Chevy pins hope on Cruze hatch, diesel

The 2018 Chevy Cruze Hatchback Diesel at Glenmere Park in Greeley. (Bud Wells photo)

Slipped very quietly, and somewhat surprisingly, beneath the hood of the hot new Chevy Cruze hatchback I’ve been driving was a small turbodiesel engine and 9-speed automatic transmission.

Chevrolet, it seems, is bucking consensus that the Volkswagen diesel scandal of two years ago has driven away majority of would-be buyers of those alternatively fueled vehicles.

Speaking of the 2018 Cruze LT Diesel Hatchback delivered to me, Nick Jaynes Morgan, assistant manager of Chevrolet Communications, said the diesel package is of very limited production, about 5 percent of Cruze total output this year.

“We’re aware of the feelings of many over the VW cheating issue,” said Morgan; “yet, if we can get a responsible number of consumers into test drives of the Cruze turbodiesel, we believe our diesel sales numbers will begin to climb.”

He may be right, for the turbo response and high fuel-mileage readings were impressive in the review model, and the front-wheel-drive Cruze has been rated above average in handling since shortly after its inception 10 years ago.

Great handling and strong torque were on display for an earlier Cruze diesel in 2014, when I drove it over the rolling hills on Colo. 105 north of Palmer Lake, on to Sedalia and back to Denver. That turbo was short-lived, giving way to the uproar over VW’s diesel emissions case of 2015. That diesel was the first offered in a Chevy car since the little Chevette in 1986.

The new turbodiesel, produced in Hungary, is a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder generating 137 horsepower and 240 lb.-ft. of torque. It was introduced in the Cruze sedan in 2017, and this year expanded into the hot new hatchback.

The compact Cruze’s new hatchback style was deemed favorable by most onlookers while in my possession. The stylish roof slopes to a rakish rear end with spoiler and wraparound taillamps. The review model’s red finish was an attraction.

The liftgate opens up to 22.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat; fold that and it expands to 47 cubic feet. The rear-seating area offers good amount of legroom. After placing anything in the rear seat and driving any distance, and with shutoff of the engine the Chevy’s message center reads: “Rear seat reminder; Look in rear seat!”

A run to DIA to greet Kim Parker on her return from Atlanta and return to her home in Greeley, a total of 100 miles, averaged 42.5 miles per gallon, and overall mpg for the Cruze was 37. Its EPA estimate for the diesel is 30/45. The Cruze rides on Goodyear Assurance 205/55R16 tires.

The Cruze has no paddleshifters, though can be dropped into manual mode and shifted up or down with push of plus and minus switches. More aggressive takeoffs can be attained in normal automatic mode when the driver’s foot goes deep into the accelerator.

The turbodiesel engine adds $2,800 to cost of the Cruze, which showed a sticker price of $30,125. Among features were leather seats, power sunroof, heated steering wheel, lane-change alert, Bose audio with Bluetooth streaming/Apple Carplay and Android Auto capability.