2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel: fuel economy review for automatic, manual versions

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Times are tough for sedans in general, as buyers swarm into crossover utility vehicles and ignore the passenger cars sitting next to them on the showroom floor.

Also, gasoline remains cheap.

All of which may add up to tough times for the current Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, the compact sedan to be offered with a high-efficiency turbo diesel engine.

DON'T MISS: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel first drive (Apr 2017)

For the balance of August, Chevy is offering 20 percent off the sticker price of any Cruze Diesel.

That means a base-model Cruze Diesel with a 6-speed manual transmission can be purchased for just about $20,000, including delivery.

Those who miss the deal can get either $3,500 in cash back or a 1.9-percent APR over 60 months.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel (with 6-speed automatic transmission), Catskill Mountains, NY, May 2017

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel (with 6-speed automatic transmission), Catskill Mountains, NY, May 2017

We had a chance earlier this year to drive a pair of Cruze Diesels, spending several days and 280 miles with a charcoal-grey automatic version and a few hours with a bright red manual sedan.

It's clear that the second-generation diesel Cruze is a far better vehicle than its predecessor, which was fine on the highway but relatively unpleasant to drive in stop-and-go and low-speed traffic.

But there's no questioning its fuel efficiency: our automatic Cruze Diesel returned a stunning 48.2 mpg reading on the trip computer over our usual two-thirds highway, one-third city test route.

READ THIS: Chevy Cruze Diesel: quieter, more fuel-efficient, B20-capable (Feb 2017)

That's significantly better than the car's EPA ratings, which are 31 mpg city, 47 mpg highway, and 37 mpg combined for the automatic version.

The base 6-speed manual Cruze Diesel comes in at the same 37-mpg combined rating, but its city rating is lower at 30 mpg, and the highway rating is even higher, at 52 mpg.

Over 60 miles of mixed urban and parkway driving, the manual Cruze Diesel gave us a reading of 36.1 mpg—essentially matching its combined rating.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze 4-door Sedan 1.4L Premier w/1SF Dashboard

2017 Chevrolet Cruze 4-door Sedan 1.4L Premier w/1SF Dashboard

Our experience over 280 miles in the automatic version underscores the widespread evidence that under many circumstances, diesel cars can significantly outperform their fuel-economy ratings.

We liked our time in both cars, although we note that the higher cost of a diesel powertrain with modern emission aftertreatment gear has led Chevy to cut a number of features out of compact sedans that stickered above $26,000 and just below $30,000 respectively.

Our automatic test Cruze Diesel, at $29,655, had a sunroof, but omitted automatic climate control, power adjustment for the front passenger seat, and even an automatic-up feature for the driver's window.

CHECK OUT: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel sedan rated at 37 mpg combined

On the road, each of the two Cruze Diesels had satisfying elements and a small number of quirks.

We spent more time in the automatic version, which is fitted with a 9-speed automatic that shifts fairly frequently to match the diesel's limited rev band.

It also comes with start-stop as standard, which kept the engine off up to 90 seconds at a time and started up quickly and fairly smoothly, considering the high compression ratio it had to overcome.

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