It’s unfortunate that Volkswagen made diesel a dirty word… again. Because when Chevrolet offered Digital Trends a ride in the 2018 Cruze hatch diesel, we were forced to ask ourselves why. Why diesel during the fuel’s most slanderous period? Why push a diesel vehicle when it’s become synonymous with scandal? Curious about this — as well as how the actual car functions — we agreed to take the Cruze on a long journey through Alaska to see what it had to offer, both to the consumer and the world at large.
The name “Chevrolet Hatch Diesel” pretty much spells out what you’re getting: a hatchback version of Chevy’s economy compact, which runs on a diesel power plant. It’s an exclusive model in this segment, which neatly answers part of our “why diesel” question: because nobody else is doing it.
Why diesel during the fuel’s most slanderous period?
The long-range Bolt EV may be the most attractive of Chevy’s offerings for those who think green, but it doesn’t exclude the automaker from filling the vacuum that VW’s scandal created. In fact, to avoid the same fate, Chevrolet worked extensively with the EPA so that everything about the diesel powertrain was above board. The Cruze diesel complies with the new tier 3 emission standards. What it boils down to, as far as the EPA is concerned, is that the Cruze Diesel has the same greenhouse gas rating as its gas-powered counterpart. It differs in that the gas hatchback has a 6 out of 10 smog rating, and the diesel is 3 out of 10, 10 being the cleanest.
Alex Kalogianni/Digital Trends
The diesel engine itself is a 1.6-liter turbo four cylinder that can be married either to a six-speed manual or a nine-speed automatic. The engine has been engineered to make the most out of its fuel of choice, maximizing low end torque and squeezing as many miles as possible out of each gallon. Drivers will have 137 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque on hand, with a promise of 30 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway.
Trim levels and features
Skipping the more spartan offerings, the Hatch Diesel is available in the LT trim. This nets you comforts like the 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Chevrolet MyLink, SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and OnStar, with 4G LTE connectivity to turn your hatchback into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The driver confidence package is available to help drivers out with things like rear park assist, blind zone alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. Adding the RS package gives the Cruze a rear spoiler at the top, front fog lamps, a few body kit accents to make it a little more aggressive, and 18-inch machined wheels.
Though sparse, the Cruze is not without its comforts. Park assist, blind zone alert, and lane departure warnings are options that come in a package of safety touches that should boost the confidence of any driver. The 7-inch screen is home to Chevy MyLink, though it does have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, something we found ourselves using more often than not. The extra devices we weren’t using for that were connected to the OnStar 4G LTE, and we let them battle it out to see who’d provide a usable map. It was surprising that in some instances, the car’s reception was able to eke out a bar or two.
Interior fit and finish
Considering how long we were driving, the front seats remained reasonably comfortable. The hours of seat time wore us out well before the seats themselves did. Welcome touches like heat for our rumps made the journey through Alaska’s glacier-chilled air much more pleasant than we anticipated, but if we had company, they wouldn’t be out of luck, either. First off, heated rear seats are available to heat their rears. The back also had enough space to fit extra passengers without any extra crunch. They wouldn’t last as long as we did on our hour-long stretches, but a grown adult could sit behind my un-adjusted driver seat without issue. We’d even still have room left over for our gear, if it came down to it.
Driving and mpg
The journey from Anchorage to Homer, located towards the end of Alaska’s Kenai peninsula, is a particularly long trip at about 220 miles. Joining forces with the local chapter of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), we signed on to take part in a road rally that would take us through Chugach National Forest and down to Seward before doubling back for a stretch as we made our way along the Cook inlet. It would turn out to be a great way to take in Alaska’s natural splendor — and put the Cruze’s comfort and range to the test.
It’s safe to say that the Cruze looks like it’s more fun than it actually is to drive.
It’s safe to say that the Cruze looks like it’s more fun than it actually is to drive. Any attempts to push this car out of its parameters will be met with resistance. The RS bits might help give the hatchback a look that says “this isn’t my mom’s car,” but underneath, the car’s characteristics don’t lend themselves to spirited play. The 240 lb-ft of torque the motor can muster is available at the low end of the revs, which is good, but prepare to deal with that torque’s desire to steer if you lead-foot it.
The automatic’s nine-speed gearbox is also a joyless chaperone when it comes to having a good time. It will very quickly upshift out of a gear for the sake of efficiency and there’s no way to manually override it. If you’re not still discouraged by the time you encounter a windy road, the handling isn’t very inspiring. At the end of the day, any backroads that offered an opportunity to break up the sightseeing with a little gusto just went to waste.
Stay in line, though, and the Cruze does what it promises. Our highway stretches saw us average 40 mpg easily, and even when the road rally’s directions led to more erratic, stop-and-go driving, we didn’t see our average sink below 35 mpg.
At the end of our journey, we were of two minds about the car. In a vacuum, the Cruze hatchback ticks a lot of boxes: It’s not bad looking, it’s spacious enough for people and gear, and it’s easy to drive on both daily commutes and long hauls. It lacks thrills, but for the price ($26,740 for the auto and $26,310 for the manual), it’s very hard to ignore. Throw in the fact that you can eke out hybrid-like efficiency on the diesel and you’ve got a solid all-rounder that can contend with hatchback heavy-hitters like the VW Golf and Mazda3.
2018 Chevrolet Cruz Diesel Compared To
Yet even with this car’s emissions being on the level, hitting the EPA standards and being thoroughly scrutinized, it’s very hard to get over the fact that once you say “diesel,” its stock drops. Spending time in Alaska’s overwhelmingly stunning scenery underscores why the subject has people up in arms. This iteration of Chevrolet’s Cruze Hatch won’t convert anyone ill at ease with diesel, but anyone indifferent to the fuel’s current PR status will find it a very sound option.
The hatchback is available in dealers now — and if you decide to drive one off the lot, we recommend taking the scenic route home.
Published at Mon, 06 Nov 2017 11:15:29 +0000