With the price of oil on a steady rise, we find ourselves dipping into our savings to just be able to afford to pay the outrageous fuel prices at the pump. In order to achieve the most for our dollar, we are forced into looking at alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles. This brings up vehicles such as hybrids, electric vehicles, or diesel-powered vehicles such as the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze 2.0TD I spent a frugal week with.
As observed in another recent tester, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, the savings from these cars are immediately noticeable at the pump. My similar-sized front-wheel-drive sedan powered by gasoline gets roughly 9L/100km in everyday driving. The same sort of mileage in the hybrid returned 4.9L/100km. Hybrid technology is definitely considerable for the short term, but there are arguments against their long-term effects on both the environment as well as our wallets (battery replacement, etc.). Diesel is an old-school technology which is slowly creeping back into the North American market, and this Cruze is the first non-utility vehicle from the United States in a long time offering it.
My tester was a 2014 Cruze 2.0TD painted in a Blue Ray Metallic finish and accented with a black leather interior. The diesel sedan is powered by a 2.0L 151-horsepower Garret-boosted Ecotec diesel, which puts out a healthy 264 lb-ft of torque. This configuration is equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission, though I would prefer a conventional 6-speed manual. With my experience driving Volkswagen’s TDI models with the available stick-shift, it’s much easier to control the fuel economy numbers in a diesel vehicle when you can row your own gears.
As I was saying, it has been well over twenty years since General Motors have tried their hand with a diesel-powered sedan, but with the Cruze Diesel, they took meticulous care to eliminate the stench and smoke stereotype surrounding the technology. Their own Oldsmobile Delta and Chevette diesels have long since been established as some of the worst diesels ever offered, so this attempt is certainly a bold one. In order to stay “clean”, the Cruze TD require a refill of diesel exhaust fluid periodically.
The Cruze Diesel is an affordable alternative to the already-popular Volkswagen Jetta TDI, a car that has rocked the industry with record sales. The advantage the Cruze has over the Jetta is a few additional horses, a noticeably further fuel range, and a much better overall safety rating. Despite these advantages, my prediction is that the Jetta will continue to sell better solely based on its existing reputation, at least until the Cruze can establish itself as a worthy rival to the masses.
I came to really like the interior of the Cruze. GM’s efforts have come a long way since the Pontiac Grand Am I drove as a teenager; the MyLink system is easy to use and works great. The touch-screen is responsive and the smartphone apps allow you to stay in touch with your car even when not inside it. Bluetooth connectivity gives no complaints, and the 7-inch touchscreen is easy to view. I did find that the Pioneer speakers lack a bit in the clarity department, but they are perfectly adequate for your average listener.
The Cruze TD I drove came loaded to the brim with features such as a cross-traffic warning system and a high-resolution backup camera. The toys are great, but with the car being as loud as it is at idle, pedestrians will not have to look twice before crossing in front of one. Both the front and rear seats are pretty supportive and reasonably comfortable, if not a bit tight for six-footers in the back. The interior is essentially the same as the regular top-trim Cruze, so no surprises there.
As-tested, my car came to just under $30,000. This puts it right in line with hybrids such as the Toyota Camry, the Hyundai Sonata, and of course, its main competitor, the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The fuel numbers are admirable on the highway; I saw as low as 4.3L-100km when driving with a light foot and adapting some minor hypermiling techniques I was recommended by a diesel-breathing friend of mine. In the city however, things are a different story. My numbers were consistently in the 6-7L per 100km mark.
The one challenge that Chevrolet will have to face is that the diesel engine is nowhere near as refined as the unit in the Volkswagen. More power means nothing when the car sounds no different from a clattery, noisy Rabbit from the 1980s. The downfalls are certainly forgivable considering this attempt at a diesel-powered sedan is a North American first for this millennium; it definitely is more interesting than the plethora of mundane hybrids that seem to be all over our streets. I think that while the 2014 Cruze 2.0TD may not be the best option in the class right now, it definitely makes a compelling argument as an alternative to hybrids, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that it will last hundreds of thousands of kilometres of relatively carefree motoring.
2014 Chevrolet Cruze 2.0TD Gallery