The Truth About Cars » Eco The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:52:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Eco First Drive Review: 2014 Toyota Corolla (With Video) Mon, 14 Oct 2013 13:00:17 +0000 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Calling the Corolla “Toyota’s most important car” would be an understatement. This single model accounts for 38 percent of all Toyotas ever sold in the USA and they expect to shift 330,000 next year alone. If the sheer quantity wasn’t amazing enough, ponder this reality: 75% of sales will be split between just four different configurations. If you’re in a 2014 Corolla, the odds are about one in five that the Corolla next to you is identical save for paint color. Often derided by the automotive press as a “driving appliance,” is there more to the 2014 Corolla or is it just a toaster with wheels? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.


When you plan on selling 330,000 of anything, mainstream styling is essential. When many of those shoppers are repeat Toyota and repeat Corolla buyers, it’s also essential to avoid anything that could be described as “adventurous.” The result is the attractive but plain sheetmetal. You won’t find any Mazda-esque swooshes, any Ford/Aston inspired grilles and you certainly won’t find anything “aggressive.” And that’s how Corolla shoppers like it. Corolla shoppers apparently also like getting bigger cars with every re-design, so this 11th generation model has grown by 3.9 inches. Why don’t they shop up the ladder to a Camry? Who knows.

2014_Toyota_Corolla_S, Picture Courtesy of Toyota

Plenty of reviewers have found fault in the way the 11th gen Corolla looks, most of them complain vehemently in private and say little in public. I however, am not afraid to say what I think in public: the Corolla is pedestrian but far from offensive. I also find the Corolla S (pictured above) to be the more attractive of the bunch although neither nose is any more or less exciting than the Sentra, Civic or Elantra. The biggest problem with the way the Corolla looks has nothing to do with the Corolla and everything to do with timing. I drove the 2014 Corolla two days before sampling Mazda’s hot new Mazda3. If looks matter to you, the Corolla is unlikely to be on your short list. Adding a little visual flair to the front, Toyota made LED headlamps standard on every Corolla. Yep, even the $16,800 stripper model. The other thing that’s standard is an oddly tall ride height resulting in a larger than average distance between the top of the tire and the wheel-well making the Corolla look “off road ready.” Make of that what you will.

2014 Toyota Corolla Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


After a week in the RAV4′s discordant interior, I was concerned what Toyota would do with the volume leader. Thankfully my concerns were unwarranted and I found the Corolla’s interior surprisingly elegant. Yes, I said that out loud, I found the design elegant. (Notice I didn’t say exciting.) There are a few caveats however. While the dashboard styling reminded me a great deal of the Mazda6, parts quality still lags behind the Focus, top-level Forte and, in some ways, even the Chevy Cruze. The picture above is of the more attractive (in my opinion) two-tone interior. You’ll only find this on the LE, LE Plus, LE ECO and LE ECO Plus model as everything else is black on black and looks a hair cheaper. 2014 brings soft touch points to most of the Corolla’s cabin and a new fabric headliner in most models. The exterior may be plain my bottom line on the interior is that I could live with it long term without a problem.

Front seat comfort proved average for the segment but I found the lack of adjustable lumbar support to be a problem for my back. Stepping up to the “Premium” trim LE or S gets you an 8-way power seat but still very little back support. The big change for 2014 is out back, the stretch allowed Toyota to add 5.1 inches to the back seat, ballooning to 41.4 inches total, just 2/10ths less than a Camry. More legroom meant more room for the seats themselves and allowed the rear bench to be lengthened for more thigh support. Putting that in perspective, that’s 5 inches more than most compacts, four inches more than the Sentra’s cavernous back seat and a whopping 8.2 inches more than the Focus. Sadly even the Corolla hasn’t been able to escape the low-roof trend limiting headroom for taller folks in the back. 2014 brings some trunk love, bumping the cube carrying to 13, respectable for the class but below the Sentra’s large booty. If bag carrying is your thing, you should know that the Sentra can swallow four 24-inch roller bags in a vertical orientation, and four more horizontally. I can’t even think of a modern full-sized sedan that can do that.


