2018 Chevrolet Cruze LT Diesel Auto Hatch Review

A niche powertrain in a niche segment


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Unique and attractive hatchback design, high-end interior for the segment, ample space and storage, good diesel power.
Negatives: Turbo lag from the diesel engine, auto start/stop can't be shut off, diesel efficiency is very good but not significantly better than gas-powered competitors.
Bottom Line: The Cruze Hatch Diesel is truly a unique offering from Chevy at a time when doing diesel is a big reputational and sales risk. It looks sporty, drives well, and has a high level of interior comfort. But there are better gas-powered hatchbacks out there with great efficiency taht present more attractive buying options.
Taking the diesel route in any segment today is a bit of an uphill battle to fight in the destructive wake of VW's Dieselgate that unseated every VW brand and affected the future of diesel passenger cars in America, aside from heavy-duty pickup trucks. But Chevy hasn't given up, and they've given their Cruze Hatch a turbo diesel engine to mix up the segment. Whether or not buyers will flock to it thanks to its torque and fuel efficiency isn't just resting on how good it is but also the car buying public's view of the diesel scandal. We drove the LT trimmed diesel for a week to see if it would win us over. Read on for the full details.
 

Driving Experience

7

 

The Cruze TD is a mixed bag with its potent torque, good brakes and ride, and respectable handling at one end and turbo lag, a gear-hunting transmission and intrusive auto stop/start system at the other.

Ride Quality: The ride is remarkably comfortable for a hatchback, absorbing small bumps and gaps well. Larger gaps tend to make it feel a bit unsettled.

Acceleration: It's slow to get going off the line due to the turbo lag, but the diesel and turbos kick in and pull pretty hard. 0-60 comes in the mid-8 second mark. The transmission shifts effortlessly when accelerating but tends to gear hunt in city traffic.

Braking: Stopping distances are great for the segment, and the pedal feel is progressive with no mushy spots.

Steering: Steering is light but with a modicum of precision, and turn-in is good.

Handling: There's quite a bit of understeer, but the TD is predictable. Body control is pretty good but not as taut as candidates like the Mazda3.

Technology

8.3

 

Chevy's MyLink system is quite good and much improved over the last generation. The suite of in-car tech that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 4G LTE WiFi hostpost is robust and great for the segment.

Infotainment System: The Cruze Hatch Diesel's 8" color touchscreen is vivid and easy to read. The icons are large, and the system is very responsive.

Controls: We like that there are physical controls for audio and climate in the center stack, but the layout seems more for visual punch than ease of use. Lines of buttons instead of clusters would be welcomed.

Styling

8.4

 

We really like the look of this hatchback thanks to its sportiness and sleek lines. It has the right amount of creases and sculpting to make a break from the ordinary hatchbacks.

Front: It's the same handsome face as the Cruze sedan with the twin angular grille and the wraparound headlights. The tasteful but bold red "RS" logo is well-placed.

Rear: We like the intricate taillights but the lower half is a bit too busy for our liking, making the hatchback look taller from the back than it actually is.

Profile: The body creases give the profile view character, and the absence of chrome along with the upsized 18" wheels keep it sporty-looking.

Cabin: The caramel brown colored leather seats look good in a segment where black and grey are prevalent, but the mix of brown and black on the busy dash are a bit much. The lighter colored dash also reflects too much sunlight. There's also way too much chrome trim inside, the opposite of the exterior.

Comfort

8.5

 

The Cruze Hatch doesn't give up anything to the sedan. In fact, due to the hatch configuration, the hatch actually does things up slightly better. Overall, the interior comfort levels are very good.

Front Seats: Headroom and legroom are near the top of the segment, and the seats clad in leather are well-cushioned and decently bolstered. This isn't a hot hatch, so there's no need for aggressive side bolstering to hold you in place.

Rear Seats: There's actually a little more headroom in the back than the Cruze sedan. It has slightly more headroom and slightly less legroom than a VW Golf.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The overall noise levels are low, and you can only really hear the diesel engine clicking when the engine hasn't been sufficiently warmed up. The interior quality is good with no squeaks or rattles.

Visibility: The forward and front side visibility are excellent, while the hatchback compromises rear visibility significantly.

Climate: The automatic climate control system work well, and the heated front seats are a plus.

Safety

7.2

 

The crash tests from both the IIHS and the NHTSA for the 2018 Cruze are for the sedan, so we're extrapolating for the Cruze Hatch because the two are so similar.

IIHS Rating: The IIHS didn't fully test the Cruze for safety. It did, however, receive "good" ratings for the moderate overlap front and side crash tests.

NHTSA Rating: The Cruze sedan earned five stars from the government.

Standard Tech: The LT gets OnStar w/ Automatic Crash Response and a rear view camera.

Optional Tech: Our tester had the Driver Confidence Package with Rear Park Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert. There is no automatic braking technology, unfortunately.

Storage/Cargo

8.3

 

The Cruze Hatch raises the bar higher than the Cruze sedan in terms of cargo space. The interior happens to have convenient small item storage options that are simple and within good reach of the driver and passenger.

Storage Space: The cubby and armrest compartments in the center console are well-sized.

Cargo Room: 22.7 cubic feet with the rear seat in place and 47.2 cubic feet with the seats folded flat. Though the opening in the back is on the small side, the load floor is flat and uniform in width.

Fuel Economy

8.9

 

45 mpg highway is seriously impressive for a non-hybrid. It's not terribly far off from the Prius's 53 highway mpg, and the Cruze diesel hatch has better torque.

Observed: 36.8 mpg

Distance Driven: 67 miles

Driving Factors: We drove the Cruze Hatch pretty hard over a relatively short distance, and most of it was on local roads. Hitting the 45 mpg on the highway should be no problem for more tame drivers.

Audio

8.2

 

Our tester had the upgraded 9-speaker Bose premium audio system, and it sounded very good with clarity, bass, and good midrange punch. You get a lot with the Driver Confidence/Sun and Sound Package for $2,260, so it's worth the upgrade we think.



Final Thoughts

It's easy to make the case for the uniqueness of the Cruze Hatch Diesel since there isn't a single diesel hatchback out there to compete with it. But you can get a Mazda3 5-Door Grand Touring for the same coin, and it's better to drive and gets 37 mpg highway. What the Cruze Hatch offers is good amounts of space, class-leading in-car tech features, and healthy torque that pulls hard once you get going. It's too bad the car isn't more distinct in terms of the driving experience.
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