The Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal left a gap in the market for diesel-powered engines that could deliver on performance and economy. The newest model Chevy Cruze is a credible entry into this market and picks up a lot of slack from where the Volkswagen left off. With mythic fuel economy and an interior that punches above its weight, the Cruze has a lot to offer to car buyers willing to take the plunge back into diesel fuel. The options available are expansive, to say the least: buyers can opt for a gas engine or the aforementioned diesel, transmissions come in both manual and automatic, and there is both a sedan and hatchback body in the arsenal. This, along with four different trims, makes the Cruze the closest thing to build your own workshop that most car buyers and get.
Didn't I hear about the Chevy Cruze being made in Mexico?
The Cruze got some unexpected fame when then President-Elect Trump tweeted that it was being produced in Mexico and being imported across the border, thus making it potentially susceptible to the astronomical tariffs that Washington was proposing on automobiles. However this was not exactly the case: in 2016, about 4.4 percent of Cruze models were built in Mexico, with the remaining 95.6 percent built in the Chevy factory in Ohio. Moreover, the vehicles produced south of the border were intended for international sales, but according to Chevy, they were imported into the US due to unexpectedly high demand. However, in the same year the Lordstown, Ohio plant saw 1200 layoffs to workers- a paradox which depends on the fluctuations of the market over the long term. Whatever the case was before, GM has confirmed that the new model Chevy Cruze is made entirely in Lordstown.
Now that we've cleared that up, what's new with the new Cruze?
Most importantly, the Cruze now offers its diesel engine on the hatchback model, making it the most efficient non-hybrid vehicle on the market. Most models are fitted with a 4 cylinder gas engine that delivers 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, a respectable ratio for a compact car but not one that will thrill you behind the wheel. The 1.6 lt turbodiesel, on the other hand, delivers 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, which gives this little engine a surprising amount of kick and delivers a smooth and speedy driving experience inside of a nimble body. There have also been some important changes to the interior, both in layout and features. The back seat feels roomy and comfortable for two passengers, and trim packages elevate the Cruze from a reliable alternative to a formidable contender against the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and the Mazda 3. It is, however, the addition of the turbodiesel engine to the lineup that shows the risks that Chevy was willing to take in a changing market, and the payoff is in the performance.
Is the fuel economy really that good?
Diesel engines aren't the favorite of a large part of the world for nothing: the Cruze's turbodiesel engine gets an astounding 52 mpg highway (37 mpg combined) with a 9-speed automatic transmission that's exclusive to the model. Because diesel fuel delivers about 10% more energy than gasoline, your dollar stretches that much farther, and the driving experience in a compression igniting engine feels more powerful than the paltry horsepower would suggest. Moreover, diesel-powered cars are significantly less expensive than hybrid engines and are more often reserved for mid-sized cars, so getting that level of fuel economy usually means a larger expense in the short term for savings over the longer term. That said, it's not a coincidence that the Cruze is often on display with Chevy hybrid models such as the Bolt plug-in, Bolt EV, and Malibu hybrid. Chevy is definitely looking to cover as much ground as possible in the compact to mid-size market, and for those who aren't scared off by the Volkswagen scandal, the Cruze is an attractive option with fuel economy that will make you the envy of your commuter community.
How about the safety features?
The Cruze got some flack for safety features in the past, and last year's models glaringly omitted automatic emergency braking from the available safety options. It seems that Chevy took heed of the changing tides of safety packages, and they've introduced a suite of new tech to keep up with the pack. The StabiliTrak Electronic Stability Control System makes the most of the advances in autonomous technology to enable Cruze models with things like Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Forward Safety Awareness. The last of these includes a Forward Collision Alert as well as Forward Automatic Braking, which is likely Chevy's answer to the last model's shortcomings. Built-in sensors are connected to OnStar operators, and most Chevy models come with free OnStar services for three months. Packages also include a Teen Driver feature which monitors new drivers to get a report on their performance and prohibits safety features from being turned off. There's also a safety cage built into the body design and 10 airbags throughout the vehicle, and Chevy claims that these employ the latest technology in both construction and deployment. In the wake of the Takata airbag recall, that's probably a smart idea.
Are there any cool interior features?
Even the basic models have some of the features that are quickly becoming human rights in the automotive industry, such as a USB port, Bluetooth, and a rearview camera. Step up the trim, and you'll get a lot more in the cabin to keep passengers occupied: Apple Car Play and Android Auto are available through a 7 inch touchscreen infotainment panel, a Bose 9 speaker audio system, another USB port as well as a wireless charging system, and a WiFi hotspot through OnStar. The cabin is also plenty roomy for adults, kids, and kit of all sorts: with over 40 cubic feet of space in the hatchback model, there's a lot of space to store items, and the added weight seems to have very little impact on the engine's performance. An upgrade to the Premier model gives you larger alloy wheels (instead of the oddly retro hubcaps on lower trims), a heated steering wheel and leather upholstery.