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Comparing The Cruze Diesel And Gas-Powered Eco

Diesel-powered vehicles are becoming more prevalent on the streets and highways of the good old USA. The fact that they get superb mileage, are reliable and offer plenty of power means that even diehard gas aficionados are moving over to diesel.

Since you’re reading Diesel World, chances are you’re already a believer in diesel engines… in trucks. However, you know that diesel has made inroads into the car market in a big way. If you’re like us, you’re maybe considering a diesel car for a family member to commute to work in, or to take off to college in. While there are a bunch of diesel cars to consider, we wanted to answer the question of gas vs. diesel using an iconic American brand Chevrolet.

The Chevy Cruze Diesel is the first diesel-powered car made by a classic U.S. manufacturer, for the U.S. market, since the 1980s. The Cruze is also available in a standard gas-powered version and an Eco version that offers even better mileage with a smaller engine.

“Diesel offers superior power and acceleration. Chevrolet points out that the 2.0L diesel has the power of a V-6, and the economy of a small four-cylinder engine.”

So the question that comes to mind is how does the Cruze Diesel compare to the Eco? Recently, DW had a chance to drive the Cruze Diesel and found it to be impressive for a small to mid-size sedan. We then rented a Cruze Eco to do a quick comparison. So how did they stack up? Here are a few facts and our impressions.

First the EPA mileage numbers for the Cruze Diesel are 46/27 highway/city with a 33 combined from the EPA. The 1.4L Eco automatic is rated at 39/26 with a 31 combined mpg. Fuel capacity for both is 15.6 gallons. Your initial impression from these numbers is that if you spend all your time on city streets, the two will offer close to the same mileage. The truth is that most of us spend more than half of our driving time on the highway, or at close to highway conditions. In real life, the diesel has the mileage edge for most drivers.

Another edge the turbo diesel has over the Eco is in cost per mile. Consider that with all things being equal, the fuel cost per mile for the diesel Cruze is .089 cents while the Eco fuel costs are .118 cents.

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The Cruze Diesel is rated by the EPA at 46/27 highway/city with a 33 combined mpg. The 1.4L Eco automatic is rated at 39/26 with a 31 combined mpg.

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The Cruze Eco is rated by the EPA at 39/26 with a 31 combined mpg.

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The 2.0L diesel puts out 264 lb/ft and 151 hp. The 1.4L Ecotec engine is only 148 lb/ft and 138 hp, just what one would expect of a smaller gas engine. The Cruze diesel also has an “overboost” feature capable of increasing torque to an estimated 280 lb/ft for short bursts of stronger acceleration for merging into traffic on the highway.

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The Cruze Diesel comes without a spare tire. The Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) uses that space and then some. This results in a slight loss of cargo capacity, compared to gas-powered models. A flat fix can and an air compressor are included with the diesel model.

The diesel also offers superior power and acceleration. Chevrolet points out that the 2.0L diesel has the power of a V-6, and the economy of a small four-cylinder engine. We can attest to the power of the diesel. The 2.0L diesel puts out 264 lb/ft and 151 hp. Both are superior to the 148 lb/ft and 138 hp of the 1.4L Ecotec engine. Of course, being a diesel, the torque comes in sooner and this little oil burner keeps on pulling. The diesel Cruze scoots along with a 0-60 time of 8.6 seconds, noticeably better than the Eco we drove. The Cruze Diesel also has an “overboost” feature capable of increasing torque to an estimated 280 lb/ft for short bursts of stronger acceleration for merging into traffic on the highway.

Our impression is that the Cruze Diesel is a more comfortable car than the Eco and offers more power and still sips fuel. On the price front, it should be noted that the diesel version comes with standard upgrades that are not even available on the ECO. This includes four-wheel ABS, a remote start and more. When these standard upgrades are taken into account, the price point is not a wide as the numbers first indicate. We feel that the Cruze Diesel is a car loaded with included options, while the Eco automatic is a little less upscale and would be termed a little less well equipped.

The only drawback we found to the new Cruze Diesel is that the spare tire is missing. The mandated DEF fluid system means that the spare tire is replaced with the 4.5-gallon DEF fluid tank. This results in a slight loss of cargo capacity, and no spare tire. A flat fix can and air compressor are included with the diesel model.

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The fuel cap of the diesel is green and states “diesel” on it; it’s hard to confuse this with the standard black cap on the Eco gas model.

On the upside, the Cruze Diesel owner will get an industry first for a car in this class: a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, and a two-year maintenance plan. The maintenance plan covers standard maintenance and this includes DEF fill and oil changes.

Our overall favorite was the Cruze Diesel. While the Eco is a nice car, the torque and mileage of the diesel can’t be beat.

NOTE: The Cruze Diesel is currently only offered with an automatic transmission. The Cruze Eco is available with a manual or automatic option. All comparisons here are with automatic transmission vehicles. Local fuel costs at press time were $4.10 for diesel and $3.41 for regular unleaded per gallon. DW

2014 VEHICLE:                           CHEVROLET CRUZE DIESEL
Engine Type:                                      I-4, Turbo Diesel
Displacement:                                    2.0L (122 cid)
Horsepower, RRM:                           148 hp @ 4,000 rpm, est.
Torque lb/ft, RPM:                           258 lb/ft @ 2,000 rpm, est.
Fuel Capacity:                                    14.6 gallons
Mileage (EPA):                                   30 city, 46 hwy, 38 combined
Transmission:                                     Six-speed auto
MSRP, Base Diesel:                           $25,810
(Includes the $825 destination charges. Discounts and special offers not included.)

2014 VEHICLE:                               CHEVROLET CRUZE ECO
Engine Type:                                     I-4, Turbocharged
Displacement:                                   1.4L (85 cid)
Horsepower, RRM:                           138 hp @ 4,900 rpm, est.
Torque lb/ft, RPM:                           148 lb/ft @ 1,850 rpm, est.
Fuel Capacity:                                    14.6 gallons
Mileage (EPA):                                  30 city, 46 hwy, 38 combined
Transmission:                                    Six-speed auto
MSRP, Base Eco:                               $21,455
(Includes the $825 destination charges. Discounts and special offers not included.)