2017 Chevrolet Cruze DieselEnlarge Photo
In early February, I drove the new Toyota Prius. While the temperatures were far cooler and likely affected the fuel economy, I struggled to return 44 mpg on a broadly similar mix of highway and city roads.
Driving the Prius for mileage was an annoying affair, requiring me to putter away from stoplights and hang out in the slow lane on the freeway as other cars passed, just so I could come up short on the EPA-estimated freeway figure. It was tiring and tedious.
Driving the Cruze Diesel, on the other hand, was not.
The combination of 240 pound-feet of torque and an excellent 9-speed automatic makes the Cruze Diesel both usably quick and easily efficient on the freeway.
Dip just a toe into the throttle and the 1.6-liter engine obediently serves up enough torque to keep up with traffic.
Dig further, and making a pass with the Cruze Diesel is even easier than in a gas-powered Cruze. Surprisingly, it's quieter, too.
2017 Chevrolet Cruze 4-door Sedan 1.4L Premier w/1SF DashboardEnlarge Photo
During Chevy's diesel background briefing, the company called the 1.6-liter the “flüsterdiesel,” a nickname bestowed on it by the German automotive media after they drove it in Opel models.
The word flüster is German for whisper, which is an appropriate moniker for such a quiet engine.
While there's some clatter on startup—I'm eager to see if that was a product of the cooler temperatures I tested in—the flüsterdiesel deserves every ounce of praise.
The engine is inaudible under gentle acceleration at freeway speeds, and would be the same around town if it weren't for the lack of road and wind noise.
Push the pedal harder, and there's a negligible increase in volume that I could drown out by turning up the heater's fan speed a notch. The 1.6-liter is that quiet.
Only under really heavy throttle does the 1.6-liter make its presence known, and even then, it's quieter than the gasoline-powered Cruze's 1.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder.
2017 Chevrolet Cruze 4-door Sedan 1.4L Premier w/1SF Front SeatsEnlarge Photo
While the diesel engine deserves a lot of praise, the reality is that I'd be ignoring the sublime 9-speed automatic. GM has just nailed this transmission.
It engages quickly and smoothly off the line, and then executes upshifts so seamlessly I wish GM offered a gear indicator in the dash, because I rarely sensed what the transmission was doing.
It's similarly unobtrusive when downshifting, where the 9-speed served up lower gears almost immediately. (I think.)
I'm certain there were downshifts happening, because it's the only explanation for the tach needle being in the right place all the time, but it was virtually impossible to tell for sure.