea injection. Chevy says that the tank is big enough to hold more than 10,000 miles worth of the fluid. In its voyage from Europe the engine has gained a timing belt with an improved service life of 100,000 miles, ceramic glow plugs, and B20 bio-diesel compatibility. Speaking of service, Chevy will throw in two years worth of it when you buy the car.

2014 Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel interior

Otherwise, the Cruze seems like a nice car. The seats are comfortable and supportive. The dash was logically laid out with fewer buttons than other GM offerings. Overall dimensions are very similar to the Jetta, which is to say about average for a midsize sedan. EPA says that the Cruze diesel should get 27mpg in the city and 46mpg on the highway, potentially giving it a cruise range of 717 miles.

Sales of this car will dictate if we will see more General Motors diesel models in the United States. Based on the amount of diesel models becoming available from so many manufactures, combined with ever-increasing amount of hybrid vehicles available, the timing for this car seems excellent yet is still risky. The real winners of this, now highly competitive, market are the buyers who now have more fuel-efficient options than ever.

2014 Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel gauges

 

14 Comments

  1. I feel like this will fail just because of how they optioned it. Most diesel drivers tend to be the frugal type (which is why they are going for a diesel in the first place), so only offering it in rather expensive, almost loaded all the way up form seems counter to the market. And as you said, manuals have a very high take rate in the diesel community. To not offer one seems a misstep. GM keeps on doing this same pattern and then wondering why things fail. Let's test the water by only releasing the package almost no one will buy! Seems like a great idea!

    1. Yea, if GM were a single guy, he'd go to bars unshaven, unshowered and wearing a grubby t-shirt, because if he finds a girl who's attracted to him like that, then she's worth the effort to get cleaned up for.

    2. Part of why diesels get optioned up (mind you, VW doesn't go *THAT* high) is the cost of the engine and its emissions control systems (believed to be a $3-5k real premium over a gas engine).
      Options are cheap, but people think they're expensive. But, GM doesn't want the engine directly compared to their gas engines on price, so they hide the premium in options.
      End result, a $26k Cruze.

      1. Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel – the engine is an option only on a Limited or high version at a $4000 premium.
        What you say makes sense.

    3. I'm going to hazard a guess that you haven't ever shopped for a diesel in the US then. When I was shopping the Jetta Sportwagon TDI last year, there were no base models anywhere in the Western US. In fact, the only base model TDI we found was a base Beetle TDI that had been ordered and then refused.
      I think the high take rate on the manuals is mainly due to two reasons, neither of which is purchase price driven.
      1) Diesel buyers in the US are car people. The same audience would probably skew high on manuals even without the diesel component.
      2) The DSG in the VW TDIs had a lot of mixed press, especially paired with the diesel, when it first came out.
      I think the biggest challenge GM will face here is that it's only in a sedan. Looking around in Colorado, where VW TDIs are very, very popular, I see most TDI badges on the backs on Sportwagons and Golfs. TDI Jetta sedans, although not uncommon, lag behind wagons and hatches by a significant margin.

      1. As the owner of $29k worth of Jetta TDI, I can attest to this. I think the main reason is the fact diesel customers almost always buy their cars, according to my dealer they rarely if ever lease TDI's. Since the bulk of them are buying and are fairly informed about the vehicle, they go into buying it fully knowing they'll have it for half a million miles and will amortize the options accordingly. The DSG 'problem' was never really there. It got described as an automatic stick shift and people automatically thought of the auto-stick found air cooled's, much to the same wrap as GM with diesels in general. I personally went with the manual (like you said, price wasn't a bearing). Girlfriend has a DSG in her gasser and I'm almost swayed into owning one… one day maybe. They aren't bad.
        I think the biggest challenge GM will face is idiot customer base, as you said the diesel VW geeks are car people and you'll occasionally hear about somebody's wife/kid/inlaw borrowing their car and topping it off with gasoline and doing $10k of damage after they grenade the HPFP. To think this risk exists along with the fact that you have to add NOx aftertreatment is the nail in the coffin. The fact that the Cruze sounds like a 30 year old clackety diesel doesn't help. The VW (which does dyno out at published numbers of the Cruze) is considerably more refined in the NVH department.

        1. Out of curiosity, what's wrong with a diesel sounding clattery? I ask because as the former owner of an older TDI, I rather enjoyed the miniscule peterbilt sounds it would make. Honestly, when I was shopping not long ago, the increased refinement was one if the reasons I didn't go with the latest generation of tdi. It just didn't feel "diesel-y" enough for me anymore. But, no manual trans kills the cruze oil burner for me.

    4. See also: Quadrasteer on the GMT800 pickups and SUVs. By the time they realized, "Hey, maybe we should try offering it a la carte instead of in a couple-thousand dollar option package," no one cared anymore.
      Which sucks, because it worked brilliantly.
      [youtube mCDfsRtXSQc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCDfsRtXSQc youtube]

      1. That was AMAZING tech.
        Full-size, extended cab pickup with a turning circle equal to a Mercedes W123 sedan.

      2. Exactly !!! They were talking about how easy it was to back a work trailer and the trucks that were equipped probably never saw a darn trailer. It should have been an option on the work level, manual window, vinyl seat models.

        1. A lot of fully-loaded trucks actually do get used to drag trailers around, though. Think horse owners.

    5. At the same time, because of the limited appeal, they should depreciate quickly, resulting in a great commuter in 3-5 years which will be pretty much as loaded as possible.

  2. I can't help but think if the diesel types would stoop to consider any domestic, it'd be the Focus.
    I also wish that GM would badge these as diesel. I find the Jetta's TDI badges are rather helpful in giving me advance notice that I'm barrelling up on some beardy, adenoidy hypermilling dick who insists on driving about 15km/h slower than the rest of us, in the middle lane. Just in case they migrate to Cruze Diesels (colour me cynical on this), I'd like to know.

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