Last fall, GM executive Tom Stephens said the company would offer a passenger car with a clean-diesel engine in the U.S. market, its first since 1985.

Now we know what that vehicle will be: a model of the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan.

Workers at the Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant where the Cruze is built were told about the model last week, according to GM Inside News.

The engine in question will be a modified version of the General Motors corporate 2.0-liter turbodiesel. It is already available in Cruze models sold in Europe and, as the Holden Cruze, in Australia, among other markets.

'Diesel fuel only' caution on Audi Q7 TDI

'Diesel fuel only' caution on Audi Q7 TDI

In Australia, the 2.0-liter common-rail turbodiesel engine is rated at 148 horsepower (110 kW) and a strong 236 foot-pounds (320 Newton-meters) of torque. It is offered with a five-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.

In the U.K., the Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 VCDi model with the same engine delivered 42.0 miles per gallon (50.4 miles per Imperial gallon) on the European test cycle. It cost  £17,325 (roughly $28,250 including tax) as tested by Autocar magazine in September 2009.

Internal documents indicate that the U.S.-market diesel will have an engine option code of "LUZ" on the order form. According to GM Inside News, development vehicles (known as "mules") are now being fitted with the diesel engine for testing at GM's Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.

Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 VCDi turbodiesel (Europe)

Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 VCDi turbodiesel (Europe)

The success of the 2013 Cruze clean diesel model in the U.S. market will depend on several factors:

  • the price of gasoline;
  • the price of diesel fuel and the cost difference between that and gasoline;
  • the cost differential for the diesel engine over the turbocharged 1.4-liter engine fitted to most U.S. Cruze models; and
  • whether GM has to fit an expensive urea-injection emissions treatment system to get the engine certified for tougher U.S. emissions standards.

While diesel engines are more efficient and deliver better MPG figures than gasoline engines of the same power, they do not represent a large portion of the U.S. passenger vehicle market.

Car companies and industry analysts say that for several reasons, small diesels won't dominate U.S. car sales. But most experts expect that over the next five years, diesel sales will slowly rise as a percentage of the total U.S. car market.

Gas pump

Gas pump

A 2013 Chevrolet Cruze clean diesel, competitively priced and delivering mileage notably higher than the ratings of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco--which the EPA rates at 28 mpg city, 42 mpg highway for the six-speed manual version--could speed up that rise.

Would you buy a Cruze diesel? What fuel mileage would it have to deliver, and at what sticker price? (Please be realistic: "60 mpg for $12,000" is not realistic.)

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

[GM Inside News]