2015 Chevy Cruze Diesel

2015 Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel Review

A nice entry in the diesel powertrain market, but needs work.

By: David Merline

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: June 16th, 2015

Often lost among all the brouhaha about hybrids and e-cars is the simple fact that diesel, that smelly old fuel from the 1970s, can offer near-hybrid fuel efficiency for far less money than a hybrid, not to mention the fact that they don't require a specially trained mechanic to maintain them.

Chevy introduced a diesel engine configuration to its Cruze in the U.S. last year, making it the first American diesel car to be sold by GM since 1986. Of course, during that time, Europeans kept on refining diesel technology, and its popularity in Europe is why GM is bringing diesel back. But how does the Cruze diesel stack up against its Teutonic rivals?

  • Exterior

    The Cruze follows GM's design strategy of making its cars all look far bigger than they actually are. This is supposed to make them appeal to the size-matters mindset that makes crossovers so inexplicably popular, but in reality it just looks like GM had a bunch of extra sheet metal laying around, so it decided to cram as much of the stuff onto its small cars as possible.

    This makes the Cruze look massive from the windshield forward, while the back end looks like it was hit with a malfunctioning shrink ray. The overall effect isn't bad, it's just odd. Otherwise the Cruze isn't necessarily any more anodyne than the Civic, the Corolla, or the Jetta, we just wish it was content to look like the kind of car it is.

  • Interior

    Chevy is not a luxury brand, so one shouldn't expect especially high quality interior materials, but the Cruze diesel (full name: Cruze CTD, or Clean Turbo Diesel) is hardly a bargain with its $26,000 base price (our tester optioned out at $29,000), so given that, the interior does feel a bit less deluxe than such a price ordinarily demands.

    Of course, the extra price is a result of the additional cost of the diesel power train (being higher compression fuel, diesel requires more expensive materials for its engines), but that hardly matters to me if I'm buying one. If I'm paying an import price for my domestic car, I'd expect the same level of quality as a similarly priced import. Still, for a Chevy, the base Cruze diesel is fairly well tricked out with heated, power front seats, 4G LTE connectivity, and remote start. Add any of the truly nice features, like a sunroof, or enhanced safety features, however, and you're right up against the $30,000 mark again.

  • On the Road

    The Cruze CTD features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four that makes 151 horsepower (besting the Jetta TDI by a single hp) and an impressive 264 lb-ft of torque. This is not an underpowered car and, if outfitted with a manual transmission, could provide a heaping helping of on-road fun.

    Sadly, our tester came outfitted with the vastly more powerful, but infinitely less fun, six-speed automatic (the only choice of transmission for the CTD), which more or less takes the fun out of that extra horsepower. That's not to say that the Cruze isn't a capable cruiser, however. Steering is solid and handling, such as you'll ever experience it in most driving conditions, is impressive.

    And of course, there's the not insignificant issue of efficiency, something that diesel offers in spades. The Cruze gets a budget-saving 46 mpg on the highway, but that number drops down to a slightly less impressive, but still damn good, 27 in the city.

    Engine noise is something Chevy still needs to work on, unfortunately. The oil-burning Cruze is considerably louder in terms of diesel "knock" than its foreign competitors, and cabin soundproofing is less than optimal (again, it's a Chevy, not a Caddy), but these are far from dealbreakers. And besides, compared to the last GM diesel engine, this one's practically silent.

  • Conclusion

    We like the Cruze, and we like diesels, but the combination ends up being less than the sum of its parts, if only because it costs more than a comparable diesel sedan from one of the European carmakers who never abandoned diesel back in the day. The 2016 redesign will hopefully address some of the aesthetic shortcomings, and if diesel technology takes off in the States like it should, maybe the price will eventually come down too.

  • Specs & Prices

    Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-four

    Transmission: Six-speed automatic

    Drivetrain Layout: Front engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 151 hp / 264 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 27 city / 46 highway

    Base Price: $25,660

    As Tested: $29,430 (incl. $825 destination)

    Available Features:

    2LT/Diesel Driver Convenience Package: Backup camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated side mirrors

    Sun and Sound Package: Power sunroof, nine-speaker premium audio system

    Enhanced Safety Package (Requires 2LT Package): Rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, blind zone monitor

    Additional Options: 7-inch color touchscreen with navigation, nine-speaker premium audio system

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