Infotainment and Gadgets

The new Corolla gets Toyota’s latest infotainment software package and this represents a new direction. Previously there were two separate navigation/infotainment operating systems, a low cost unit found in cars like the Prius C, and the totally different (and expensive) one found as an option in vehicles like the Avalon and the Lexus line. Toyota shifting to common software running on different hardware depending on the model. Cheaper cars get smaller screens, Toyotas stick to touchscreens while Lexuses (Lexi?) get the joystick.

Representing the Corolla’s place at the bottom of the Toyota food chain, you’ll find an 6.1 inch touchscreen standard on all models except for the L. (The L is expected to represent less than 10% of sales.) While I find this software one of the worst in the luxury class, my negative impression is entirely down to the Lexus joystick. In the Corolla the system is fast and responsive and the graphics are all perfectly suited to the 6.1 inch touchscreen. Toyota tosses in weather and traffic updates on certain models without having to add navigation which is a handy feature. USB and iDevice integration is excellent and easily the equal of Ford’s SYNC in terms of voice control and tops the segment in touch-screen ease of use. The standard Bluetooth speakerphone worked well and had excellent sound quality. Depending on the trim you can also add smartphone app integration to Pandora, OpenTable, etc. Like the rest of the Corolla, the Entune system doesn’t break any new ground, but it is easy to live with.

On the gadget front the Corolla covers all the basics with those LED headlamps, a standard cabin air filter, air conditioning and power door locks and windows. LE and higher models (again, 90% of sales) gain  automatic climate control, six speakers, a backup camera, cruise control and keyless entry. If you want any whiz-bang features like self parking, heads up displays, blind spot monitoring, power folding whatnots or dynamic cruise control, you’re barking up the wrong tree.



The engine under the hood of 90% of Corollas is carried over from last year. The 1.8L four-cylinder engine is good for a class middling 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. A new six-speed manual replaces the old 5-speed as the base transmission and delivers 28/37 MPG (city/highway) when so equipped. If you’re one of the incredibly few that plan on getting an L with an automatic, be warned that this is the same old four-speed automatic as last year’s Corolla.

All other Corollas, even the supposedly “sport” S model, get Toyota’s new continuously variable transmission. I can already hear the groans, but if you’re groaning about finding a CVT under the hood, then I’m going to generalize and say you’re not the target demographic. For the rest of you, you should know this CVT is one of the best I’ve ever driven and is a close second to the Honda CVT in the new Accord. Somehow Toyota and Honda have managed to exorcise the rubber band demon from the CVT in a way that Nissan has been unable. Ratio changes are quick and fuel economy is an impressive 29/38 MPG. S models get paddle shifters and all models will imitate a  seven-speed automatic when floored. The impersonation is passable, but I fail to see the point.

If you want to break the 40 MPG barrier, than the 30/42 MPG LE ECO model is the one to get. In order to get there, Toyota swaps new heads onto the 1.8L engine which incorporates their new ValveMatic variable valve lift, timing and duration system. Like BMW’s Valvetronic and Fiat’s MultiAir, this system acts as the throttle body under most circumstances to increase efficiency. When so equipped, power rises to 140 HP and torque drops to 126 lb-ft. It was hard to tell if the system delivered any real-world benefit because of the limited time I had in the Corolla but I can tell you that the extra 8HP didn’t make the ECO model any faster to 60.

2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Why does the Corolla sell so well? It has more to do with brand loyalty and a reputation for reliability than road manners. Everything about driving the Corolla can be summed up in one word: average. From steering feel to suspension dynamics and road holding the Corolla is neither class leading nor class trailing. After a day and 140 miles, it reminded me of my flight to Seattle to see the Corolla in the first place. I flew in one of Southwest’s new 737-900 planes and the experience was entirely ordinary. The plane got me from point A to point B, it was as comfortable as I expected and the looks didn’t offend.

This middle-of-the-road mentality explains why Toyota jammed their new CVT into the Corolla. They aren’t the first to the CVT party and they won’t be the last. The CVT lags a hair behind Honda’s new Earth Dreams CVT but is more refined than Nissan’s Sentra. The combination of 132 ponies and a CVT make mountain climbing easier in the Corolla than the Civic with ye olde 5-speed, but not as nice as the large engine equipped Forte or Mazda3. Repeat Corolla buyers will find the Corolla peppier than before thanks to the CVT, since the old 4-speed automatic seemed to never have the right ratio for the situation.

