General Motors has started the competition with a fierce entrant.
With all of the focus by automakers to introduce more and more crossovers in recent years, it’s easy to forget about the compact, efficient and cargo-happy vehicles that everyone used to fawn over: the hatchback. Like wagons, have taken the backseat in recent years, but several automakers have started producing hatchback versions of compact sedans.
The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze LT Diesel Hatchback is a prime example. Introduced in 2017, this is the first hatchback offered in this size class from General Motors since the Pontiac (Vibe) and Saturn (Astra) nameplates were retired, and is currently the only mainstream hatchback available with a diesel engine for the North American market.
Sharing its platform and powertrain options with the sedan form of the Cruze (reviewed here), the hatchback offers a lot more cargo space and arguably better styling for a minimal price bump. Putting out plenty of low-end torque to push the peppy hatchback around town, the diesel engine produces 137 horsepower at 3,750RPM and 240 lb-ft. of torque from 2,000RPM. This provides significantly more bang when compared to the standard 1.4L gasoline turbo-four that produces 153hp. Both engines can be found with either a nine-speed automatic transmission, or a six-speed manual, making this truly a platform with a flavour that suits anyone’s tastes.
From the driver’s seat, the sound of the diesel engine is noticeable at startup and idle, but it is a quiet grumble, not like diesel cars of the past. When the automatic start/stop system is active, you can definitely feel the car vibrate, which can be bothersome. On the highway or at speeds around town, the engine purrs quietly; no more audible or vibratory than a gas powered car, and certainly more fuel efficient.
While city driving is enjoyable, the diesel Cruze is not as sporty around town as some of the other hatchbacks available today. Highway driving is on the other hand, is a wonderful experience. Acceleration is smooth and comes on strong thanks to the low end torque that is a hallmark of diesel engines, there is no need to shove the accelerator to the floor. Adding a bit of sweetener to the recipe, the suspension seems ideally tuned for lane changes and long drives.
Those long drives take on a new meaning in the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, with a 52L tank and ratings of 7.8L/100km city, 5.2L/100km highway, and 6.6L/100km combined. You can theoretically drive up to 1000km before needing to stop and refuel the tank with diesel. The leather-appointed seats are sporty and comfortable, and the cabin is very well insulated against wind and road noise. Package all of this up with the optional Bose nine-speaker sound system and you might not realize how far you’ve truly driven before the sun goes down.
The LT trim is the lowest trim available with the oil-burning engine, with an MSRP of $26,695. It comes with excellent standard features such as an eight-way powered driver’s seat, heated front seats, a 7” MyLink infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, remote keyless entry and 4G-WiFi hotspot capability.
As-tested, this particular Cruze Hatch, dressed in ‘Crush’ paint ($695) had boxes ticked next to the RS package ($1,395), the Diesel True North Edition package ($3,895) and was equipped with illuminated door sills ($525) for a total MSRP of $33,005. The RS package adds 18” wheels, a sporty looking body kit, fog lamps, a unique rear spoiler, and of course RS badging to inform everyone that you have a hotter version of the frugal little hatch.
The True North Edition package is obviously a Canadian-spec package that adds the technology package (Blind Zone Alert, Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Park Assist, the nine-speaker Bose system, 8” MyLink screen), the Sunroof package (sunroof, additional interior lighting), as well as the aforementioned leather seat appointments, and a heated steering wheel. It is surprising that the rear heated seat option isn’t part of the package; buyers will have to pony up for the Premier True North Edition to keep rear passengers happy.
Loaded up with two adults, a car seat (with cheerful occupant), travel stroller, weekend bags and even a portable crib, the Cruze still had room to spare during a family weekend getaway. The added bodies and cargo were no challenge for the torquey diesel which was happy to get some wind in its face, like a faithful canine companion.
A small family or those looking to start a family that may be looking at fuel efficient crossovers such as the Mazda CX-3 (reviewed here) or the Ford EcoSport (reviewed here) will definitely need that second row upright and should really consider foregoing the all-wheel drive capabilities for the significantly larger trunk space afforded by hatchbacks. In the Cruze Hatch, cargo space behind the rear seats is 643L, over 200L more than you’d find in an AWD CX-3. With the rear seats folded, capacity is comparable at 1337L.
Some of the more direct competitors in the hatchback segment are the Volkswagen Golf (reviewed here), The Subaru Impreza 5-door is also a rival, as well as the Civic Hatchback, a model that disappeared a few years back, but has returned to much fanfare. Hot on the heels of Honda and Chevrolet jumping into the segment, Toyota recently launched the first ever Corolla Hatchback (our first impressions here) adding more fuel to the quietly growing fire, and who knows what is in store next.
With fuel efficiency at the top of most buyers’ minds in the current environment of elevated fuel prices, diesel cars are poised to make a comeback as the industry bounces back from the Volkswagen ‘dieselgate’ scandal. General Motors has started the competition with a fierce entrant in the new Cruze Diesel. If and when other automakers decide to step foot in the compact car diesel arena again, they had better come prepared for a fight.