By on November 5, 2016

2016 Chevrolet Cruze

There’s plenty of speculation that General Motors wants to launch the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze Diesel with a highly marketable 50 mile-per-gallon highway fuel economy figure.

“Hybrids are for wimps! Volkswagen just didn’t like you!” the automaker could claim. GM, of course, hasn’t exactly been silent on its grand plan to lure jilted TDI owners to the brand.

Now that specifications have been released for the upcoming oil burner, we can see that a “new” transmission added to the Cruze lineup will play a big role in chasing that mileage crown.

According to the newly released 2017 GM order guide and powertrain guide posted in the GMInsideNews Forum, the manual transmission variant is the one to provide that lofty highway figure.

Chevy will use its MZ4 six-speed manual transmission in the Cruze Diesel — an M32 variant that hasn’t been seen in the Cruze lineup, but came standard in Chevy Sonics equipped with the 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder. The unit boasts a 0.61 top gear, the tallest in GM’s front-wheel-drive stable.

The MZ4’s upper gear ratios also appeared in the former Cruze Eco, which marketed a “triple overdrive” transmission capable of returning 42 mpg on the highway. As an owner, this writer can attest to that vehicle’s ridiculously tall gearing. (In top gear, the sedan picks up speed on barely perceptible inclines with your foot off the accelerator.)

In contrast, the Cruze Diesel’s 9T50 nine-speed automatic boasts a 0.62 top gear, but a lower final drive ratio. Expect a better combined MPG figure from this setup.

Unlike the previous Cruze Diesel, offered only in high-end trim with an automatic, the new model debuts in midrange “LT” trim, with few options available for the stick shift variant. GM has made it clear that it wants to cover a number of bases formerly covered by Volkswagen, so greater diversity is on the way. That includes an RS sport version.

Sourced from a plant in Hungary, the 1.6-liter turbodiesel — GM dubs it the “Whisper Diesel” — makes 137 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. The mill also appears in the downsized 2018 Chevrolet Equinox. Available as a sedan or hatchback, the Cruze Diesel is due to appear next year as a 2018 model.

[Image: General Motors]

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39 Comments on “The Chevrolet Cruze Diesel’s Mileage Potential Is All in the Gearing...”

  • avatar

    They are a year too late in releasing this.

  • avatar

    Smart, very smart that they don’t only offer it in the LtZ 25k trim line. I a not a GM kind of guy but some things are getting my attention lately.

    • 0 avatar

      RS diesel, did that just say? Like, the famous GTD that VW wouldn’t release here?

      • 0 avatar

        RS is mostly an appearance and wheel package on the Cruze. I’d skip it. I don’t think this will be a huge sales hit for a couple reasons 1) dealers won’t stock it, and salesman won’t be interested when they’re always pushing trucks and SUVs 2) VWs traditional diesel market probably won’t bite, being hung up on the “German engineering” myth and perceived exceptionalism 3) it might sell among some people who are favorable to diesel and who are more familiar with it in trucks, but a lot of those people probably just want trucks anyway(?).

  • avatar

    “As an owner, this writer can attest to that vehicle’s ridiculously tall gearing. (In top gear, the sedan picks up speed on barely perceptible inclines with your foot off the accelerator.)”

    Do you mean, “declines?”

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I didn’t get that either. The car pulls itself along without throttle, picking up speed as it goes up hill? Weird.

      I know a 4″granny gear” old American truck with something like a torquey I-6 would pull itself along with no throttle. It would also be able to start out from a dead stop in 4th gear (1965 F-100 240 c.i. I-6). Not a quick acceleration, mind you, but I found it amusing that I got it to do it at all.

      • 0 avatar

        What might have went unexplained is an electronic throttle strategy to avoid stalling. I notice this at work with my 4th gen body TDi. Used to think it was low end torque that allowed 1st-4th at parking lot speeds without evertouching the throttle, then I noticed similar ability up hills at low speed. Just enough throttle added in to avoid bucking/stalling automatically.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Hey GM, how about an economical diesel in a 1/2 ton PU/SUV truck chassis! I can’t tow with a Cruze so why do I want a diesel in it? Plus you sell the Cruze based Volt, why buy this? In the US small diesel cars don’t make a whole lot of sense. Battery hybrids really are a better idea.

