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Cruze could change drivers’ views on diesel

By Larry Printz
The Virginian-Pilot

Americans have an aversion to diesel-powered cars that’s not shared by the rest of the world. Visit Germany, and you’ll find most cars burn diesel. Here in the States, diesel cars are as rare as hens’ teeth.

Part of it has to do with diesel’s emergence during the 1970s and ’80s, when the OPEC oil embargo forever established fuel economy as an overriding concern among car buyers. The diesel engines from those years were smoky and noisy, and the cars they powered were very slow off the line.

Four decades have passed. Now turbochargers have solved acceleration problems, while a host of emission controls have erased their propensity to emit stinky, sooty fumes.

Don’t believe me? Try the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel, assembled in Northeast Ohio in Lordstown.

If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t know that the Cruze is a diesel until you looked at the fuel economy rating: 27 mpg city, 46 mpg highway. And, according to the EPA, the annual cost of fueling the Cruze TD is between $50 more to $150 less than other Cruze models.

Of course, that’s not the whole story.

Whereas a typical gasoline-powered car has a range of a little more than 300 miles, the Cruze TD has a range of as much as 717 miles — on one tank of fuel. My own measurements saw the Cruze easily return 50 mpg in highway driving. Overall mileage was an impressive 37 mpg.

Thanks should go the turbocharged double-overhead-cam 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel and six-speed automatic transmission. A manual transmission is not offered.

This little mill’s power is impressive, with little turbo lag off the line. You will hear some diesel engine clatter around town, but the cabin quiets down at higher speeds.

Like other Cruze models, the Cruze TD is very fun to drive. It remains fairly flat through corners, and there’s enough grip to keep things interesting. The steering is light, but doesn’t feel lifeless. Bumps are absorbed without commotion. Braking is average.

Overall, the Cruze ably competes with the diesel VW Jetta TDI.


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