By on November 15, 2019

TTAC Commentator MacMcMacmac writes:

Good day Sajeev,

I am contemplating doing something I never thought I would… buying a GM product. A used GM! I have recently negotiated the purchase of a home which will result in me commuting roughly 30 km to work, one-way. Now, that doesn’t seem like a whole lot, considering it will be mostly highway, but it is roughly 10 times as long as my current commute. My 2009 Focus is getting shabby, and although it has proven to be exceptionally reliable, age and road salt is taking its toll on the bodywork. So in light of this, I have decided it is time to find my next vehicle.

I was positively inclined toward the Cruze as soon as it came out. When I read its diesel made not a whole lot less torque than my old 5.0 LX, I was shocked. For me, the gutlessness of four-cylinder engines is something that truly destroys the enjoyability of any vehicle afflicted with one. I guess that old 302 loping down the road spoiled me for effortless engine response, despite it being nothing special nowadays in terms of output.

I am thinking this 2.0 turbo oil burner might provide the best of both worlds at a reasonable buy-in. Do you or anyone on the board have any experience with the Cruze Diesel in terms or reliability, durability and general liveability? This would break my streak of buying five Ford products in a row. The Cruze Diesel in question is a 2014 with 80K, no rust, leather, yadda-yadda….The diesel engine premium seems to have been eaten by the first owner, as the price seems in line with gas Cruzes of the same age.

Has this engine/transmission proven reliable over the long haul?

Sajeev answers:

How funny: years ago I felt a similar connection when my 5.0 HO Fox Body Cougar sat next to my then-girlfriend’s Jetta TDI. I occasionally, fondly remember the gutsy Vee-Dub (ironically traded-in on a 2008 Focus), but I digress…

Aside from assorted complaints about Chevy dealers, I see few (if any) worrying trends regarding Diesel Cruze problems. So find your future go-to repair shop based on the expertise of their diesel technicians. Both independent shops and dealers can have good diesel techs, but you gotta do the legwork to find them.

And like all ubiquitous automotive cockroaches with aftermarket alternatives, I reckon you will save metric tons of money buying non-diesel specific Cruze parts online.

Aside from the aforementioned local diesel technician concern, I see no reason to not buy a Diesel Cruze. Matter of fact, I’m kinda thinking — since we have similar taste in vehicles — that I shoulda bought one instead of my 2011 Ranger. Nah, the Ranger’s somewhat Cruze-adjacent after doing aftermarket torque boosting and ride comfort enhancements.

So get the Cruze Diesel, unless you can’t bear to break your Ford-buying streak. What say you, Best and Brightest?

[Image: General Motors]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 
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40 Comments on “Piston Slap: Windsor Torque Begets a Lordstown Diesel?...”

  • avatar

    I’d seriously worry about finding a GM dealership that had techs that were trained on servicing/diagnosing that engine if it ever needs anything beyond oil changes. And with modern diesel emissions equipment, it very well might. I personally would stay away.

    Try out any one of the modern 2.0T gas motors, Ford’s for example makes a walloping 275lb-ft down low just like a diesel. Used Malibu with a 2.0T? Buick has been unloading Regals with the 2.0T seriously cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      I agree based on anecdotal evidence. We have all heard/read horror stories about the Oldsmobile diesel engines of the late 70’s to early 80’s.

      However a friend of mine had one. He is a skilled mechanic and his father was a diesel mechanic. They ran that engine/vehicle for over a decade with nary an engine related issue/problem.

      Often it is the quality of the tech and the consistency of the service, rather than the vehicle itself that determines its longevity/reliability.

      • 0 avatar

        I worked on some of the original GM diesels and they were not good engines. They did improve. Gradually everything got heavier and beefier as parts failed. If you had a later version it was a pretty good motor. The earlier variants were nightmares. Wrist pins went from hollow to solid, the car had two batteries needed for starting. The started motor cost $200 rebuilt whereas you could buy a rebuilt 350 gas starter for about $35. You could only cut the heads 0.010” one time and the head bolts could only be torqued once so they had to be replaced.
        People forget that diesel contains about 15% more BTU’s per gallon than gasoline, it also weighs about 15% more by volume and usually costs much more. You have to consider these things when calculating true efficiency. One significant repair bill negates all your fuel savings.

  • avatar

    I think you’ll be disappointed if you believe the Cruze diesel will be anything like a 5.0 Foxstang.

    My only anecdote with the Cruze diesel was from a former neighbor. A Brit, he had a fondness for diesel cars. He owned a Passat on which VW paid him out as part of the dieselgate debacle. Wanting to replace it with another diesel in short order, he found a good deal on a Cruze locally. Four months later he traded the Cruze on a compact Hyundai hybrid thing because he couldn’t stand living with the Cruze. I didn’t listen in great detail as to why he hated it so much because long conversations would ensue and I’d have to be reminded how the sun never set on the British Empire.

  • avatar

    Go drive it. See if you like it before you buy it. If you are comparing its performance to a Golf/Jetta/Passat TDI, you will be disappointed.

