2015 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel: Does Volkswagen finally have some competition?

2015 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

A diesel from Chevrolet, not in a pickup truck.


We often review cars that vie for sales in highly crowded and competitive marketing segments, so it was refreshing grabbing the keys to Chevrolet’s Cruze Diesel, a car that joins the Volkswagen Jetta as the only other compact diesel offering trying to land your hard earned Canadian dollars.

We’ve logged many kilometres behind the wheel of Volkswagen’s oil burners and can say with confidence that they are the undisputed benchmark when it comes to compression ignition. They are smooth, powerful, and efficient and are so clean burning when they leave the factory they don’t require an exhaust treatment system. VW’s been at this game for a long time, and it shows.

The Cruze is the newcomer to the party, although diesel engines can be found in the engine bays of Cruzes all over the world, depending on market. It’s been adapted for North American duty, with the most significant change being the addition of a urea exhaust treatment system.

PROS: Satisfying torque, incredible efficiency, proficient highway companion.

CONS: Lots of diesel clatter, cramped quarters out back, dim-witted transmission in low speed driving.

THE VERDICT: VW Jetta shoppers now have a pleasing alternative.

It’s basically the same system you’ll find on GM’s full size diesel pickups. The downsizing trend continues with the engine’s aural signature. It’s definitely modern, but it doesn’t have the refinement of VW’s mill and sounds very much like its big pickup brothers. Happily, a rugged soundtrack doesn’t translate into undue harshness and vibration- actually, the effort from GM is quite smooth.

With VW’s TDI as the benchmark, the 2.0 litre four in the Cruze makes a smidge more power (150 vs. 151) and a bunch of torque (264 vs. 236) than its German rival. Even more twist can be accessed when the pedal is buried into the carpet, allowing the driver to access a peak of 280 lbs/ft. of indulgent torque. The Chevy also trumps the VW in terms of range; with 5 more litres of fuel capacity on board, you can parlay that into some serious mileage long after the Jetta/Golf has stopped to refuel. The Chevy has the VW crying “Nein!” in the battle for efficiency- its NRCan consumption forecasts are more optimistic. We didn’t have a VW on hand for comparison, but after a week of mixed driving, the Cruzes’ trip computer was showing a piddling 8.7L/100km in mostly city driving- pretty heady stuff.

That a diesel engine would return more power and efficiency than its gasoline counterpart isn’t news at all, but the premium feel evinced by the Cruze was unexpected. The Cruze feels dense and substantial, qualities that don’t serve it well in the twisty bits but pay dividends when slogging across pock marked roadways at speed. Don’t get the impression that the Cruze is helpless in the bends, but choosing a more aggressive tire instead of the low rolling resistance offerings should pay huge dividends if you like to sashay down a winding road every now and again. Think carefully before you do that however- the tires are part of a suite of fuel saving technologies (low rolling resistance, flat under tray, grille shutters) that will help achieve some pretty amazing consumption figures, so prioritize wisely, friends.

While the Cruze Diesel was in the Carpages Garage, a few Cruze owners with the 1.4 litre gas-fired turbos asked whether or not the premium for the diesel is worth it. While the answer must include the disclaimer that it will depend on your driving habits when it comes to recouping the premium, I’d have to say yes to the diesel. It gives the Cruze a thick midrange of power that pays huge dividends when commuting and passing, but it generally feels less stressed and more relaxed than the gas engine which has to spin harder and faster to achieve full power.

This is the first real effort from The General in offering up diesel cars for sale en-masse since the ill-conceived Olds and Cadillacs of the 1980’s, and it is a good one. Like anything else, time and experience should improve the breed and we have a few suggestions of areas to address. First, give rear passengers a bit more room- with the bladder busting range the Cruze can hit they’ll want to be as comfortable as possible between stops. The transmission, which usually behaves transparently, needs to go back to finishing school when it comes to low speed driving. Perhaps Chevy engineers could find ways to quiet the diesel’s gruffness just a bit, too.

Based on economics alone, the decision to put a Cruze Diesel over a gasoline-fired example in your driveway may not make sense. However, if being kinder to the air we breathe while indulging in a healthy dose of low end grunt is something that appeals to you while using less fuel, the Cruze is certainly worth a test drive.

2015 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $29,775
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger Sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Engine:  2.0 litre inline 4 turbodiesel, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower: 151 @ 4,000 rpm
  • Torque (lbs.-ft.): 264 @ 2,600 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,574  kg (3,471 lbs.)
  • Fuel consumption: 8.7L/100km (27 mpg)