    • 0 avatar

      This costs less than a Volt, or maybe the right hand of RenCen doesn’t know what the left is doing?

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        True. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong and there is a market for this car. When I looked at a VW Jetta wagon TDI years back when gas was almost $4 a gallon there was a waiting list to buy one.

      • 0 avatar

        This is interesting. I think if potential buyers do the math they would find that the Volt and the Diesel are each best for different types of drivers.

        Personally, most of my driving is around town, perhaps less than 10 miles at a time with occasional longer trips. For me, a Volt or even a less capable PHEV would be most economical on gas. On the flip side, the Diesel is extremely efficient on long freeway trips. Of course, a Volt with a small diesel could, theoretically, offer the best of both, but the cost and weight might be even more prohibitive… but I really don’t get the cost issues with Diesel engines.

        In any case, holy sh*&, does this mean that General Motors will be offering a 5-door hatch diesel with a manual transmission in the United States? We should all be jumping for joy and holding parades that they are offering something close to what we’ve been telling them to sell for decades… yeah, it isn’t a wagon, but they are getting close. I hope they actually sell and prove us all correct.

        The last Cruze Diesel was a very capable car. I drove one on a long trip and got 52 mpg on a long freeway section (on a very hot day with the A/C blasting) but I was doing a pretty constant 62 mph. It was a pleasant, comfortable, and quiet if unexciting car to drive. It just cost a whole lot since it only came in loaded trim.

    • 0 avatar

      Because Isuzu doesn’t make anything in that category and GM is incompetent of engineering one.

    • 0 avatar

      It would be laughably slow. And they’d still be lucky to hit 30mpg on the hwy.

    • 0 avatar

      “Hey GM, how about an economical diesel in a 1/2 ton PU/SUV truck chassis! ”

      Um, Colorado/Canyon?

      • 0 avatar

        Ummm, GVWR is 1200-1800 lbs difference between the Silverado and Canyon depending on configuration. For anyone looking for any kind of capabilities, the Colorado is just not acceptable.

      • 0 avatar

        Because the price would be significantly higher and people would buy the gassers because they couldn’t justify the large premium.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          Seems like if there is an argument to offer it in the midsize twins the same would hold true with the 1/2 tons. Isn’t Ford working on a diesel for their 1/2 ton PU? And considering what the current GM FS BOF SUV’s retail for who would notice the extra cost of a diesel.

          • 0 avatar

            Ford is indeed bringing a V-6 Diesel F-150, and Ram has offered its 1500 series EcoDiesel for a few years now. I wish the Explorer were RWD and could also use the Lion.

            GM is covering a lot of bases, and I think that’s smart.
            Diesel small(er) pickup? Yes.
            Small Diesel car/crossover? Yes.
            Extended-range electric car? Yes.
            Pure BEV under $30k w/300(? +/-) mile range? Yes.
            Hybrid car? Yes.
            Manual/diesel combo in the car? Yes, even a hatchback which actually looks like it was designed/styled *after* Obama’s 1st term, unlike bland VWs.

            I think its awesome. Hell, spread the love and give the Malibu a diesel option.

          • 0 avatar

            The Tahoe and Suburban would be the place to put a small diesel. GM will follow suite once Ford releases a 1/2 ton diesel.

          • 0 avatar

            GM will have to give in to diesel and aluminum Silverado/Sierras before 2025. There s too great of a “fleet average” payoff to be had for the sake of all GM “trucks”, gas guzzling SS Camaros and such.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            “The Tahoe and Suburban would be the place to put a small diesel.”

            Especially the Suburban. They offer that with a diesel and they’ll pick up customers that would have otherwise passed the ‘Burb over.

  • avatar

    Gear fast, run slow.
    18 wheeler diesels have been doing this for a long while now.
    Lot of guys running 1100 rpm at 55mph.