2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Cabin noise measured in higher than average at 74 db at 50 MPH. 74db is a bit disappointing since even Honda made the latest Civic considerably quieter. Fuel economy was, yet again, middle of the road at 29 MPG over all after a day of city driving and stop-and-go traffic.

Even the Corolla’s recent “marginal” IIHS small offset crash score is class middling with the Civic snatching “good,” the Focus and Elantra “acceptable” and the Forte and Sentra slotting in below the Corolla at “poor.” While I can think of good reasons to buy something other than the Corolla, I honestly have troubles finding any reason to not buy one. When I tallied up my personal score card I was shocked to find I had ranked the Corolla 3rd behind the new Mazda3 and the Kia Forte. That ranking is based on the easy to use infotainment system, enormous back seat, large trunk, attractive interior and (of course) the reliability reputation the Corolla has maintained over the years. Yes, even I can be tempted (at least a little bit) by the logic of the driving appliance.

Perhaps that is what the bulk of the automotive press finds so vexing: The Corolla is probably the only car on the market that is deliberately designed to be average and Toyota nailed it.When I talked to a few Corolla owners about their purchase, none of them considered another model or brand before signing on the dotted line.


 Toyota provided airfare, accommodations and meals for this event.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.93 Seconds

0-60: 9.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.61 Seconds @ 81.8 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 29 MPG

Cabin Noise at 50 MPH: 74db

2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-001 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-002 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-003 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-004 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-005 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-006 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-007 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-008 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-009 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-001 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-002 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-004 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-005 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-006 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-007 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-008 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-009 2014_Toyota_Corolla_LE_ECO_013 2014_Toyota_Corolla_S, Picture Courtesy of Toyota 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-003 ]]> 111
Review: Chevrolet Volt vs. Chevrolet Cruze Eco Wed, 28 Sep 2011 19:29:43 +0000 Ed, Sajeev, and yours truly have all weighed in on the Chevrolet Volt. We all agreed that it drives surprisingly well, but that aspects of the interior need work. I hadn’t been planning to review the Volt again, but was asked if I’d like to have one for a week following the Cruze ECO. And so an intramural competition was born. If the $19,995 Cruze ECO is such a solid, comfortable, and efficient commuter, why spend twice as much for the $39,995 Volt?

Okay, maybe not twice as much. A $7,500 tax credit takes care of over a third of the difference. And a run through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool finds that the Volt includes about $2,300 in additional features. Give credit for these, and the difference is about $10,300. So figure fifty percent more.

A word about those earlier reviews. All three were based on short drives, about an hour in my case. More than a few people have wondered how valid such a review can be. Well, valid enough that even after a week in the car I find I have little to say that hasn’t been said before, save that the strengths noted earlier remain strengths and the weaknesses noted earlier remain weaknesses—neither significantly diminishes with experience.

The number one weakness: as Ed noted, “an iPod covered in buttons is no iPod at all.” Even after a week in the car the center stack remained difficult to use. At a minimum the many buttons need to be separated into clearly demarcated logical groups. As is, even basic functions often require far too much conscious thought and time with one’s eyes off the road. I never did figure out how to best operate the HVAC, as the AC and heating systems seemed to have minds of their own even in “comfort” mode. I’d also like a way to turn off the audio without turning off everything. As is, you either have to turn the volume all the way down or use the mute button on the steering wheel. Go the latter route, and the music returns at the original volume the next time the car is started—the “mute” is forgotten when the car is shut off.

Among other weaknesses, the Volt’s rear seat didn’t seem any less cramped after a week with the car than it did initially. And you’ll want the $695 rear camera option given the car’s poor rearward visibility.

Objectively, the Volt’s number one strength is, of course, its ability to run on electricity. Some will claim that the roughly forty-mile range before the gas-powered “range extender” automatically kicks on isn’t sufficient. Well, in my case I had to take the car off life support in order to test it with the engine running. Until I did so all of my runs to Costco, the doctor (daughter broke a toe), and the kids’ school were accomplished entirely on battery power.

