2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel review
Serious fuel mileage, diesel power and affordability in an American midsize sedan.
- 46 mpg highway fuel economy
- Diesel torque
- An interstate animal
- Hard plastic edges
- No manual transmission option
- Garden tractor idle
Offering outstanding fuel mileage and playing the green card have been part of the game to sell hybrids and electric vehicles in the United States. But as German imports have proven, the diesel engine is where economy and power inherently coexist. Now Chevrolet has drawn on General Motors' global reach to combine its proven 2.0-liter diesel from Europe with the familiar Cruze midsize sedan to deliver unprecedented 46 mpg highway fuel economy, a 700-mile range and powerful torque in an affordable package.
The Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel comes in a single trim level. It's nicely equipped, with an inoffensive but not especially inspiring design — exactly the treatment expected in a mileage specialist and perfectly acceptable for daily use. That said, the diesel Cruze is no stripper, boasting leather front seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, express power windows in all four doors and remote keyless entry.
Chevy also provides a full series of mainly standalone options, namely a power moonroof and a recommended Pioneer premium sound system with nine speakers. Other offerings balance functionality and feel-good cosmetics, such as a chrome trim package, illuminated sill plates and a rear cargo mat. Chevrolet's MyLink connectivity suite is standard; Sirius XM Satellite Radio is optional as is a navigation system.
Under the hood
While the Cruze's diesel engine is new to North American customers, it's an old favorite in Europe, where it's been in use for years. The 2.0-liter turbodiesel is updated for the harsher U.S. climate and it has been tweaked to handle more stringent emission regulations, with things such as a new variable-runner, high-swirl intake manifold, ceramic glow plugs, higher capacity cooling, an oil pan heater for extreme cold weather starting and a timing belt rated for 100,000 miles before replacement.
Furthermore, urea injection is fitted for emission compliance. There's enough of this fluid onboard to not run dry between the 10,000-mile oil change intervals. Even better, Chevy is including the first two years of scheduled service as part of the diesel Cruze's purchase price. It's a safe bet for Chevy, as the proven diesel should be bulletproof.
Some items not modified for North American use are the low-friction valve train, iron block and dual-overhead-cam 4-valve aluminum cylinder head. With a 16.5:1 compression ratio, the turbocharged 2.0-liter oil-burner thrums up 151 horsepower at 4000 rpm and 264 lb-ft of torque at 2600 rpm. Most telling, there's a muscular 250 lb-ft of torque from 1750 to 3000 rpm — giving the engine its meaty feel. There's even momentary overboost available; it yields 280 lb-ft of torque for brief periods.
Worth mentioning is the 2.0-liter's Bosch-sourced, high-pressure common-rail fuel system, which is rated for up to B20 diesel, a market-exclusive biodiesel fuel that fans will appreciate and that the Volkswagen Jetta TDI can't match.
The only transmission offered is a 6-speed automatic. It is operated by a conventional console-mounted shifter (no paddles). All Cruze Clean Turbo Diesels are front-wheel drive; there is no all-wheel-drive option.
As a midsize sedan the diesel Cruze has plenty of room in the front seats and enough space in the rear for kids or adults on short trips. The interior materials and finish are a little price conscious, but such workday fare is fine for the daily commute and helps make the excellent fuel economy affordable in the first place.
The Cruze basics are well executed, with things such as legible instrumentation, generous steering-wheel-column travel and seat adjustments; plus, we appreciate the optional 10-way power seats.
The car has a surprisingly complete set of features, especially with a few affordable options (a pleasant lack of price gouging is a Cruze strongpoint). Good examples are the 10 airbags, rear park assist, blind-zone assist, a rearview camera and rear cross-traffic alert which takes the terror out of backing out of parking spaces. You can even instruct the optional navigation system to call out stations that offer diesel fuel if desired.
On the road
Overall, the Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel feels like the familiar midsize sedan it is, but with a definite increase in strength under the hood. Those new to diesel power will instantly enjoy the full-bodied acceleration, and anyone who's spent time in hybrids will appreciate the diesel Cruze's blessedly linear brake pedal and sharp throttle response. Acceleration from a dead stop takes a half beat to get moving as boost pressure builds, but then there's nothing but locomotive-like thrust. Energetic off the line, the diesel Cruze is even stronger accelerating at highway speeds, and it has absolutely no trouble gobbling up interstate at 80 mph, a speed that yields about 43 mpg according to the dash display.
