During the press launch of the Chevrolet Cruze Hatch last year, the brand’s representatives confirmed the return of a diesel powertrain in the compact car. In addition, this engine’s availability was also announced in other GM products such as the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain compact SUVs.
Despite the negative press diesel powertrains have received over the last two years, the American manufacturer still believes in the potential of this type of engine, and is looking to attract buyers left on the curb by other brands such as Volkswagen.
The diesel-powered Chevrolet Cruze arrived in time for AJAC’s EcoRun, an annual event that highlights highly efficient or low-emissions vehicles, or vehicles equipped with fuel-saving technologies. But also to promote eco-driving, with the challenge to obtain a fuel consumption average that matches—or even beats—those published by the manufacturers, based on a test procedure established by Natural Resources Canada.
It was the first time that Canadian journalists got to try out GM’s new turbo-diesel engine. Displacing 1.6 litres, this new four-cylinder mill develops 137 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. Matched to a six-speed manual gearbox, the diesel Cruze boasts city/highway/combined numbers of 7.7/4.5/6.3 L/100 km. With the optional nine-speed automatic transmission, the numbers are 7.6/5.0/6.4 L/100 km.
Compared to the Cruze’s gasoline engine, a turbocharged 1.4-litre four, the turbo-diesel mill is only slightly more frugal in city driving, but on the highway, the difference is more noticeable. On the combined rating, we save less than a litre of fuel for every 100 km travelled, so the gap isn’t very significant.
During my last drive of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups, equipped with the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four, I was impressed by its fuel consumption, but disappointed by its noise and lack of refinement. With that in memory, I slipped behind the wheel of the diesel Cruze hoping for a more enjoyable experience. It was.
The 1.6-litre engine is relatively quiet at startup, its refinement has nothing to do with the pickups’ diesel engine, and low-end torque is plentiful. My portion of the EcoRun drive covered the distance between cities Trois-Rivières and Deschambault, the next-to-last portion on the second day. With a route mainly composed of highway driving, perfect for evaluating the engine’s efficiency.
Equipped with the automatic transmission, the diesel Cruze maintained an average of 4.7 L/100 km in my hands, a few tenths below the official highway rating. To obtain that number, I didn’t have to resort to hypermiling—which is hazardous when surrounded by faster-moving traffic—but to simply keep the car’s speed at 100 km/h. Maybe 99. Overall, during EcoRun, journalists worked together to end up with an excellent average of 5.1 L/100 km.
This first encounter with the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze diesel was most favourable. The engine showed how efficient it was in addition to being refined, although I’m curious to see how it would fare in a heavier vehicle such as the Equinox and the Terrain. The only problem is its price: The Cruze LT diesel starts out at $24,395 with the manual gearbox, before freight and delivery charges, and $25,845 with the automatic. That’s $4,250 more than a Cruze LT equipped with the gasoline engine, although the diesel version does include the $695 Convenience package (intelligent key, remote start and power driver’s seat) and leather upholstery.
The diesel Cruze is an interesting choice for people who drive long distances, like those who travel from Toronto to Montreal and back on a regular basis, for example. For those who don’t drive all that much, or limit their trips to urban areas, the gas engine is a better choice because of its more affordable price.
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