For the longest time, the Volkswagen Jetta has had it all to itself. I’m of course talking about the diesel compact sedan marketplace. Since the first Jetta came over the to the U.S. in the eighties, Volkswagen has offered a diesel engine as an option. Within the past few years, the popularity of the Jetta diesel has skyrocketed. But this past year, another contender has come in to challenge the Jetta’s dominance in this small niche. That would be the Chevrolet Cruze Turbodiesel. How does it stand up to the Jetta?
Much like the Jetta TDI, the Chevrolet Cruze Turbodiesel doesn’t scream out that it's a diesel at all. The only clues that reveals its true identity are a set of seventeen-inch aluminum wheels and a new Eco badge that says 2.0 TD. Inside, the Cruze Turbodiesel comes fully loaded with leather seats, steering wheel controls, six-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat, remote start, and much more. To get even close to that in a Jetta, you’ll have to go for one of the higher trims. One disappointment I had with the Cruze’s interior were the seats. I found myself squirming around in them to make myself comfortable. Also compared to the the Jetta TDI, the Cruze’s back seat doesn’t provide enough legroom.
Powering the Cruze Turbodiesel is a turbocharged 2.0L DOHC diesel four-cylinder with 151 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is your only transmission choice. The Turbodiesel is quite the performer as torque peaks at 2,600 rpm and a majority of the torque is available between 1,750 and 3,000 rpm. This means the Cruze can very much hold its own when leaving a stop and there is always power in reserve when you need it. Fuel economy isn’t bad either with EPA ratings 27 City/46 Highway/33 Combined. Compared to the Jetta TDI economy, the Cruze beats it on the highway by four MPG, but the Jetta gets 30 MPG in the city. My average for the week landed around 37 MPG.
However, all is not perfect with the 2.0L diesel. For starters, the 2.0L diesel engine sounds like it is from the eighties to early nineties with a loud clattering noise coming under the hood. Diesel engine technology has gotten much better to where the clattering noises are toned down by a fair amount, but you wouldn’t know it by standing next to the Cruze. Now I should at this point that when you’re inside the Cruze Turbodiesel, almost none of the clattering makes it in. This is a testament to noise reduction work done on the Cruze’s interior. It’s a shame that it wasn’t extended to the engine bay.
The other problem with the Cruze Turbodiesel’s powertrain is the automatic. There are times when it seems to know what its doing and there are other times where it holds onto gears far too long before upshifting. I don’t know if this is an issue with this particular car or Turbodiesel models in general, but it wasn’t pleasant.
Ride and handling characteristics are still the same as the Cruze I drove back two years ago where it has big car characteristics of smoothing over road imperfections and not letting in road and wind noise. As for cornering, the suspension keeps the vehicle steady and steering is quick, though somewhat numb.
At the end of the week, I found the Cruze Turbodiesel to be equal to the Jetta TDI. Both models have different strengths and weaknesses, so trying to pick one that is better than the other is difficult. I would say if you’re looking for power and a impressive amount of kit, then look at the Cruze. If you want space, powertrain refinement, and a lower price, then the Jetta TDI is for you.
Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Cruze Turbodiesel, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC Diesel Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM: 151 @ 4000
Torque @ RPM: 264 @ 2600
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/46/33
Curb Weight: 3,475 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Lordstown, Ohio
Base Price: $24,885.00
As Tested Price: $28,105.00 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge)
Audio System W/ Navigation - $795.00
Enhanced Safety Package - $790.00
Pioneer Sound System- $445.00
2LT Driver Convenience Package - $380.00