Chevrolet Cruze Diesel Rated at 46 MPG Highway

The diesel engine in the Cruze fixes many of the problems consumers had with older generation diesel cars, such as excessive engine noise, black exhaust soot and smell.

Chevrolet said that its new 2014 Cruze Diesel will be rated at an EPA-estimated 46 MPG on the highway, better than any non-hybrid passenger car in America. It will be available in some cities this spring and nationwide and in Canada in the early fall.

A German-built 2-liter turbo diesel will be installed at the Cruze final assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. The 2014 model will start at $25,695 with destination and a two-year maintenance plan included.

The turbocharging helps deliver what now is a segment-leading 148 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque with an estimated 42 mpg highway that awaits final EPA verification. This should be good for a 700-mile highway range or ten hours of driving.

The gasoline versions of the Cruze are selling strongly, and GM is hoping that after a decades-long absence in the diesel car segment controlled by the Germans that the pricing and fuel economy will be enough to spur sales. Cruze undercuts the top trim level 42 mpg Volkswagen diesel Jetta TDI by $500, but the TDI starts at $23,875 with a manual transmission.

Cruze diesel has 0-60 performance of 8.6 seconds, which is better than the Jetta TDI automatic. Another advanced feature taken from European practices is the “overboost” setting on the turbocharger calibration that sees output climb to 280 lb.-ft. for 10 seconds of more passing power.

Cruze diesel comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, 3.20 final drive ratio, 140-amp alternator, 800 cold-cranking amps battery, 17-inch alloy wheels, ultra-low-rolling resistance all-season tires, a rear spoiler, an aero performance package and leather seats. Other standard features include Chevrolet’s infotainment system MyLink, and a five-year 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Since Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel’s emissions will be below stringent U.S. environmental standards including Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions standards, as well as pending California LEV 3 standards that go in place in 2015, it will be a 50 state car that Chevrolet can promote and sell for years to come. So-called clean diesels – helped by now universally available low sulfur fuel generate at least 90% less Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and particulate emissions when compared to previous-generation diesels.

Since the 2-liter is a variant of the 2.5-liter and 2.8-liter diesels used in the Thailand-built Colorado mid-size pickup truck, I also speculate that when it and the companion GMC Canyon go into production later this year in the U.S., GM will have more diesel offerings. In fact, the truck gambit would appear to be less risky because truckers are well adjusted to the torque and fuel economy advantages that diesel engines provide.

The car market is a greater unknown, but given the potential, this is not necessarily a bad risk to take now. GM has sold 2 million Chevrolet Cruze models globally since it was launched in mid-2010. GM produced more than half a million small diesel-engine cars across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America last year, including Cruze. In Europe, approximately 40% of Cruze models are diesel-powered.

Closer to home, Chevrolet points to growing interest in diesel cars, the sales of which could double by mid-decade, according to market research firm Baum and Associates. Diesel car sales, which account for a mere 3% of U.S. sales today, are increasing from a low baseline. Diesel car sales grew more than 27% last year, according to the Diesel Technology Forum.

General Motors sold more than half a million diesel-powered cars across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America last year, including 33,000 Cruze models. It hopes to increase that number with the new markets of Canada and the U.S.

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About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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