How much cheaper is it to run on electricity? I complained earlier that the Volt’s display doesn’t include a report for miles-per-kWh analogous to the trip computer’s miles-per-gallon report while running on gas. I’ll repeat that complaint. Consequently, I had to do a little math, the upshot of which is that the Volt covers about four miles on each kilowatt-hour (when not running the air conditioning). Conservatively figure three miles per kWh to allow for charging losses and some AC use. In Michigan each kWh costs about 12 cents, so this works out to about four cents per mile. In the Cruze ECO I observed a bit over 35 MPG. With gas at $3.80, that’s about 11 cents per mile. Over the course of a 12,000-mile year, the difference would add up to about $800. In other words, it’ll be a while before that $10,000+ is recouped.

But does this render the Volt pointless? Perhaps there’s more to the car than cutting fuel costs? Any car beyond a basic transportation appliance is bought because it’s more pleasurable to look at, sit in, or drive. Perhaps all three.

The production Volt doesn’t look like the initial concept (which I personally never expected to happen, given GM’s propensity to create thoroughly impractical concepts). But it also doesn’t look like the Cruze or anything else, with the partial exception of the Prius. And it does have a more stylish, upscale exterior than the Prius. Just looking at it I felt like I was driving something special, and not just because of the $995 “veridian joule” paint and $595 polished aluminum wheels that helped bump the pre-tax credit total to $46,165 (someone inside GM did their best to induce sticker shock in reviewers). This was far from the case with the Cruze.

Sit in the Volt, and the sense of occasion goes up by an order of magnitude. Love it—or not—the interior styling is certainly distinctive and effectively expresses the leading-edge technology packed into the car. When pressed, the start button lights up blue while the car makes a video game-like “powering up” sound. Hit it again, and you get a “powering down” sound as the light goes out. (My boys loved this.) The problem we had figuring out whether or not the Prius was on: avoided. The two displays are gorgeous and far better designed than the buttons that assist them. The driving efficiency gauge, a ball the changes height and color, is the most intuitive I’ve yet experienced—though I wish it reported how much of the braking was being handled through the regenerative system. There’s also a driving efficiency report to surreptitiously test one’s “I’m not going to change the way I drive” spouse. (She scored a respectable 86 percent and reported liking the car far more than the relatively sluggish Prius.)

Drive the Volt, and you’ll find that, in this case at least, appearances aren’t deceiving. GM has tuned the powertrain to deliver an incredibly smooth launch. Even if you floor the accelerator from a dead stop in “sport” mode there’s not a hint of a jerk. You cannot chirp a tire in this car. Instead, the car smoothly and almost silently builds speed much the way a high-speed elevator does (if not in the same direction). As with the Prius, driving the Volt with an ultra-light foot feels natural. But, unlike with the Prius, driving it with a heavy foot also feels right. Once the car is underway the electric motor dishes out a firmer shove when prodded. Either way, the Volt never feels sluggish or strained the way a Prius (or Cruze ECO, for that matter) can. With the accelerator to the floor the car easily leaves traffic behind—if you’re in a hurry, sixty can happen in about nine seconds. Not a stellar time, but recall that this is with absolutely no sign of strain from the powertrain. While running on battery power the electric motor is nearly silent. I rode in an EV1 once, and the whine of its motor was far louder. Run out of battery and the Volt’s 1.4-liter gas engine automatically cuts on, but usually remains a distant hum while roughly matching the MPG of the Cruze (high 20s to mid 40s, depending on driving style and conditions, with a suburban average around 35), and so 10-12 MPG short of a Prius. At its loudest the gas engine remains far quieter than the 1.8 recently sampled in the new Chevrolet Sonic. If GM can achieve such silent running in the Volt, why not in the Sonic? Braking is also smooth and silent in the Volt, with no evident transition between the regenerative system and the conventional brakes. The entire experience of driving the car is distinctively effortless, almost magical.

This isn’t to say that the Volt is a cocoon. The suspension is firmer and more tightly damped than that in the Cruze ECO and there doesn’t seem to be as much road noise insulation. As a result, impacts are more sharply felt and heard, but body motions are also better controlled. The ride remains comfortable, and serious drivers will appreciate the chassis’s moderate level of feedback, which helps compensate for the incommunicative (if well-weighted) steering.

