Hardly anyone uses a car's trip computer to keep track of mpg. If consumers did, more of them would buy the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel.
It's not fashionable to say anything nice about the Chevy Cruze in any form, but this turbocharged, 2.0-liter, DOHC inline-4 turbodiesel seems pretty good in this car. Its output is respectable, as this iron-block engine delivers 151 hp @ 4000 rpm and 264 lb-ft of torque @ 2600 rpm. To get things really rolling, you have to rev it a little harder than you would the fractionally less powerful 2.0-liter Volkswagen turbodiesel, but this is not a chore. Besides, you get ten seconds of turbo overboost for 280 lb-ft of torque, which is worth the effort. At the same time, why would you think about revving a turbodiesel very hard? Isn't the point supposed to be mpg, not mph?
Sure, we know that if you want fuel efficiency, you pick a hybrid for great city mpg and a diesel for great highway mpg. When you're cruising down the interstate in the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, you're pretty happy, because there's enough acoustic insulation to isolate you from the diesel's clatter of combustion (though it's loud if you're standing outside the car), and the real strength of the Cruze chassis compared to its competition lies in its composure on the highway. Plus, you can theoretically get down the road some 717 miles between fill-ups in the Cruze Diesel if you reach the 46-mpg EPA highway number that the government sticker promises.
But the thing that makes the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel really terrific is its six-speed automatic transmission. The VW Jetta TDI diesel is also pretty wonderful on the highway, but when you're driving in stop and go traffic, its dual-clutch automated manual transmission gets on your nerves. The VW transmission engages slowly as you get rolling after a stop, shifts slowly, and cycles clumsily to a tall gear ratio whenever it registers any lightness on the throttle pedal. And when you call for more power from the engine room, the kickdown in gear ratio creates a big torque reaction from the Jetta's softly calibrated, long travel suspension that feels awful.
In comparison the Chevy Cruze Diesel drives like a regular car, since it has a plain old automatic transmission like a regular car. It smoothly leaves a stoplight, churns through its gear ratios inoffensively, and never does anything nautical in the ride motions department.
So the funny thing is, the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel makes its statement not simply in its mpg capability but also in the way you can easily live with the car in around-town driving where a diesel is often at its worst.
2014 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ Diesel Specifications
Price as tested$28,220
Engine2.0L DOHC I-4 turbodiesel
Power151 hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque264 lb-ft @ 2600 rpm
Length x width x height181.0 x 70.7 x 50.1 in
Curb Weight3471 lbs
Cargo Capacity13.3 cu ft
Fuel economy27/46 /33 mpg city/highway/combined
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