    I test drove a 2017 with the 1.6TD (manual) and the performance was disappointing when compared to the VW TDI’s. I’m sure the 50mpg HWY might have made me slightly less disappointed.

    As far as long term reliability is concerned, i have not heard any bad news about the engines. GM is on the second generation of these oil burners so they may be dedicated supporting the engines for a while.

  • avatar

    While not a diesel, I test drove a Cruze Eco with the 1.4L and 6MT back when they were new. It was an extremely well-composed ride, comfortable and mature with a clutch that’s light but intuitive to learn quickly. No pretense of performance but definitely a nice daily that drove bigger than its size, in a good way.

    • 0 avatar

      I likewise test drove a new Eco 1.4T back in 2012 and came away incredibly impressed. The only problem was the price, $19k locally at the time.

      • 0 avatar

        “The only problem was the price”

        Same reason i didn’t get the Cruze. I wanted a base hatch with diesel and manual. GM would not allow to me to have the diesel unless they could attach $5,000 of trim and infotainment packages. Nope.

      • 0 avatar

        I test drove a Cruze (gas) with manual in 2012 while getting my oil changed, and I liked the car. But I was in a lease, so I didn’t look into the price. In general, at the time, Cruzes seemed kind of pricey compared to Malibus. Typical GM–“we finally have a viable car–and now we want you pay top dollar for it, since this isn’t our usual POS”.

        Five years later, I wanted to replace my Malibu. So I drove the ‘new’ Cruze hatch manual. Nice enough car–except the gear ratios were so tall and wide, it’s as if GM was saying “we know this sucks, do us both a favor and buy an auto”.

        Which is too bad. Because 5 months before, I rented an Opel Astra DIESEL in Greece. Nice car, but by the end of the week, I loved it! Not a GTI, but nice firm steering, excellent ride and handling. The gears were perfect for the engine, which I found unobtrusive (a few times on the highway I drove in 5th for a while before I realized it was not 6th..) If I could buy one in the US for the low $20s, I would have.

        Perhaps the Cruze diesel is geared like the Opel was–it might be a great car driving, and very fuel-efficien car. As Jon says though, when new, again, the typical GM hubris–it stickered for $27k. That’s way too rich.

        Make sure you get a good deal. The Cruze is now an orphan–great used car value, if you get a good one you plan on keeping, because it will depreciate

    • 0 avatar

      That’s one thing that impressed me about the Cruze – the smooth ride, more like a bigger car.

  • avatar

    I too was a bit intrigued when the diesel Cruze came out (I’ve only ever seen two of them on the road), but after a short Cruze ownership earlier this year, I’m steering away from them.

    My Used Car Search From Hell for Daughter No. 2 (which included a 2012 Kia Forte EX sedan that was rear-ended and totaled on the way home from purchase, and a 2014 Kia Rio that was sold back to the dealer after a day, due to a bad catalytic converter) concluded with the purchase of a 2013 Chevy Cruze LS with 98k miles.

    It was a clean car, a trade-in bought from a local Honda dealer. The first negative was that the LS didn’t come with cruise control (a car named “Cruze” without cruise?), but I figured out I could eventually swap the steering wheel and clockspring along with ECM programming from the dealer. This was a $300-$500 task, depending on how whether I could find a dealer who would merely do the programming, versus one that insisted on also doing the wheel-and-clockspring swap.

    Soon after buying the car, strange electrical gremlins afflicted it, like EPAS errors and codes. Reading the CruzeTalk forums (yes, I’m still a member) I discovered it was a common thing, related to the Chinese-made battery negative cable with poorly crimped connections. A $20 ACDelco cable from Amazon fixed that, but soon afterward, the battery crapped out (okay, I can’t blame that on the car).

    A couple of months later, the driver’s power window regulator self-destructed, another common problem with the Cruze, caused by the cheap plastic guides that break, releasing the drive cables and causing them to bind up and tangle. A $76 GM regulator, You Tube videos, and an hour spent in my garage fixed that.

    Mercifully, she totaled the car a mere two days later, saving me from the looming timing belt replacement on the German-built 1.8l Ecotec – who still uses timing belts in this day and age? Apparently, GM does.

    Okay, so there were some things I liked about the car, like the Driver Information Center and all the things you can customize, the TPMS that tells you the pressures in each tire, instead of a simple idiot light, and the fact that you can program keys without needing the dealer or a locksmith.

    Some things I didn’t like? Having to have an OnStar subscription (I think) to use voice-activated dialing, the gutless 1.8l NA Ecotec (the turbo is probably a better choice) that returned dismal mileage, and the fact that it didn’t have a bar under the front seats to move the seats back and forth – you have to reach over toward the center of the car to find the the release, a hassle when you’re trying to move the driver’s seat back before getting in.

    Living with the Cruze reminded me why I haven’t bought a GM car in decades.

