When you think small diesel sedan, most folks don’t think Chevy. After all, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI has basically owned that niche.
But if you want another diesel option, The 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel is up for consideration.
If all you desire is diesel performance, the Jetta probably has the advantage. Even though the Cruze Diesel has the horsepower edge with 151 compared to the Jetta’s 150, the VW is slightly faster and handles a little better.
But if you’re more interested in style, the Cruze could get the nod. Even though this is the last year before a redesign, Chevy has made some minor tweaks to the Cruze front end. Not a true facelift, just a minor nip and tuck. The Cruze is an attractive car and has aged well even to the end of its current styling life.
The interior also has pizzazz. The Jetta is going low-key, while the Cruze is working on some stylistic bling. The center display and interface creates a “V” that dips down into the center console. Aluminum accents add a nice touch. I took a couple of trips to Tucson and became very familiar with the seats. After eight hours of highway drive time, they were still very comfortable. About the only thing I didn’t like is the way Chevy puts its controls for the center display on a stalk to the left and behind the steering wheel. As a right-hander, it just feels awkward (maybe it was a left-handed engineer?).
One place where the Jetta has the edge is leg room in the back seat. It has nearly three inches more than the Cruze. Having said that, I took some friends to dinner one night specifically to test the back seat and they said it was comfortable. Of course they weren’t particularly tall so leg room wasn’t a problem.
The 2.0 liter dual overhead cam four-cylinder turbocharged engine is actually the most powerful engine you can get in a Cruze. The base Cruze gets a 1.8 liter four-cylinder with 138 horsepower. Interestingly, the next step up is the 1.4 liter turbo four-cylinder that has the same power rating, but is a little quicker and gets slightly better mileage. Thanks to its 151 horsepower, the turbo is the fastest member of the Cruze family.
Of course you’re not buying a diesel in this price range for power. You want mileage. The Cruze is rated at 27 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway. I only averaged about 44 mpg during my highway trips, but then I spent a lot of time at 80 mph which isn’t likely the mileage sweet spot.
Of course the thing to remember is that diesel fuel costs more. The week I had the Cruze I kept track of the price difference at local stations. Diesel averaged about 23% more, which means it needs to get 23% better mileage. You could spend about $4,000 less and get the Ecotec engine with an automatic and the mileage is nearly as good with 26 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. If you’re doing a lot of city driving, the Ecotec may be a better investment.
If you’ve spent most of your life as a diesel-phobic, you have nothing to fear from the Cruze. There is a slight diesel clacking sound, but it’s not bad and most people won’t notice it. Plus, there is no smell to give away your diesel secret. While driving, you’ll quickly forget that it doesn’t use gas (just don’t forget at the pump).
My diesel test car was at the upper end of the Cruze price range. Before options it was $25,660. By the time they added on a better sound system, sunroof, safety package and some other goodies, the price topped out at $29,430. Frankly, you could probably do without the options (assuming you could find a dealer that didn’t load one up). The car is nice enough without spending the extra cash.
What you really have to decide is whether you need a diesel. But if you do, it’s nice to know that the Chevy Cruze is a solid challenger to the Jetta.