While other manufacturers have been pulling back their lineups by eliminating sedans and hatchbacks from their portfolio, General Motors made a commitment to keep them on sale for us.
This is a good thing because there are some pretty good ones that GM’s four brands sell.
For example, Chevrolet maintains a small car lineup that continues to attract buyers—from individual customers to fleet managers. They are efficient, loaded with technology, and are actually quite handsome.
There are some that truly stand out enough to be popular at Chevrolet dealerships. For example, the Cruze compact lineup of sedans and hatchbacks. It competes well in a class led by the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and Mazda3. It also has its own unique qualities that attract buyers, such as a distinct design, a wide variety of trims and options, and a choice of engines based on the kind of fuel you want to put into it.
We were happy to welcome a 2018 Chevrolet Cruze hatchback with a diesel engine underneath its hood. Yes, we said it had a diesel engine.
Why talk about diesel after all of the recent controversies at other manufacturers regarding this fuel source? While those manufacturers affected by scandals and calls by the government in ensuring that emissions systems are legal, GM stuck to their guns by ensuring the Cruze diesel not only complies with these laws, but consumers still want it even when hybrid drivelines continue to attract customers looking for greater efficiency in their vehicles.
The diesel engine underneath this Cruze’s hood is a 1.6-liter turbocharged unit. It offers 137 horsepower, but 240 pound-feet of torque. You certainly feel the latter when accelerating off the line and in passing maneuvers on the highway. Customers can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or a nine-speed automatic unit. Our tester had the automatic, which turned out to be a very smooth choice. In terms of fuel economy, we averaged 33.3 MPG. Chevrolet states that it should average 35 MPG and up to 45 MPG in this configuration. In fact, the sedan version of the Cruze Diesel can get up to 52 MPG with the manual transmission.
When you open up the fuel door, you see two caps behind it. One is the green cap for diesel fuel, which the Cruze can take up to a 20-percent bio-blend (B20) without any harm to the engine. The smaller blue cap is for Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) to ensure cleaner emissions from the tailpipe.
Aside from the diesel engine, we found the Cruze had an enjoyable driving experience. Ride quality is pretty good with exceptional handling. You can corner the Cruze hatch as you would a sportier compact, which will surprise those expecting a more mundane ride. Part of this comes from the Rallye Sport (RS) package upgrade, including a set of 18-inch alloy wheels on low profile Michelin tires. Not that wheels make the difference, but a good suspension does. It is perhaps the Cruze’s big secret—and surprise.
Steering is good, with a tight turning radius and solid response. On-center feel is OK. The brakes are good, with solid pedal feel and response. Stops are equally good in normal and panic situations.
The driving experience with the diesel is pretty good. However, there is the rest of the Cruze to consider. Stepping inside the hatchback sedan is an attractive cabin that fits the driver well. Instrumentation is clear, but the cowl is low for taller drivers. Yet, you do get a smartly laid-out binnacle, including the information screen providing vehicle information and status. The low cowl does lend to easy access to the MyLink touchscreen and air conditioning controls. Steering wheel controls, including preset/track and volume controls on the back of the spokes, work just fine.
The seats were wrapped in a saddle-like leather Chevrolet calls Kalahari. This color is set in a two-tone throughout the cabin with black, giving the Diesel hatch an upscale look and feel. Front seats offer some support and comfort, but they are adequate for any distance of travel. There is plenty of leg room in the back, but taller people will find the headroom a bit challenging. All four doors open wide—up to almost 90-degrees.
Cruze hatchback customers enjoy 22.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat, expandable to 47.2 cubic feet with it folded down. The rear cargo area is protected by a cover that neatly is attached to the hatch when it is open.
Bose provided the sound to back the MyLink infotainment system. There are nine speakers that do a superb job of sound reproduction. You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, along with an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot driven by OnStar. Of course, OnStar can help in the case of an emergency or to get directions when you are lost. One feature that is part of MyLink is Marketplace. This is where you can pay for diesel fuel or get some food and drink from the convenience of the Cruze.
One last thing to discuss on the Cruze hatchback is how handsome it is compared to the sedan. The shorter length—by 8.4 inches—lends to a more concentrated overall look, while maintaining continuity between it and the sedan up front. The longer roof and low profile also help to add to the handsomeness to the Cruze lineup. In fact, we prefer the hatchback over the sedan.
If we would suggest one thing for your Cruze, it is the sporty RS package. It adds a more aggressive look all around from the black egg-crate grille, rear spoiler, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a body kit for better aerodynamics and ground effects. This package is not just available for the Diesel model, but for gasoline-fueled LT and Premier trims, too.
The base price for the Cruze Diesel lineup is $23,820 for a manual transmission sedan. Our hatchback tester with the automatic transmission came with a fully-loaded sticker price of $31,370. Pricing for the gasoline-fueled Cruze with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine starts at $16,975 for a manual transmission L sedan. Hatchbacks start at $21,320 for an LT trim model with the manual transmission.
We came away from the Chevrolet Cruze with a new appreciation for the brand. The buzz was that this generation of Cruze was good, as we confirm this. More so, we even would suggest looking at the hatchback before the sedan and consider the diesel before the gasoline model. Your pick of transmission is entirely up to you.
In fact, one of our colleagues saw our tester on one of our stints and considered this the coolest Chevrolet yet. You would be correct to agree with our outside colleague. We thought the same way, too. This should help to keep the Cruze on sale for years to come. We now know why GM is committed to cars—the Cruze is a good one not keep away from consumers at any cost.