01-23-18

CHEVY’S NEW CRUZE DIESEL COULD BE THE SALVE FOR THOSE MOURNING THE DEMISE OF VW’S TDIS

Cruze DieselBy Peter Bleakney, Driving.ca - Just when you thought the diesel-powered compact car was dead in the water, GM comes rattling to the rescue.  The Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, available in both sedan and hatchback, could very well be a salve for those who mourn the tragic demise of Volkswagen's cruelly deceptive yet otherwise excellent TDIs.

Up until that VW's emissions scandal blew up real good, the diesel-powered Golf and Jetta enjoyed cult status here in Canada, accounting for a sizable percentage of those compact car's sales.  Canucks have a penchant for diesels, and really, what's not to like?  Amazing fuel mileage along with gobs of relaxed torque is hard to dispute.

So, can this diesel Cruze pick up where the compact VWs left off?  Will it ever garner the kind of love and emotion the TDI faithful still harbor in their hearts?  Will it spawn a new crowd, proudly willing to wield their stinky yellow pump handle?

I will say this: after a week in the saddle of the 2018 Cruze Diesel sedan, the on-board computer showed a heart-warming fuel consumption rating of 5.4 L/100 kilometres, and with diesel currently cheaper than regular gasoline, that's a sweet thing.  So yes, this diesel sedan delivers hybrid-baiting economy without the attendant weight and complexity of battery packs, electric motors and mega computing power.

However, pricing is an issue that weighs down the Cruze Diesel.  It's only available in the second-from-top tier LT trim, with the six-speed manual sedan starting at $24,395.  Add another 41,500 for the six-speed automatic in this tester, and that represents a $3,250 hike over the comparable gas models that run with a 1.4-L turbo-four making 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.

The heart of the matter here is an all-new 1.,6-L turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, with a variable-vane turbocharger, and aluminum block and heads.  This Hungarian-built oil-burner is 20 kilograms lighter and a claimed 68 per cent quieter than the 2.0-L turbodiesel it replaces.  The engine is also available in the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers, so yes, GM seems serious about this diesel business.

While this new diesel's 137 hp might sound a bit paltry, it's the robust 240 lb-ft of torque available from 2,000 rpm that does the talking.  hooked to an excellent nine-speed automatic transmission that expertly slurs the gears while keeping the little oil-burner in the meat of its torque band, the Cruze Diesel never feels flat-footed.  There's always a big slug of torque at the ready to urge you forward from just about any speed.  It certainly feels more fleet than the gasoline car.

In Europe, this engine gets the nickname "fluster-diesel" - fluster is German for whisper.  indeed, once warmed up, it is a civilized unit.  Sure, there's an earnest - some might find it endearing - grumble emanating from under the hood when accelerating, but when cruising, it's as quiet as a church.  And with the necessary down-stream urea-injection exhaust scrubbing, it meets all North American emission regulations.  You'll need to top up the DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) every 8,000 to 10,000 km.

There are a few reasons diesel engines are so much more efficient than gas engines.  Diesel fuel is more energy-dense, containing about ten per cent more bang-power per litre.  Additionally, parasitic pumping losses are reduced in a diesel engine because engine speed is dictated by fuel supply; it doesn't have to work to suck air through a restrictive opening (the "throttle", get it?)  And finally, the super high-compression ratio, needed to ignite the fuel because there are no spark plugs, contributes to more efficient combustion.

As for the higher price compared to gas-powered vehicles, chalk that up to robust construction and the extremely precise, high-pressure fuel-delivery systems.

In all other aspects, the Cruze Diesel lines up with the gas model.  It's an agreeable compact sedan with fine road manners that lean more toward comfort than sport.  however, its numb on-centre steering feel won't win over any Volkswagen fans.  Likewise, the interior quality trails the VW's, but you can say that about most competitors in this segment.

In the plus ledger, the Cruze's ergonomics are good in LT trim with an intuitive, seven-inch touch screen-based MyLink infotainment system featuring Bluetooth, USB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, plus SiriusXM satellite radio.  you also get six months of free, full-service OnStar that spoils with turn-by-turn GPS navigation, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot-spot connectivity, and more.

This tester had the $3,200 True North Edition Package that adds leather seating, a heated steering wheel, blind-spot and lane-change alerts, rear park assist and rear cross-traffic alert, a sunroof, ambient lighting, a colour screen in the gauge cluster, a pretty decent nine-speaker Bose audio system, and the touch screen is bumped up in size to eight inches.  spicing up the exterior is the RS body package ($795) and Cajun red paint ($595).

All in, we're looking at a pretty pricey Cruze; just north of $30,000 before freight and taxes.  I would also posit it is the best-driving Cruze, because the 1.6-L turbodiesel and the slick nine-speed transmission give this little sedan a relaxed, V6-like urge from step-off to highway cruise.

There's no arguing its parsimonious fuel sippage.  One could, however, argue-with the financial hit this 'fluster-diesel" inflicts on the Cruze's bottom line.  Justifying the cost would require driving it around the globe a few times.  We will accept fanatical, flag-waving, diesel enthusiasm as well.