Those doubting the Cruze diesel's 46 mpg highway rating can forget it; this is one rating you can take to the bank. And with 15.6 gallons in the tank, the Cruze can go 700 miles before needing a refill.
If there's a downside to the diesel experience — and we're stretching here — then it's the distant, muted engine clatter at idle. It's loud enough to notice, but nothing we could begin to call annoying. Once underway there's no aural or olfactory way to tell there's a diesel in the engine room.
Right for you?
The only domestic diesel sedan in the U.S., the Cruze is designed to compete favorably with the Volkswagen Jetta TDI diesel. It's somewhat more powerful, goes about 100 miles farther on a tank of fuel, has two more airbags, and earns an extra star (5 out of 5) in its Department of Transportation safety rating. It trades fuel-economy rating leadership with the Germans, boasting better highway mileage but worse city and combined mileage ratings. In the city the numbers are 27 mpg Cruze versus 30 mpg Jetta; on the highway it's 42 mpg Jetta versus 46 mpg Cruze.
Pricing is a Cruze talking point, starting at $25,695 with destination charges compared with the VW Jetta TDI's $26,325. The tester we drove was a typically equipped model with remote starting, leather seating, a 6-way power driver's seat, a 6-way manual front passenger seat, XM Satellite Radio, a prosaic 6-speaker sound system, MyLink smartphone integration, Bluetooth, voice-activation, electric rear window defogger, remote keyless entry along with the optional sunroof ($900) and oil heater ($100) for a total, with destination charges, of $26,695. For a midlevel midsize sedan with the best fuel economy of any nonhybrid sold in the U.S., that's certainly a fair value.
Pricing aside, anyone with a long commute absolutely must consider the diesel Cruze because long trips are where diesel economy is unbeatable. Those who appreciate strong, torque-laden power combined with good economy will also like the diesel Cruze no matter how short their commute, and everyone will enjoy the car's tremendous range. All told, there's no "gutless" penalty for fuel economy with the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, and that's the big attraction to this car.
(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report.)
Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson's credits include local racing championships, three technical engine books and hundreds of freelance articles.
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As far as I know neither the Jetta nor any of the 2.0L VW-Audi TDI's require Urea injection.
According to news releases, the upcoming Mazda diesel won't need it either.
I'm curious as to the price of this fluid as its necessity will increase the cost-per-mile of any vehicle in which it's needed. If it's $5 per 10,000 miles, no big deal. On the other hand, if it's $50, that's another storey!
I am please to see a domestic car maker finally offer diesel power in a modest vehicle. I hope Chevy sells the dickens out of 'em. That said, I am sorry to hear that it will not be offered with a manual transmission. It's kind of a deal breaker for me :(
I'd love to see Chrysler offer diesel powered Dart. I'd snap it up in second. I've never understood why Ma Mopar has not as yet offered a diesel car for the American market while they overrun the rest of the world.
Diesel Jeeps are a thrill to drive
They forgot to mention this thing will flatten out a hill, if you live in a mountainous area you need to seriously consider this car. If you don't mind a compact car with a 1980's sound system and rather hard seats, the MPG's are better than advertised and it is quite, I guarantee you will not know you are driving a diesel until it pulls you up a hill at 1500 RPM feathering the throttle. Good looking car too. Another feature is front air dams that automatically open and close for air flow and a variable geometry turbo. The exhaust fluid price varies, you can pick up a cheap gallon for 8 bucks or you can get it from the dealer for 24 bucks a gallon, some other brands cost 20 bucks for 2.5 gallons. Right now the dexos2 oil this engine takes is only available at the dealer in the US, but major brands like Mobil and Shell already have approved oil that they sell overseas.
This technology has been around for years in Europe. Only there, they get 70-80 miles per gallon. If you don't believe me, look up a auto manufacturers website in he UK. Check out the vehicle spec's, and the mileage. The US has restrictions here to protect the billions of tax dollars collected on the sale of fuel to the US consumers. They maintain these restrictions that keep out the true potential of the diesel engines. Therefore protecting the potential loss of the billions of dollars collected in the sale of gas and diesel here.
Just take a moment to check it out. The diesel engines are already capable of getting at least 30-40% higher mileage than they are allowed to produce here in the USA.