2013 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel: Not Just MPG, MPH On Offer Too

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Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 VCDi turbodiesel (Europe)

Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 VCDi turbodiesel (Europe)

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Diesels: Dirty and slow, right?

Only if you've never left the 1980s.

Diesel engine technology has come along in leaps and bounds over the past two decades and the best of today's diesel vehicles easily offer a compromise between performance and economy to best equivalent gasoline vehicles.

General Motors thinks that U.S. consumers want the extra performance that modern diesels provide as well as simply the economy, and is making the business case for bringing the turbo diesel Chevrolet Cruze, already on sale in Europe, to the United States. The decision was confirmed last month by GM CEO Dan Ackerson.

The performance benefits are necessary to draw in the customers as GM already sells a fuel efficient Cruze, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco. At 42mpg highway according to EPA figures, the Cruze Eco is already quite efficient, and its turbocharged gasoline 4-cylinder makes 138 horsepower with 148 lb ft of torque.

The European 2.0-liter turbodiesel Cruze makes 160 horsepower and 265 lb ft of torque by comparison, yet on the European extra-urban (highway) consumption cycle manages over 53mpg. Even with the 6-speed automatic transmission favored by American drivers, the diesel Cruze should do 45mpg highway - higher than the manual Cruze Eco can manage.

Economy is great then and maybe even enough to offset the $0.20 to $0.30 a gallon for diesel, given the benefits of an automatic transmission - but what about performance? The manual Cruze Eco can cover the arbitrary 0-60mph sprint in 10.2 seconds. The automatic diesel Cruze can reach the same speed in 9.4 seconds - making it more relaxing to drive, and still more accelerative.

Many drivers now familiar with diesels appreciate their driving characteristics too - highway cruising is relaxed and low revving, and strong low-down torque means fewer downchanges are needed for quick passing maneuvers.

Joseph Lescota, chair of the Automotive Marketing Management Dept. at Northwood University in Midland, Missouri, describes the diesel Cruze as "A win for Chevy and it’s a win for consumers wanting the best of both worlds, performance and reasonably good fuel economy without an unusually high penalty on the fuel budget", also praising it as a choice for anyone who wants to buy an American brand vehicle.

Europe has been partial to diesels for years now, for its economy benefits and reduced cost, with diesel being cheaper in many countries than gasoline. Carmakers such as Volkswagen have led the charge to increase performance and reduce consumption and emissions, their efforts evident in vehicles such as the Jetta TDI.

If diesel proves as popular in the Cruze as it is for Volkswagen with the Jetta TDI, sales could be impressive - 39 percent of Jettas sold in the U.S. are the diesel version. GM could get the jump on the rest of the market too, as J.D. Power forecasts diesel sales will increase from 3 percent of the passenger car market today to 7 percent by 2016.

For cost-conscious efficiency fans the benefits are clear, with the average diesel costing from $1,000 to $4,000 more than the equivalent gasoline vehicle, and hybrid vehicles a little more than that.

With performance, economy and potential long term reliability benefits, a diesel Cruze will make a lot of sense for a lot of drivers.

The diesel Cruze is expected to go on sale in 2013.

[Wards Auto]


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Comments (12)
  1. Diesels have their value, but this article make several key mistakes.
    1) He uses the EPA gasoline numbers and compares them with the European Diesel numbers. The EPA numbers are easily 20 lower for diesels which can be confirmed by checking EPA and NEDC numbers for Jetta TDI. The result, the Diesel and gasoline number on the Cruze are likely to be the same.
    2) The comparison with hybrids is deeply flawed. The Prius has 50%, or more, better economy in the city than the Jetta TDI. Sure if you drive highway, the diesel is probably great.
    3) Don't buy a Diesel if you are ONLY doing city driving. It messes up the particle trap.
    4) A Prius and Jetta TDI diesel are similarly priced, so forget the $10,000 premium quoted.

  2. From what I have seen this engine is quite a guzzler in Europe compared to TDI engines. I don't know if that will change by the time the diesel reaches the us for the 2013 model year. To point one I do see a lot of people testing the TDI engines and finding that the highway numbers are quite underestimated, but that is subjective and based on driving style.