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04-28-16

cruze-3FOR 2016, THE CHEVROLET'S TOP-SELLER, THE CRUZE GETS A COMPLETE MAKEOVER

By Costa Mouzouris, Driving.ca - The Chevrolet Cruze is GM's best-selling car in Canada, despite stiff competition in the compact segment.  In fact, the Cruze is good enough to entice many owners of other brands to switch teams; GM claims that more than half of Cruze owners are new to the brand.

This is Chevy's bread-winning car, available in more than 75 countries worldwide.  It has sold more than four million units around the world since its introduction in 2008, and more than 170,000 units in Canada since arriving here in 2010, though those numbers pale in comparison to the Honda Civic, which sells twice as many units.

Chevrolet has given this next-generation Cruze a complete makeover for 2016, and it features much more than just a more aggressive new look.  The windshield and back glass are at shallower angles for a more streamlined, Euro coupe-like roofline, and the car now has an almost fastback silhouette.

Built at GM's Lordstown, Ohio plant, the Cruze has gained 1.5 centimetres of wheelbase (now at 270 cm), is 6.8 cm longer, and the roof is 2.5 cm lower.  The extra length contributes to additional interior space, especially for rear passengers.  Taller passengers will find headroom a bit cramped, a drawback of the lowered roof.

An all-new 1.4-litre, direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder is the only available engine, replacing the outgoing model's 1.4-L turbocharged and the 1.8-L naturally aspirated engines.  As before, it is mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

This new, lighter engine produces 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, up from the former turbo's 138 horses and 148 lb-ft.  The new engine's claimed combined fuel consumption is 6.8 L/100 km when coupled to the automatic transmission with the standard start/stop function, and a best of 5.6 L/100 km on the highway.  That's about a litre better than the former 1.4-L engine.  After an 80-mile ride in an automatic LT, the trip computer displayed an average consumption of 41 mpg U.S., or 5.7 L/100 km.

If you prefer forfeiting sparkplugs in the interest of even better fuel economy, you can wait until 2017 when GM will reintroduce the diesel version.

Four trim levels are available, from the $15,995US L model ($180 less than the 2015 model) to the $23,995US Premier.  The enticing entry price won't get you basic conveniences such as cruise control, a rear-view camera or air conditioning, but you do get Bluetooth connectivity with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and available LTE Wi-Fi.  You can add the RS package to the LT for $695US, which adds fog lamps, a sporty front fascia and rear spoiler, or to the Premier for a $995US premium, which also adds 18-inch wheels (16-, 16-, and 17-inch wheels are available on various trims).  Heated front seats are standard from the LT model upward.

A new chassis is 24 kilograms lighter and boasts a 27 per cent increase in rigidity.  The lighter engine and chassis, as well as other weight-saving measures, combine to drop about 113 kg from the curb weight.  From the driver's seat, this translates to a ride that feels taut, with bumps and road noise well isolated from the interior.

The L, LS and LT models feature a torsion-beam rear axle, while the Premier is equipped with a Watts Z-link.  Despite this relatively modest suspension design (front struts; rear torsion beam), GM engineers have tuned it to feel much more sophisticated.  At low speeds it feels firm, yet lacks any harshness, even over a series of moderately sized bumps.  If pushed through tight turns at higher speeds, though, it becomes evident that the suspension is tuned for comfort, returning modest body roll.

Steering effort is light and feedback is somewhat muted, in contrast to the 2016 Civic our hosts made available for comparison.  The Cruze, however, is smoother and quieter, especially from the engine compartment.  While not quite as serene as the Buick Verano, even the lower-end LS model is above par in its class.

The manual transmission has moderate lever travel and requires a light touch, but it's not best suited for the engine's powerband.  Pushing the gas pedal down results in a very lethargic climb of the tach needle until the revs pick up, after which the turbocharged four lights up considerably.

The automatic transmission downshifts more obediently than a lazy hand on the manual stick, therefore it feels much livelier.  This keeps the engine in the strong part of its powerband more effectively, while transferring less engine vibration and returning a smoother ride than the manual transmission.  Whether equipped with two or three pedals, the brake pedal seems unusually high.

The Cruze's interior has been refreshed with more soft-touch and textured materials, and it has a slightly upscale look and feel.  It might fall short when compared to luxury offerings in the segment, but it is finer than most cars in its price range.  A seven-inch colour touch screen is standard, and an eight-inch screen is optional.  The instrument cluster is similar to the outgoing model, though there's now a 4.2-inch high-definition screen between the gauges.  The shift lever has also moved to the left side of the centre console, closer to the driver.

Ten airbags are standard, and there are many driver aids available.  A rear-view camera is standard from the LS model up, and park assist and rear cross-traffic alert are available on the LT.  If you must have all the driver aids, including lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, collision alert and a following-distance warning, they're available only on the Premier model.

The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is available now, and it appears to be popular with second-time buyers: about 58 per cent of Cruze buyers already own one.  Chevrolet aims to entice at least some drivers away from the Civic, so a five-door hatchback Cruze will be available later this year.  But even without the fifth door, this lighter, larger and more dynamic Cruze will probably attract many more converts.

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