2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel Review

A car for the mileage conscious hybrid haters


Wade Thiel, Staff Writer



Positives: Best non-hybrid gas mileage available, plenty of low-end torque, a robust and easy to use infotainment system.
Negatives: Some cheap interior materials, louder engine than regular gas model, somewhat cramped rear seats.
Bottom Line: The Chevrolet Cruze diesel is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid car on the road. If you want excellent mileage but can't stand electric power, this compact sedan is an excellent choice that you shouldn't overlook. Its interior quality, driving dynamics, and exterior styling are all on par for the segment. Don't let the fact that it's a diesel dissuade you from buying it. This is an excellent engine in a good car.
Volkswagen may have ruined diesel's reputation in the U.S., but Chevrolet is doing what it can to bring the engine type back. The Cruze diesel is the latest offering from the automaker with a diesel engine under the hood. Why go diesel in a segment that has no others? Fuel economy. The Cruze gets an EPA estimated 52 mpg on the highway. When we heard this, we had to get behind the wheel of the car and put it to the test. Read on for our full review.

Driving Experience

7

 

The best part about the Cruze diesel is its engine. The rest of the car is appropriate for the segment, but the 1.6-liter turbodiesel makes this car worth getting. It’s the 240 lb-ft of torque and the mileage. A small engine in a small car with plenty of low-end power is rare. Unfortunately, that power withers away as your speed increases. On the highway, the car can run all day, but it’s not much interested in passing.

Ride Quality: The Cruze errors on the side of comfort without being totally soft. The suspension and large tires eat up bumps easily.

Acceleration: All that torque doesn’t really make the car fast. The 0-60 time of about eight seconds isn’t much to write home about. It does jump off the line with purpose, though.

Braking: The brakes are good and progressive. Other compacts out there can stop quicker, but it’s no problem bringing the Cruze to a halt.

Steering: The steering is well-weighted, and controlling the car is easy. Competitors, like the Honda Civic and Mazda3, offer more of a connection with the road.

Handling: The Cruze diesel is built with efficiency in mind. It doesn’t have much body roll, but push it in the corners and the high-efficiency tires can lose their grip. This car handles well in most situations, but it’s far from sporty.

Technology

9.1

 

Chevrolet seems to have focused on two things: efficiency and technology. The company realized that most folks interested in getting 52 mpg on the highway aren’t interested in driving dynamics. They're more interested in a good infotainment system. The standard Cruze diesel comes well-equipped with a 7-inch infotainment screen complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, and Chevrolet’s MyLink Radio system. Our tester came equipped with the 8-inch optional system with even more features, including navigation and voice-activated technology.

Infotainment System: The 8-inch touchscreen is smooth and responsive. The Chevrolet MyLink system’s graphics are clear, bright, and easy to see. This is one of the better systems out there.

Controls: The majority of the controls are touch-based. However, Chevy included a few buttons and a couple knobs for volume and tuning. It’s a simple layout and easy to use.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone was quick and easy. Our Android phone re-paired upon re-entry to the vehicle.

Voice Call Quality: Calls on the system were crisp and clear, and we experienced no connection issues.

Styling

8.1

 

The Chevrolet Cruze is one of the more attractive compacts on the road. It features styling that is appealing to a wide audience while still having a kind of aggressive look. The model stands out thanks to an aggressive front end and some interesting character lines down its side. It looks a little like the Malibu, but it still has a style all its own.

Front: The sloping hood, mildly aggressive headlights, and oddly shaped lower portion of the bumper give the car a somewhat busy front end. It’s not ugly, but there’s a lot of styling elements to look at.

Rear: The rear is significantly less interesting. It features wraparound LED taillights, Chevrolet Cruze diesel badging, and some interesting cut lines near the outer edges of the bumper, but not too much else.

Profile: From the side, you can see how the fender flares interact with the rest of the character lines on the side of the car. Those lines along with the car’s 16-inch alloy wheels make it stand out.

Cabin: The Cruze has an attractive interior. Unlike some of Chevrolet’s other models, there isn’t a bunch of gaudy chrome on the inside of the car. The use of piano black trim pieces isn’t overdone either. It’s a simple black interior with no major eyesores.

