2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel: Quick Drive

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Boasting an EPA-estimated 27/46/33 mpg city/highway/combined, the diesel version of the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan is now hitting dealerships in select cities. We took a brief drive in the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel — Chevrolet's first diesel-powered car since the 1980s — here in Chicago, which will be one of the car's early markets.

More on the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

The car will also appear in cities Chevy has determined have high sales of three things: diesel fuel, the gas-powered Chevy Cruze and the car that has owned the diesel slice of this segment's pie, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, which is rated 30/42/34 mpg with an automatic transmission. After appearing in Baltimore, Denver, Portland, Ore., and Milwaukee, the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel will spread across the country by year's end.

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It's obvious from the name Chevrolet uses in all of its press releases — Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel — that the automaker is trying to re-educate the American motorist, whose expectations of diesel vehicles are that they're noisy, smoky, smelly and slow. That's what they used to be but aren't anymore.

Standing outside a running CCTD, you know it's a diesel. Though it's not necessarily loud, it's louder than the Jetta TDI, and it has the distinctive chugga-chugga diesel sound, which you also hear from inside. Thankfully, you don't feel it. Hydraulic engine mounts isolate the shuddering 2.0-liter four-cylinder from the cabin. You don't even feel it when you turn the Cruze's engine off. Such high-compression diesels tend to jolt the car a bit when you shut them down. It's a bit noticeable in the Jetta and surprisingly jarring in Mercedes-Benz diesels I've driven.

Off-the-line pokiness in the Cruze recalls diesels of old, but in this case it results from a throttle progression tuned to prevent inevitable wheelspin. The drivetrain management also uses this trick during turns, for the same reason. The engine hardly lacks grunt, with a rated torque peak of 264 pounds-feet at 2,000 rpm and a claimed 280 pounds-feet for short bursts if you go past 90% on the accelerator pedal.

After a few meters, the Cruise diesel hits its stride, pulling ahead confidently with even power delivery. Chevy says the engine makes 250 pounds-feet of torque from 1,750 to 3,000 rpm. (Typical of diesels, this one has a lower redline than gas engines — 5,000 rpm — so the 1,250 rpm span actually makes up a respectable segment of the rev range.)

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I found the car reasonably quick, but by no means a sports car. The estimated zero-to-60 mph time is 8.6 seconds. I suspect its diesel payoff is best appreciated in a car that's full of adults, or loaded with cargo, or climbing a steep hill — and probably all three at once. The most potent gas-powered Cruze, with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder, produces 148 pounds-feet at 1,850 rpm. Even its horsepower peak, at 138 hp, is lower than the diesel's 151 hp.

The six-speed automatic transmission, a model different from the one in the gas Cruze, mostly behaved well, though there were a few times it hesitated when I jabbed the pedal to pass. Typical of diesels, the acceleration is pretty modest once you hit highway speeds.

To accommodate the car's heavier engine and overall weight, the CCTD has a revised suspension with different springs and shock absorbers. The car retains the comfortable ride we've come to expect from the gas-powered Cruze, and the body control seems good in turns, if not exceptionally sporty. I've never found the regular Cruze to feel particularly sporty anyway.

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So what are the downsides for the diesel Cruze? One is its use of a selective catalytic reduction system in the exhaust, which comparable Volkswagen cars don't employ. SCR requires a urea solution called diesel exhaust fluid that must be refilled roughly every 10,000 miles. That's not the downside; it's a minor issue that gets blown out of proportion. But the 4.5-gallon tank does occupy the space meant for a spare tire, so you're stuck with a sometimes-worthless sealant system instead.

Another downside is price: The Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel starts at $25,710, including an $825 destination charge. It's closest in features and appointments to the gas-powered Cruze 2LT, which costs $23,305 with an automatic transmission. With the CCTD's high mileage, the price premium is easier to justify if you do a lot of highway driving — especially at this point in time when diesel prices have dropped below those for gas in some states such as Illinois and Wisconsin. Chevy's timing is excellent.

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Here's another downside —for both Chevrolet and the clean-diesel movement: From an outside inspection, you wouldn't know the Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is a Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, because even though Chevrolet goes out of its way to emphasize the clean, the turbo and the diesel in the car's name, the exterior is even more muted than the engine.

