In 2015, Chevrolet launched the second generation of its Cruze compact, and though it arrived with gasoline power under the hood, it wasn't long before the company was talking up a new diesel engine intended to help Chevy steal sales from the TDI-powered VW Jetta and Golf.
Then the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal happened, forcing the German company to pull its diesel products from the North American market. And that's the story of how Chevrolet came to be the only company selling a diesel-powered compact car on this continent.
For 2018, Chevrolet is expanding the diesel's availability by adding it to the hatchback model's option list. That may be the only notable change for this car, but we think it's a big one.
Like last year's car, that diesel is a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, and is capable of fuel consumption as low as 4.6L/100 km, which Chevy calls the lowest highway rating for any non-hybrid, non-electric car in Canada. Otherwise, the Cruze comes with a 1.4L gasoline-fueled turbo four-cylinder capable of 153 hp and 177 lb-ft. Regardless of engine/transmission combination, the Cruze is among Canada's most efficient small cars.
Notably, both engines can be ordered with manual or automatic transmissions, a rarity of choice in a marketplace that's quickly leaving manual transmissions behind. In gasoline cars, the automatic is a six-speed, while diesels get a nine-speed.
While handsome, the Cruze is hardly the most distinctive-looking small car, and is rare for how its body easily dwarfs the 16-inch wheels that are standard on mid-range trims. They look better than the base model's 15s, but here's one car where appearance-conscious buyers may want to consider optioning up to the available 17- or even 18-inch wheels.
This is an entry-level car, to be sure, but includes niceties like air conditioning and a seven-inch infotainment display in the base LS trim. And if you want a base model, you're getting a sedan: the hatchback starts out in the Cruze's mid-range LT configuration.
The LT is an attractive package, too, adding a six-speaker stereo (two more than the base model) with satellite radio, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted controls for Bluetooth and stereo and heated side mirrors. However, we question making heated seats an option in a $20,000-plus car; they only become standard in the top-end Premier model. And in that dressed-up trim, heated rear seats remain an extra-cost feature.
LT also opens up the option book a little wider, adding the possibility of passive keyless entry (it's standard in Premier trim), power-adjustable driver's seat and a heated steering wheel (another item included in the Premier).
As mentioned, the diesel is the best bet for keeping Cruze's fuel consumption down, with a sedan fitted with that engine and a manual transmission earning estimates of 7.8/4.6 L/100 km (city/highway). A gasser is most efficient overall with the automatic, its estimates being 8.1/6.2 L/100 km.