2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, twisting the numbers: Motoramic Drives
Numbers don’t lie: When fuel efficiency rises, a car travels further. When engine power increases, the car goes faster. Less weight equals nimbler handling and faster lap times, and so on. Technically, looking at a car on paper should offer a good indication as to how that vehicle behaves. But with Chevrolet’s new Cruze Diesel, something doesn’t quite add up.
The last time General Motors offered a diesel engine in a passenger car in the 1980s, the defect-plagued oil burners turned a generation of car buyers (and GM executives) against the technology. But times advance, and the new diesel in the 2014 Cruze comes from GM’s European brand, Opel. Which means it’s made in a plant in Germany, tinkered to U.S. specifications, built by the hands of those who specialize in such motors after decades of improvements.
On paper, the Cruze Diesel should be a legitimate rival to German giant Volkswagen and the Jetta TDI. It delivers 151 hp and a sizable 264 lb.-ft. of torque from its 2-liter turbo engine – a chunk more than the Jetta TDI. Fuel figures stand at 27 mpg city and 46 highway, besting VW on the highway (42) while falling short in the city (30). While you can buy a Jetta TDI for $23,055, the fully loaded version is more comparable to the Chevy, and comes in around $1,000 more; the Cruze Diesel starts at $24,885 and arrives with everything you could need as standard.
And when you climb behind the wheel, snuggled into the form-fitting leather seats while gazing upon the feature-packed infotainment system, things only get better. The car I drove had zero options, but I double-checked because the interior quality seemed almost too good. Rear legroom is plenty sufficient (35.4 inches), cargo space remains ample (13.3 cu. ft.), and in terms of general comfort, the Cruze Diesel is a definite winner.
Aesthetically the Cruze remains bland, but it’s also not unattractive. Firing the engine is like starting Bob the Builder’s digger, but that’s to be expected with a diesel. And at speed, the sound-deadening keeps the cabin demeanor serene. It's the translation of those diesel power figures into movement where something goes wrong.
The problem begins with the six-speed automatic gearbox, which seems to be on sabbatical. Once the correct gearing is finally engaged, additional shifts occur without hitch. That complaint, while annoying, remains livable. But there’s a bigger problem.