  • avatar

    I’ve been on the Cruze forums for quite a while now. They don’t seem to have as many problems as TDi. I was about 10 min away from buying a new 6 speed manual Passat TDI before the scandal hit. I saw the old Cruze as well, but the backseat was non existent when comparing with Jetta and beyond small when comparing to Passat. The Passat comparison is unfair though because it was a different class of car. Price was not in the Cruze’s favor..Passat was cheaper…Jetta, much cheaper.
    With the lower trim level and the manual available, I think Chevy has a winner. If they can train their dealers right to actually service it right and not destroy the cars ( like most VW dealers), they could be up to something good. For my 45 miles each way to work, a diesel Cruze that gets 50-55 mpg could be just the thing. If they can avoid exploding turbos ( Passat) and exploding high pressure fuel pumps ( Jetta and Golf), ding,ding,ding.

  • avatar

    I’m thinking a nice, new Cruze hatchback at the right price could actually pry me out of my 2012 Impala. Although I haven’t yet driven a Cruze, I checked a hatchback out at my dealership last month and was very impressed. A hatch is the only model I’d buy.

    Diesel? Not for me, I’ll stay with a gas engine, thank you very much.

  • avatar

    I would love for my friend MaryAnne to dump her Versa for a diesel Cruze hatch. She’d more likely go for the Equinox though.

    Very happy GM is giving our market so many genuinely good options, not just 5 clones of the same built-to-a-price, lackluster, soon-to-be hoopty as in their darker days.

  • avatar

    I remember starting a F100 in first gear when the clutch linkage went out while I was out on a service call. I didn’t know how I could get home with it, so I tried putting it in first and starting the engine in gear. The starter motor actually pulled the truck along. I shifted without the clutch all the way home, stopping the motor at lights and pulling the same trick when I got the green.

  • avatar

    >The Chevrolet Cruze Diesel’s Mileage Potential Is All in the Gearing

    That’s the case with the majority of vehicles these days. Manufacturers highlight the engine technology as a major contributor to EPA ratings, but the transmission accounts for a significant percentage of the contribution. I would break it down as 25% engine, 25% transmission and 50% driving habit.

    Put a 20-speed automatic transmission in a big gas-guzzling SUV where the engine turns at 500 rpm @ 80mph with a light-footed driver, and IT will probably deliver mileage in the mid-30s.

    • 0 avatar

      A big SUV with a light footed driver wouldn’t get mid 30’s, not even close. Driver plays a roll but not that much. A CVT is better than a 20 speed transmission. A Nissan Pathfinder is a mid sized SUV with a CVT and owners struggle to get the rated 26 highway. At 80 mph vehicle weight and aerodynamics plays a much larger role than the driver. No matter the gearing, the wind resistance would prevent the car from maintaining speed at 500 rpm.

      Popular Mechanics hypermiled a C7 Corvette by essentially maintaining 53 mph avg under ideal conditions and did get mid 30’s but that is a lightweight, aerodynamic car at low speed. Cruising at 55 on in similar conditions my TDI VW easily achieves mid 50’s. I would say at best, the driver can contribute 20% on a given route, all else being equal.

  • avatar

    Maybe I could get a Cruze hatchback diesel with 6 speed manual….in brown.

    • 0 avatar

      They are offering “Pepperdust metallic” on the hatch, which is kind of beige.

      No poo brown option yet though. VW dropped their poo brown option on the current Golf wagon, which is quite disappointing.

      • 0 avatar

        Pepperdust Metallic, aka iridescent beige/gray, is a seriously classy, expensive-looking color. And it darn well oughtta be, since you can option your spiffy new Cruze hatch north of 30 grand no sweat…

        But I too would prefer poo brown.

        For those who want a brown wagon, Ford offered a Kodiak Brown when they released the 2013 Escape (not sure if they still do). It looks black until sunlight hits it, and then it’s got a shimmery root beer thing going on. Really slick.

  • avatar

    At what speed? It seems like they do the gearing to game the EPA test cycle and once you get out on the 75mph real world highway MPGs fall off a cliff…

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