Jun
12

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

Chevrolet’s Cruze compact sedan, introduced to replace the Cobalt in 2011, has been a big hit in the U.S. It has also been a big hit in Europe. And few cars of this size get to be a big hit in Europe without a diesel engine.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that “over there,” the Cruze is available with a diesel. It’s probably also no surprise that, given the stunning success of Volkswagen’s diesel cars, a diesel version of the Cruze would eventually be offered here.

Well, “eventually” has finally arrived. On sale now, at least in certain parts of the country, is the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel. That’s the official name; oddly, the cars themselves will wear just a tiny green “2.0 TD” badge to differentiate them from their gas-powered brethren.

At a recent Chevrolet press event for the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, we not only got some specifics about the car but also a brief test drive. Since its primary competitor is the well-known Volkswagen Jetta TDI diesel, we thought some comparisons might be in order.

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* The Cruze diesel can run for a brief period in “overboost,” which generates 280 pound-feet of torque.
** A base Jetta TDI with automatic transmission (which is standard on the Cruze) is $24,950.

But numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Unlike the Jetta TDI, the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel has an after-treatment system for emissions that requires the use of Diesel Exhaust Fluid, or DEF (as do most larger diesels). How much of that you use depends on your driving (very little is consumed at steady highway speeds, more in around-town driving), but Chevy says the 4.5-gallon DEF tank holds enough to last at least 10,000 miles before it has to be refilled. Depending on where you buy it, DEF costs about $3 a gallon, which means it costs less than .15 cents per mile.

While the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel has a higher starting price than the least-expensive Jetta TDI, the Cruze includes much more equipment. Standard on the Cruze but optional (or not available) on the Jetta are automatic transmission, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, satellite radio, USB port, wireless cell-phone link, remote engine start, and GM’s MyLink infotainment system. The Cruze also comes with two years of free maintenance, and it can run on B20, a mix of 80 percent regular diesel fuel and 20 percent biodiesel, which is made from vegetable oil or animal fat.

Chevrolet says that the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel has a neat feature we wish were available in more cars: an electric heater that puts out heat while the engine is still warming up (because diesels take longer to warm up than gas engines). Other features offered on the Cruze that aren’t available on the Jetta include a rearview camera, blind-spot alert, cross-traffic alert, and rear-obstacle detection.

A brief drive of the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel revealed a few idiosyncrasies. Common to diesels (but not to gas engines) is a faint clatter while the engine is idling; it mostly goes away under acceleration and cruise. There is also quite a bit of lag time after stomping the throttle before the engine produces power, but when it comes, it hits hard; acceleration is ample for virtually any need, and it easily exceeds that of a gas-powered Cruze. Likewise, when dipping into the throttle at speed, it took a long moment for the transmission to downshift and power to arrive, but again, it came on strong once it did.

In most other ways, the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is just like a gas-powered Cruze, which is to say quite nice. The diesel adds about $2,500 in cost (compared to a well-equipped 2LT gas model), and it pays it back with a 1-mpg bump in the city EPA rating and an 8-mpg bump in the highway number. So particularly if you do more highway driving than city work—or you like the strong burst of power provided by the turbo diesel—this new Cruze may be worth a look.

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