The bottom line: I wasn’t sad to see the Cruze ECO go at the end of the week—it’s a very well done appliance, but an appliance nonetheless—while I very much miss driving the Volt. In twenty years the way the Volt drives will likely seem typical, but we’re not nearly there yet. In the here and now the Volt’s worth $10,000+ more than the Cruze the same way other $30,000+ cars are worth more than the Cruze: by providing a different, more desirable experience.

Chevrolet provided the vehicle, insurance and fuel for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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Review: 2012 Chevrolet Cruze ECO Mon, 26 Sep 2011 20:05:00 +0000

With the Cruze, Chevrolet has pulled off a rare combination: segment-leading sales (up 31 percent from last year) at a higher transaction price (up 27 percent from two years ago to $20,465, according to TrueCar). But it hasn’t hurt that the Corolla, Civic, Focus, and Elantra have all been supply constrained. Once competitors get their factories running, does the Cruze have what it takes to maintain its current lead?

A Cruze LTZ is an attractive car, if conservatively styled. When I first saw one in the metal I briefly mistook it for an Audi. But substitute the ECO’s 17-inch forged polished alloy wheels for the LTZ’s five-spoke 18s and…well, what do you think? A forged polished wheel isn’t cheap. It takes a special talent to make one look like a cheap hubcap. I would not have mistaken the bulbous ECO for an Audi.

When both cars are comparably equipped, a C-segment Cruze lists for about $2,000 more than the new B-segment Sonic. That $2,000 pays for a car that’s about eight inches longer and a quarter-ton heavier, but the extra metal in a Cruze doesn’t cost GM more than a few hundred dollars. So, GM didn’t have to pinch its pennies nearly so hard with the Cruze, and this is most clearly evident inside the car, where pretty much everything looks and feels solid, and nothing suggests that you only bought the car because you couldn’t afford a better one. While the Cruze’s styling could hardly be more conventional—you won’t find anything like the Sonic’s instruments here—it does include one aesthetic innovation: heavy-weave cloth upholstery continues from the door panels to the face of the instrument panel. While not as easy to keep clean as plastic (especially in black), it certainly dresses up the place.

When I first reviewed the Cruze last year, I praised it for having separate front and rear seat height adjustments—and on both front seats, no less. I also noted that bean counters have been hunting this feature to extinction. I now fear that my review might have tipped off one on the prowl, for this feature is gone for 2012. Luckily they haven’t attempted to combine the tilt and height adjustments. Given the Cruze’s high cowl and beltline, those of us under six-feet tall must crank the seat up a few clicks to avoid feeling buried in the car, and we don’t necessarily want to also tilt the seat forward. The firm but comfortable driver’s seat continues to feel more substantial than most others in the segment. My glutes detect a healthy helping of top-quality foam. The back seat remains too low to the floor and a bit short on knee room.

The Cruze shares its engines with the Sonic. By driving the latter I learned why the 136-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is not the way to go. Even in the lighter car it feels short on power, deals out much sonic unpleasantness when forced to work, and isn’t stingy with fuel. The 1.4-liter turbocharged four standard in the Cruze is no more powerful at high revs, but has a much plumper midrange, as seen in the peak torque figures: 148 pound-feet from 1,850 rpm rather than 123 at 3,800. What this means: you don’t have to work the 1.4T nearly as hard in typical suburban driving. Though it shakes a bit at idle, the small four is reasonably well-behaved otherwise. Just don’t expect blistering acceleration: 138 horsepower isn’t much for a 3,100-pound car. Like a Toyota Prius, the ECO feels best when driven in an economy-minded fashion—which is of course what this variant with its special “triple overdrive” gearing is all about. The main reason not to do so: the people behind you often seem to be in more of a hurry to get to the next red light. In sixth the small engine is spinning only 2,300 rpm at 75 miles-per-hour. Unlike those in many economy cars, the shifter feels smooth and solid.