The only badging is a green rectangle next to the model name that reads "2.0 TD." It's nearly indistinguishable from a gas-powered Cruze Eco at more than two paces. In comparison, the Jetta's TDI badge shouts at you ... yet is admittedly equally meaningless to the uninitiated. (The 2.0 TD even shares the Cruze Eco's front end, active grille shutters and other aerodynamic treatments.)

Major blunder, Chevy. Nothing makes the case for a modern clean diesel as effectively as experiencing one, and with this car's minimal badging, people won't know they're experiencing the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel — the black smoke it's not putting out, the odor it's not producing and the traffic it's not clogging. I think the car will prove itself, but it could use some help.

Related
2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel Video
Research the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze
More Alternative Fuel News

Comments 

AgentMike

Here GM takes an excellent opportunity to lead the field in Diesel powered vehicles and squanders it away by aiming low. And you wonder why they were bailed out and most Americans shop elsewhere..

fanboy

Great car. Diesel cars have no value except for highway driving and in that department Cruze diesel handily beats the Jetta TDI. Plus its faster than VW. Nice job Chevrolet.

Others

So it has the features of a premium car. Why not they sell Diesel in 2 trims with 1 as high end and the other as base trim.

This is what is done in the Hybrid versions of Camry, Fusion & Optima. It gives a choice.

But a cost minded person will go for Prius or C-Max since it gives near 50 MPG in both city and highway.

annalisa bluhm

Agent Mike -The Cruze Diesel has better HP, Torque, HWY fuel economy, price and features than the Jetta TDI - the only passenger car non-lux diesel in the same segement... I'm not sure that's "aiming low" ( I work for Chevy, BTW - So I know I am biased) - I want to understand what you mean by your comment. In what way do you feel we aimed low?

david price

first off. Chevy does not lead the industry in Turbo Diesel. infact that TDI is a VW engine The 2.0L VW TDI that is in the chevy cruze. Along with the Cadilac AWD which infact is AUDI. VAP traded Chevy for the northstar system giving them the Famous Audi Quattro AWD and the TDI Turbo CLEAN Diesel Engine. So the engine in the Jetta and cruze are the same engine. and the cadalac northstar can be found in the new 2014 Audi A8L Luxury limo by Audi. who Admitted to selling the AWD and TDI for the northstar system to Chevrolet. along with that they use the german keys now for theft protection. as well as dodge now using the Audi DSG 6 and 8 trans for there cars that is why the 2010 A8 has a 8 speed padle shift trans the now so does the 2013 crysler 300. and fan boy no chevy is faster than the Jetta R. or GTBIand as for the cruze beating a turbo jetta it top speed once that limiter is removed goes from 155 to 175. with a 0 to 60 at about 5.7 seconds ny own car a gas powered 3.2L 0 to 60 in 5.3 top speed without limiter 178. fact is the new chevy is more a VW than anything

Curtis

The first company to release a hybrid diesel powered car is going to hit a home run. Imagine how many MPG the prius would get if it had a small diesel engine.

Bernardo Jaramillo

Who wants the overhead cost of hybrids just to get 4 more mpg???

PAS (Peugeot, Citroen, Renault) already have a diesel hybrid.... We may see a Nissan here since Renault owns Nissan, just like the versa is built on a Renault plataform.

Moe Montminy Jr

David Price you sir are a moron. The Cruze TD is not from VW. It is from GM/Opel and has been used in europe in Opel vehicles. get your facts straight before you spew crap out your mouth.

Paul

Lol @ david price... You sir havent a clue what your talking about... At all... I did get a good laugh at your post though, so thanks for that!

If gas prices keep rising, i bet cars like this new little chevy will be more and more popular. I think it will be pretty successful..

boeingboy

At David Price...I suppose the A350 is the B787 with different winglets right?

milo

LOl, so much passion. I have been driving VW tdi's for year and am very happy to finally see an US company finally putting forth the effort. I am sure there will be bugs that haft to be worked out, but at least they got a start. Now we just need a good quality mid size pickup diesel.

shrpshtr

wrong...the 2.0TD in the cruise is an Fiat designed German built engine...NOT a VW.

have a nice day

Marshall

Nice job Chevy.

m.visser

A new gas Cruze can be had for 17K
A new diesel Cruz for 28K

Perhaps justify a difference of 4 k, but 11K?

GM has too many bodies versed in the dismal science.

P.Gakui

Milo...... Talk about a midsize pick up. 2014 Ram will have a 3.0 L Diesel expected to have 25/30 mpg.

The car using hydraulic cylinder in its engine process also gives reduction in the fuel.

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