    As usual you are quite right about the city MPG's. Conventional ICE's are not good at stop and go conditions what so ever. I don't see a diesel as a direct competitor to hybrids nor do I see them as completely clean either. Ideally cars should be connected to the grid to take advantage of multiple electric fuel sources. I don't think Diesels are a long term solution.

  3. Thanks also for your input Tyler. You're right, in Europe the Cruze is slightly thirstier than the Jetta, but comparing the two models, the Cruze offers more performance than the Volkswagen whilst costing less, so there's a trade-off for the lower MPG.

    Diesels aren't perfect in cities, but they tend to be very good on longer trips, as stated in the article. They're not as clean as hybrid vehicles, but the strong torque is something that has to be driven to be appreciated - it makes long, higher speed drives very relaxing.

  4. Hi John, thanks for your comments.

    1) I'm aware the EPA and European tests are different but your 20mpg estimate seems quite pessimistic - it might be 20 if you don't translate imperial gallons to U.S. gallons but otherwise it's nearer 5mpg - EPA quotes 42mpg for the Jetta TDI, and it's 48mpg on the EU cycle. As such, the diesel, automatic Cruze might make slightly lower numbers than the Eco, but the manual should be considerably higher.

    2) On combined MPG diesels and hybrids typically work out fairly similar - hybrids a little higher, but a hybrid being better in the city and diesel better on the highway tends to even out.

    3) Good advice

    4) We expect the diesel Cruze to be cheaper than the Jetta, making the cost estimates more accurate

  5. Sorry, I intended to write 20% lower, not 20 mpg.

    2) As for your hybrid vs diesel comparison, even considering combined number Prius is 50 MPG and the TDI is 34 MPG. The TDI is not even close.

    4) Cruze ECO $18,425, Prius $23,526, difference. $5,101. Your $10,000 figure is way off the mark and should be revised. A commonly used figure is $6,000. Also, How much do you want to bet the Cruze Diesel is more expensive the Cruze ECO?

    I think to be considered even a remotely balanced article, it should have mentioned hybrid's city advantage. There are many people (like myself) that do nearly 100% of driving in the city.

  6. Apologies John. I'll revise the hybrid price estimates, I wasn't aware how far off they were. There's no intention of bias though and as the article isn't concerned with hybrid vehicles and only the Cruze diesel versus Cruze Eco, there's no real need to mention a hybrid's city economy.

    I don't disagree the Cruze diesel will cost more than the Eco - indeed the article mentions that diesels cost more than gasoline vehicles. The benefit for most drivers will be the extra performance combined with still impressive economy, and the fact the diesel achieves good MPG with a more popular auto gearbox option.

  7. Antony,
    Thanks so much for your consideration.
    John C. Briggs

  8. Diesel...finally...California, with its head in the sand, had long ago made the sale of diesels impractical and far from affordable. They may do so again, raising the bar to an unachievable level.

    Why the Cruze has to have so much power is beyond me? Scaling down the diesel engine and final drive ratios could easily make 60 mpg attainable.

    I think Americans are toning down their demands for all that acceleration and power.

  9. Exactly! Take my 2010 Honda Fit, add a 1.3L or so CDTI like you get in the Opel Corsa, a CVT transmission, and it's not unthinkable that the car couldn't get 65 MPG on the HWY.

  10. I would prefer the full Monty: A Cruze hybrid diesel that might get 65 MPG. My next car must be some sort of hybrid or plug-in hybrid because I don't want to be held hostage by possible fossil fuel shortages due to wars, conflicts, price hikes, hurricanes, and man-made shortages.

  11. I am a fan of diesels & resent the limited choice of affordable diesels in the USA. I hope a Cruz diesel hatchback will be available for under $20,000. I don't trust VW's for reliability & the only reason I would look at a VW is the availablity of the diesel option. I would prefer to buy a Ford Fiesta or Focus diesel but Ford refuses to sell them in our so called "free country", the USA but sells them in Europe. Until I can buy a new affordable diesel in the USA,I will continue to drive to drive my 1983 M Benz 300SD & 1982 VW Quantum turbodiesel.

  12. I hope it comes standard with auto start/stop and electrical energy recuperation.

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