And fuel economy? The EPA highway rating of 42 is at the top of the segment, and the city rating of 28 isn’t bad, either. For a number of my suburban drives the trip computer reported low 40s, and in straight highway driving over 50. I averaged a little over 35 for the week. I might wonder how much better it would do if GM had managed to keep the curb weight well under 3,000 pounds, except that the lighter Sonic only manages EPA ratings of 29/ 40 with the same engine. The ECO tweaks appear to make about a ten percent difference in the EPA’s tests. If the trip computer can be trusted, they might make a larger difference with an economy-minded driver in real-world driving. [Update: a Cruze owner informs me that he and others have found the trip computer to be three percent optimistic, so it reads about 1 to 1.5 MPG high.]

Unfortunately, these tweaks also make a difference in how the Cruze ECO handles. The 215/55HR17 Goodyear Assurance tires provide little in the way of grip or crisp steering, lapsing early into a soft, safe slide. The lesson once again: this car is optimized for economy, not hooning. In commuting mode, the Cruze drives very pleasantly, with fairly quick and well-weighted (if numb) steering and a smooth, quiet, thoroughly insulated ride. Body control isn’t as good as in the Ford Focus, with a bit of bobbling about over especially uneven pavement, but is much better than in the Hyundai Elantra.

The list price if you forgo the tested car’s $325 “crystal red metallic tintcoat” paint (which is a waste when paired with the ECO’s wheels anyway): $19,995. A Cruze LT, with EPA ratings of 26/ 38, lists for $770 less. The average driver will earn back the difference in about six years. The higher cost would be more palatable if the ECO’s unique wheels and subtle spoiler substantially improved the appearance of the car, but they don’t.

A Ford Focus SE with Sport and Convenience Packages lists for $20,365, so very close to the ECO. Adjusting for the Cruze’s additional features (most notably a few extra airbags) via TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool widens the gap to about $900 (about $1,300 if you compare the Cruze LT instead).

A Hyundai Elantra GLS with Comfort Package and floormats is much less than the others: $17,300. But adjusting for feature differences narrows the gap to a mere $200. Part of the reason for the huge feature-based price adjustment: opt for a manual transmission, and you can’t get alloy wheels or a Bluetooth connection on the Hyundai. The Hyundai also looks and feels like a less substantial car.

The choice among these three is clear for a driving enthusiast: get the Ford. But hypermilers looking for a comfortable, economical commuter that doesn’t look or feel like a penalty box can’t do much better than the Chevrolet Cruze Eco. While in charge of product development at GM, Bob Lutz put a high priority on refinement, and it shows in this car (much more than in the Sonic). The curb weight took a big hit as a result, punting it nearly into midsize sedan territory, but once the Cruze is doing what its name suggests it does best this seems to have little impact. What’s still missing: as in the Toyotas the Cruze beats at their own game, there’s no sense of occasion, and nothing aside from excellent fuel economy to get excited about.

Chevrolet provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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Cruze Diesel: The Performance (And Efficiency) Choice Tue, 16 Aug 2011 17:14:55 +0000

With Chevrolet already offering a Cruze Eco, WardsAuto reports that the forthcoming Cruze diesel made a case for itself based on attributes that go beyond mere efficiency. Which is interesting because a GM source tells Wards that the Cruze diesel will get around 50 MPG on the freeway… and unlike the Eco, it will achieve that high number with an automatic transmission (the Cruze Eco’s 42 MPG highway rating is only for manual transmission models). Equally importantly, the oil-burning Cruze will return better performance alongside better efficiency, with 147 HP and 236 lb-ft, compared to the 1.4T engine’s 138 HP and 148 lb-ft, which would make it the performance model of the range… which some say is just what the Cruze needs.

Joseph Lescota, chair of the Automotive Marketing Management Dept. at Northwood University in Midland, MI, thinks a diesel Cruze will draw buyers.

“Chevrolet has a great price-point vehicle that has tremendous eye appeal and options but may not meet the performance needs of a select market group,” he tells Ward’s.

A diesel version would hit that group between the eyes by adding a sturdy engine, extra torque and top-end performance to the mix, he says.

GM executives meanwhile highlight the diesel option’s value as what GM North America boss Mark Reuss calls “a hedge against the unknown.” Only three percent of current US sales are of diesels, but as American brands start rolling the oil-burning options out, and as Americans are exposed to their higher performance and efficiency, that segment could just grow. After all, who doesn’t want more performance and more efficiency for a mere $1k-$4k premium?

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