Comfort

7.5

 

The Cruze is on par with much of the competition when it comes to comfort and interior space. Not all the materials are top notch, but you can upgrade specific parts of the car to make things a little better. Our test car came with leather-wrapped seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a heated steering wheel function.

Front Seats: The heated front seats are supportive and offer a decent level of bolstering. Legroom and hip room are good, allowing you to stay comfortable for hours. The driver’s seat is 8-way power adjustable and the passenger’s 4-way manually adjustable.

Rear Seats: The rear seats offer similar levels of comfort as the front. Legroom and headroom are adequate but not excellent. Taller individuals will feel more comfortable up front. Seating three people across the back will be tight, but it is manageable for short trips.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): There is a fair amount of noise from the turbodiesel engine at idle, but it’s not overly intrusive. Once the car is moving, you hardly notice it. This is a quiet diesel engine, and its minor rumble is worth the positive trade-off in fuel economy and torque. Otherwise, the car feels solid and well-built.

Visibility: Visibility all around is good. Chevrolet kept the pillars thin, providing the driver with good sightlines all around. The backup camera comes in handy for tight parking maneuvers.

Climate: Most other automakers offer better HVAC systems. That being said, between the system and the heated seats, you can get comfortable. It just takes a little longer than usual.

Safety

6.8

 

Unfortunately, the IIHS hasn’t fully completed testing for the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze. The NHTSA awarded the vehicle a four-star overall safety rating. It got five stars in the frontal crash test and four stars in the side and rollover crash test. In a segment that’s dominated by exceptionally safe cars, Chevrolet had better hope that the Cruze finishes its IIHS ratings with flying colors.

IIHS Rating: At the time of this review, the IIHS has only done the moderate front overlap test and the side test for the 2017 model. It recieved good ratings for both. Crash prevention technology was rated basic.

Standard Tech: The Cruze comes equipped with airbags, OnStar Basic Plan (for five years), OnStar Guidance Plan (included with the purchase of the car for three months), backup camera, stability and traction control, and tire-pressure monitoring. The Cruze also comes with Chevrolet’s Teen Driver feature, which allows you set limits and get a report of your teens driving habits.

Optional Tech: A Monroney was not provided with our test vehicle.

Storage/Cargo

8

 

The Chevrolet Cruze is designed to compete with venerable compact models like the Honda Civic, Mazda3, and the Hyundai Elantra. So, despite the fact that it’s a small car, it offers a good amount of storage and cargo space. Still, it’s not a pack mule.

Storage Space: There are two cupholders to the right of the shifter, a bin in front of the shifter big enough for some keys or other small items or devices, there’s a larger bin behind the shifter, and a medium-sized space under the center armrest.

Cargo Room: The Cruze has 13.9 cubic feet of trunk space in sedan form. That's less than the Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra, but the Cruze beats the Mazda3.

Fuel Economy

9.7

 

There isn’t another non-hybrid mass-produced car out there than can return the kind of fuel economy numbers the Chevrolet Cruze diesel can. On the highway, we noticed the vehicle’s mpg gage registered about 50 mpg, which put a smile on our face. The 1.6-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder was built for fuel sipping.

Observed: 49 mpg combined.

Distance Driven: 383 miles.

Driving Factors: We drove a mix of highway and city miles, covering more ground on the highway. When on the highway, we used the cruise control. In city environments, we drove normally and didn’t shoot for the best mileage.

Audio

8.4

 

Our tester came with the available 9-speaker Bose premium audio system. It provided high-quality sound to all areas of the cabin, and we highly recommend it. The standard 6-speaker system for the Cruze diesel is likely decent, but the Bose system is excellent.



Final Thoughts

When most shoppers think of highly efficient cars, their first thought is of a hybrid vehicle. The Chevrolet Cruze diesel changes that. The vehicle posts mpg numbers that are hard to ignore. The best thing about it, though, is that Chevrolet made a genuinely good all-around compact car. The Cruze is built for everyday life. It’s practical, affordable, and easy to drive. It’s also not too bad to look at. The technology inside the car is robust and straightforward, and the cabin is good for short trips or long. If you’re interested in a good everyday car with a highly efficient engine under the hood, we’d suggest you place this near the top of your list.
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