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2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel Review, Details and Differences

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel Rocky Mountain Review
By Dan Poler
Colorado Bureau
The Auto Channel

For the 2014 model year, Chevrolet has added a diesel engine option to its successful Cruze compact sedan, making it one of only two compact sedans sold in the US with an oil-burning option (the other being the Volkswagen Jetta TDI). We recently got to spend a week with the Cruze Diesel, and learned a lot about what it is – and what it is not.

It’s impossible to write about a diesel-powered GM non-truck without taking a moment to reflect upon the Oldsmobile Diesel debacle of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s – the dirty, underpowered, and failure-prone engine that soured a generation of Americans on the use of diesel in anything other than trucks. In fact, everywhere we went, it was top-of-mind for anyone we talked to. “Diesel in a GM car? Hope it’s not like the Olds!” was a common sentiment we heard. Very fortunately, however, thirty years changes a lot. Although the thought is there, the reality is that the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel bears no resemblance to these old monsters.

Like many GM products, the Chevrolet Cruze has a complex series of options and trim levels which don’t bear completely detailing here; suffice it to say that the Cruze Diesel comes in a single trim level which is fairly uplevel – it includes a 7-inch touchscreen interface for the stereo, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, a six-way power driver seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, leather seating surfaces, and heated front seats. Notably absent from our tester was an auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless ignition, and a back-up camera or sensors. Some of these features are available in various option packages, but the fact that they do not come standard may be a mark against the Cruze Diesel relative to its competition.

On the outside, only a small, green “2.0 TD” label on the rear trunk lid serves to distinguish the Cruze Diesel from it’s gasoline-powered counterparts. The exterior design is otherwise identical – attractive, if perhaps just a little bit bland. We have to look under the sheetmetal to find the real differences.

Up front, Chevrolet uses a German-built 2.0-liter turbo diesel which is most easily described as a shrunken version of the Duramax diesel engine employed by its heavy-duty pickup truck line. In addition to a diesel particulate filter, the Cruze employs a high-tech exhaust treatment system which uses urea injection to reduce nitrous oxides put out the tailpipe. This requires a 4.5-gallon tank of urea, requiring refill roughly every 10,000 miles – the urea tank sits beneath the trunk in what would ordinarily be the spare tire well – a can of fix-a-flat and a small 12-volt air pump are substituted for the usual spare. The automatic transmission is different relative to a gasoline-powered Cruze; in the diesel it’s still a six-speed, but sourced from Japan’s Aisin – a heavier duty model to handle the increased torque of the diesel powerplant.

Various other changes are made for the Cruze Diesel here and there, such as the use of active grille shutters and aerodynamic body panels borrowed from the Cruze Eco, slightly larger brakes, and noise-reduction baffling shared with the Cruze’s upscale brother, the Buick Verano.

All of these bits and pieces serve to provide very little discernible difference between the gasoline and diesel models from inside the cabin. Only the very brief wait for the glow plugs when starting, and a slight vibration at idle from the diesel engine are evident. The cabin is otherwise the same as is provided on an uplevel gasoline-powered Cruze, including leather seating surfaces, a unique nylon fabric accent to the dash and door panels, and blue-lit instruments. In other words, aside from which fuel pump you’ll be pulling up to, you’re otherwise unlikely to notice the difference in day-to-day life with the Cruze Diesel.

Driving the Cruze diesel is also essentially unchanged from its gas-powered brother, with one notable exception, and that exception is turbo lag. As with many turbo-diesel setups, the lag is pronounced, and the driver can expect a good two- or three-count between putting his or her foot to the floor, and the car taking off like a shot. This can make turning into traffic or accelerating to highway speeds quite a nerve-wracking experience. We noted that the transmission tends to shift very early, sacrificing some acceleration in the interests of efficiency, but this can be overridden by letting the driver choose gears instead of the computer. Once on the highway, the Cruze Diesel really shines – 65 MPH is achieved at slightly under 2,000 RPM, allowing the vehicle to really achieve its expected fuel economy.

Let’s talk about that fuel economy for a moment. How is it? The answer is… Not bad, but not as good as we’d hoped. With a city / highway estimate of 27 / 46 mpg, we managed to average 36 MPG with fairly conservative driving during our time with the Cruze, and that’s really pretty good – but you start to see the problem when it comes to the math. We’ve recently seen better MPG from less expensive cars in this segment – ones powered by plain-old regular unleaded. This puts the Cruze in the unenviable position of commanding a premium to be powered by fuel that also commands a premium; when viewed through this lens, the value proposition that the Cruze brings in its diesel-powered variant suddenly starts to look a bit shaky.

We ultimately have to say that the Cruze Diesel is a solid addition to the Chevrolet lineup. If you do a lot of highway cruising at 65 MPH, you’ll realize excellent fuel economy despite the concerns mentioned above. It’s great as well to see the resurgence of diesel in the United States as an alternative to gasoline in a segment other than heavy-duty trucks – the days of black smelly smoke belching diesels are behind us, and options are a good thing to have. We expect that many drivers will take advantage of a diesel-powered compact sedan in the years to come.

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

Base Price: $18,095.00
Price as Tested: $25,795.00
Engine Type: DOHC Turbo Diesel
Engine Size: 2.0-liter
Horsepower: 148 @ 4,000 RPM
Torque (ft-lbs): 258 @ 2,000 RPM
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Wheelbase / Length (in): 105.7 / 181
Curb Weight: 3,471
Pounds per HP: 23.5
Fuel Capacity (gal): 15.6
Fuel Requirement: Ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD)
Tires: Goodyear Assurance; 215/55R17
Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated disc / Solid disc
Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson Strut / Torsion Beam
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / observed: 27 / 46 / 36
Base Trim Price: $24,885.00

Options and Charges

Heater, Oil pan: $100.00

Delivery: $810.00

Price as tested: $25,795.00