2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel First Drive

It’s been a few years since we saw a diesel version of the Chevrolet Cruze. It’s back now, and customers can again find their way into a new turbodiesel without stretching into the premium segment. While the Cruze Diesel was away, Volkswagen has had its hands full with its emissions scandal, meaning the Chevy enters a landscape tilted in its favor. Its new diesel engine goes into a car with which we’re already familiar, and while it won’t change the handling, a new powertrain in an already decent commuter could be promising.

The Chevrolet Cruze

Chevy’s pretty keen on its 1.6-liter turbodiesel engine, and it’s clear that it was engineered with love (or with whatever the equivalent of love is in the engineering world). It’s also engineered for fuel economy, emissions, and quietness. Even its fuel delivery is impressive. Chevy tells us that the engine has the ability to inject fuel 10 times per combustion cycle, which helps improve power while minimizing emissions and vibration through controlling the burn rate. Its ceramic glow plugs and oil-pan heater mean the engine is capable of cold starts at temperatures as low as -40 degrees. Compared to the last-generation Cruze Diesel, the new engine is 60 percent quieter (in terms of sound power) than the last version. Furthermore, it can run on diesel blends of up to 20 percent biodiesel (B20) without any modifications, a commonality among all of GM’s diesel engines.

But what’s really impressive, at least on paper, is the fuel economy figure. The EPA rates the Cruze Diesel with a six-speed manual transmission at 30 miles per gallon in the city, 52 mpg on the highway, 37 mpg combined. If you want to do better than that, you’ll have to pay the price premium for a hybrid or electric vehicle (Chevy’s offerings, the Volt and Bolt start $34,095 and $37,495, respectively – more expensive than the Cruze even with federal incentives factored in). Interestingly, the nine-speed automatic transmission doesn’t really beat the do-it-yourself version in terms of efficiency, as it provides 31 city/47 highway/37 combined mpg.

And fuel economy ratings can sometimes be tough to match in the real world. When our Cruze Diesel – complete with manual transmission – arrived on our lot, we were eager to find out how realistic those numbers were.

After using the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel both for around-town errands and our busy commute between Ann Arbor and Birmingham, Mich., we’re happy to report that not only is the turbodiesel motor a pleasure to use, it’s also efficient, and impressively so. We handily beat the EPA rating for both city and highway driving. My first leg from the office to home, I scored over 60 miles per gallon, which felt nothing short of heroic.
Starting at $24,670, the Cruze Diesel contends with upper trim levels of its gas-burning counterparts. As such, it comes equipped, as standard, with keyless start, seven-inch touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, heated front seats, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi. Another $1,125 adds leather seating and heated, leather steering wheel our tester boasted. It’s priced like the Ford Focus Titanium, which is more powerful, but definitely won’t return effortlessly high fuel economy numbers (or you can go for the sporty,

Surely there are American car loyalists who are thrilled about the opportunity to put a greaseburner into their otherwise wholeheartedly American daily driver. We found it to be perfectly practical, if imperfect in its driving dynamics. If you’re looking for a sporty-ish daily driver, you might not fall in love with the Cruze Diesel, but the combination of a torquey turbo motor and a (lackluster) manual transmission might be good enough for you.

Love the motor, but need more space? Chevrolet is putting the 1.6-liter turbodiesel into the Equinox later this year, and the 2018 GMC Terrain will also offer it.