Driven: 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

Driven: 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

What’s Chevrolet’s best-selling vehicle? Well, here in the United States, it’s the Silverado pickup truck. But worldwide, it’s the Cruze, the brand’s compact four-door sedan.

Cruze is Chevrolet's best-selling vehicle world-wide | Larry Edsall photos

Cruze is Chevrolet’s best-selling vehicle world-wide | Larry Edsall photos

What’s Chevrolet’s best-selling vehicle? Well, here in the United States, it’s the Silverado pickup truck. But worldwide, it’s the Cruze, the brand’s compact four-door sedan.

One reason for the car’s global popularity is the availability of a diesel engine. With the new clean-diesel fuel available in the U.S. for several years — no more stinky hands at the pump, no more black smoke out the exhaust — Chevrolet has made a diesel-fueled Cruze available for American drivers as well.

The advantages include a 27-city/46-highway fuel economy rating, and a whopping 264 pound-feet of torque from a 2.0-liter engine that pumps out a mere 151 horsepower.

Perhaps “mere” is too strong a word. A hundred and a half horsepower is typical for compact cars in the U.S. market, but that torque figure is much more like what you’d get in a much larger vehicle with a much larger V6 engine. That means power for accelerating off the line, for merging into freeway traffic, and for passing.

Turbo-diesel 4 pumps out plenty of torque

Turbo-diesel 4 pumps out plenty of torque

And, yes, diesel fuel is more expensive than regular unleaded gasoline, but we averaged 40 miles per gallon in our week at the steering wheel in a car that doesn’t feel quite so compact and actually looks pretty luxurious inside, where we sat on leather seats with internal heaters for those chilly mornings here in Arizona (or those downright frigid days you’re all having back east).

For American buyers, the Cruze is built in Lordstown, Ohio, but its diesel engine comes from Germany, where Rudolf Diesel invented the powerplant that bears his name. The car’s six-speed automatic transmission isn’t the usual GM Hydra-Matic gearbox but comes from high-tech transmission specialist Aisin of Japan.

While the GM diesel engine still emits some of that old-fashioned diesel grumble, the powertrain provides great responsiveness and stunning fuel efficiency.

Not that the Cruze Turbo Diesel is inexpensive. Base price is $25,660 and the car we drove was $29,430 as tested.

Diesel engines are heavier and more expensive than gasoline-fueled units, plus the Cruze Turbo Diesel comes with a full array of stability and safety technology (the later includes 10 airbags); a standard “aero performance package” that includes a lower front grille air shutter, special front facia air dam and mid-body aerodynamics-enhancing panels; rear spoiler; 17-inch forged and painted aluminum wheels; heated leather seats with power adjustment on the driver’s side; two-tone interior that looks like it belongs in a luxury vehicle; tilt and telescoping steering column; a 7-inch color touch screen; OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation and crash response; satellite radio; voice-activated Chevrolet MyLink with hands-free smartphone integration as well as Pandora and Stitcher; and a six-speaker audio system.

On top of that, our’s was packed with options: a Sun and Sound package ($1,325) that included a power sunroof and premium audio equipment; an Enhanced Safety package ($790) with rear parking assist, rear cross traffic and side blind zone alert; an even-more-upgraded audio/navigation package ($495); a Diesel Driver Convenience package ($340) with special sun visors, auto-dimming rear view mirror, power-adjustable and heated exterior mirrors and rear-vision camera system; and special Rainforest Green Metallic paint ($325).

Also available is GM’s new 4G LTE built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.

Cruze gets a new look for 2015 model year, inside and out

Cruze gets a new look for 2015 model year, inside and out

Speaking of more luxurious vehicles, Chevrolet says the Cruze’s redesign for the 2015 model year was inspired by the larger Impala and Malibu models. My only real criticism is that it’s difficult to read some of the gauges while wearing Polarized sun glasses.

Chevy also notes that the Cruze Turbo Diesel can travel more than 700 miles before needing to be refueled.

A couple of years ago, I drove a gasoline-powered, rental-fleet Cruze from Michigan to Arizona and thought the car was, indeed, what I’d expect from an airport car-rental outlet.

But this 2015 Cruze Turbo Diesel was nothing like what I’d expect from such a business. In fact, it’s not what I’d have expected from a compact car sold by a Chevrolet dealership.

Interior is more luxury than compact

Interior is more luxury than compact

2015 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel
Vehicle type: 5-passenger, 4-door sedan, front-wheel drive
Base price: $25,660 Price as tested: $29,430
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel, 151 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm, 264 pound-feet of torque @ 2,600 rpm  Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 106.7 inches Overall length/width: 181.0 inches / 70.7 inches
Curb weight: 2,475 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 27 city / 46 highway / 33 combined
Assembled in: Lordstown, Ohio

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