One of the problems with compact cars is that although they are, generally, perfectly fine for driving around town, when driving on a freeway—from merging on to passing while on it—tends to be somewhat problematic. This is predicated primarily on the fact that their four cylinder engines aren’t meant to produce a whole lot of torque, the oomph that gets a car going from lower speeds.
Presumably plenty of people buy compact cars because they want to get good fuel economy. A solution to the get-up-and-go problem, of course, is to get a car with a more powerful engine. But in that case, there is typically an inverse relationship between the better performance in acceleration and the better performance at the pump: You go faster and burn more fuel.
Not a good solution.
What is a good solution is the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo diesel that’s offered in the 2014 Cruze. Power and parsimonious fuel consumption.
Consider. In addition to the diesel, there are two other engines offered in the Chevy Cruze. There is a 1.8-liter four and a 1.4-liter turbocharged four. The former produces 138 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque. This one is fairly poky. But it is the base model. It provides, with an automatic, 22/35 mpg, city-highway. The turbocharged engine produces 138 hp but 148 lb-ft of torque. Much better for the speedy acceleration. And it provides good fuel efficiency, too, at 26/38, automatic transmission, non-“Eco” trim.
So the diesel is bigger than both, at 2.0 liters of displacement. A bit bigger than the 1.8, and notably bigger than the 1.4. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that it produces more horsepower: 151.
But here’s where it really matters: It produces 264 lb-ft of torque—more than double the 1.8-liter and 116 lb-ft more than the turbocharged gasoline engine.
And in terms of miles per gallon, it is stickered at 27 mpg city, 46 mpg highway. With an automatic transmission.
You get the get-up-and-go. You don’t get to spend too much time at the gas station.
That makes a lot of sense.
A few points, however, as this isn’t some unalloyed case of goodness for nothing.
First of all, I went to Chevrolet.com and looked at the prices for vehicles with the three engines, all with the automatic transmission (the diesel comes only with a six-speed automatic). And the MSRPs, with an asterisk indicating some rebates on the price, are $19,280, $20,735 and $25,810, with the last, of course, the diesel. So you have to pay more for that powertrain.
Another concern is audible, not financial. We’re all familiar with the throaty rumble of a powerful engine. The 2.0-liter, as noted, is powerful. But it doesn’t have a throaty rumble, unless the throat is that of some mechanical creature with indigestion. At idle, the Cruze Diesel is noisy and not in a pleasant way. Diesels are simply different in terms of how they combust the fuel, and chances are, plenty of people are not going to be pleased by the sound of that combustion. Once you get moving, the noise is comparatively inaudible, but otherwise this is a negative.
Finally, there is the aforementioned fuel. Fuel, not gas. When I had the car, I checked GasBuddy.com for the 48170 area. For regular unleaded, run by the 1.8 and the 1.4, there were 12 stations listed, and the price of gas ranged from $3.07 to $3.19 a gallon. For diesel fuel, there were 9 stations listed—so fears of the lack of availability of fuel should be allayed—and the price right across the board was $3.99 per gallon.
Although the window sticker for the Cruze has that 46 mpg highway, it should be noted that the city/highway combined number is 33 mpg. In my driving of the car—and I will confess to having a light foot—I averaged a combined 34 mpg.
Good, but not gob-smacking incredible.
Again, it comes down to the power produced in relation to the relative fuel efficiency. And that is comparatively game-changing.
In the class where the Cruze competes, there are cars including the Corolla, Civic, Focus, Elantra, Sentra, and Jetta. With the exception of the last-named, the styling of the sedan seems to be more “European” than the rest, somewhat more restrained and conservative. The interior is reasonably good, but there is really nothing about it that stands out. And although I am only 5-ft, 8-in., I wouldn’t want to be the passenger sitting behind me given the preciousness of the room remaining from the positioning of my seat.
But the Cruze is a car that is doing exceedingly well in the market—from January to October, 211,862 Cruzes have been sold, which makes it GM’s best-selling car (it outsold the entire Buick Div., which has sales of 175,058), so evidently my concerns are not widely shared.
Bottom line: If you’re at all interested in a compact car but concerned about performance (fuel- and acceleration-wise), take the Cruze Diesel out for a spin and any doubts will be immediately eliminated.
Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC turbodiesel I4
Horsepower: 151 @ 4,000 rpm
Torque: 264 lb-ft @ 2,600 rpm
Materials: Cast iron block, aluminum head
Transmission: Aisin 4F40 six-speed automatic
Steering: Rack-mounted electric
Wheelbase: 105.7 in.
Length: 181 in.
Width: 70.7 in.
Height: 58.1 in.
Passenger volume: 95 cu. ft.
Cargo volume: 13.3 cu. ft.
EPA: 27/46/33 city/highway/combined mpg