    • 0 avatar

      The early first gen Cruze had a lot of electrical gremlins and trim issues. I was a technician for GM until 2014 and i noticed that those cars were always in the shop for miniscule and annoying trim and electrical repairs. But they were cute, so a lot of women bought them, thus keeping my friends employed.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a great review Duke (sorry about your luck though)

      During 2013-2014, I rented a car every week for many month, and I came to like the Cruze, despite the cheap looking dashboard (with the cloth–what is that all about?).

      I had a Cobalt SS Supercharged, which is the best driving car I have ever owned. Unfortunately, I needed a back seat at the time, and access thru those long doors was pain.

      GM could have had a credible WRX competitor with a Cruze SS. Just take the Cobalt SS Super or Turbo motor, the slick trans, limited slip, sportier suspension, and Recaro seats.

      THAT car, I would have bought. And the back seat is useable enough.

      GM had all the parts. Too bad.

    • 0 avatar

      This reads like a solid counterpoint to people who say that you don’t need to buy a car from a company with a good reputation anymore because now all cars are reliable.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m pretty sure the Feds don’t allow any unreliable vehicles to be sold.

        And because of this, I usually just pick whichever OEM has a female CEO.

      • 0 avatar

        “This reads like a solid counterpoint to people who say… now all cars are reliable.”

        And then there are the people who insist that all cars are now reliable “if they are maintained properly,” implying that if a car is problematic, it’s automatically the owner’s fault. That’s the kind of reasoning I’ve grown to expect from auto dealership service personnel.

    • 0 avatar

      Cruze: made with the finest Chinesium.

      Typical GM, actually put out a half decent car and as usual skimp on the details. Oh and GM *never* used timing belts this is a new low for them.

      New C8 aside as that might be awesome, it makes me wonder why anyone is buying from GM at all in 2019.

  • avatar

    +2 to that, a lady friend of mine at the time bought a new 2012 or 13 and I was shocked at how solid it felt. It wasn’t just good for a compact, it was good for a midsize – which at 3150 lb they basically were.

    And that’s where the good ended. The base 1.8 motor was laughably bad, it went back for warranty work something like 8 times, 3 of which stranded her, and it was well past halfway to worthless when she traded it in with 50k on it – on a Malibu because some people never learn.

  • avatar

    The cloth looks cheap. At some point, it will probably fall off. It’s gotta be harder to clean than plastic/vinyl.

    As to feeling solid, I agree! These were rentals, some were 1.8, some were 1.4 turbos, and I liked the ride and handling.

    The platform was derived from the Cobalt, which was a pretty good car. I had a 2006 Cobalt SS Supercharged for four years, and of all the cars I’ve ever owned or leased, it was my favorite to drive. And the only reason I got it was I wanted to test drive a manual Cobalt, and the dealer only had a yellow SS…I was hooked, and during my four years, the car was as good as the test drive. Granted, 40k miles is not a lot, but it was troublefree during that time.

  • avatar

    Why would anyone buy a GM car let alone an orphaned one?

  • avatar

    The diesel engines were a great choice up until a few years ago. Now you can get something like a Jetta or Civic with a small turbo 4 gas engine. They get nearly the same gas mileage without the diesel premium. Plus they don’t have all of that expensive diesel emissions equipment. I personally would look at a new Jetta. 40mpg, a long warranty, and they sell for under $20k.

  • avatar

    The good part: You will save money on spark plugs.

    The bad part: Potentially everything else.

    (Are you locked into Ford and GM, or can your consideration set widen any?)

  • avatar

    The Cruze Diesel was a lot of fun to drive, it certainly had substantial torque off the line which rocketed the car from a stoplight – but torque petered out early in the RPM range and high end power was nonexistent.

    I agree that it would be better to go for a larger 4 cylinder gas turbo powerplant if you can find one in your budget. Or you could find a Dodge Charger which comes with a 300hp V6 at a minimum – that should satiate your power cravings on your commute.

  • avatar

    I had a little lust for the original 2.0 T first gen Cruze diesel but mostly because the physical dimensions were close to my old A-body Chevy Celebrity. I may have hated the motor in that Celebrity but I did think the overall interior and trunk dimensions were right on for its footprint.

    The Diesel 2.0 had power output more like a 5.0 V8 from my youth and the combo made me nostalgic as well.

  • avatar

    In the end, I put my money where my Mopar loving mouth was and sprang for an immaculate black on black 200c, just to see what all this Pentastar fuss was about. I must have angered the diesel gods since I was the recipient of a lovely parking lot hit and run on my front passenger door a week after buying it. I must say, the power of the 3.6 is…..robust. I must have a thing for orphans I guess. Other than the awful visibility, I am liking it very much.

    I drove both a first gen and second gen (manual) Cruze diesel. The numbers say otherwise, but the grunt of the 2.0t was nowhere as impressive as I had hoped, and the 1.6t had a clutch so light I kept bobbing my head back and forth whenever I tried to find the bite point. The little blurp of torque soon faded and, yeah, next to no upper rpm power. I thought the cars themselves were pretty nice looking though. The Cruze would have been pretty much in the same class as my old Focus, which provided yeoman, if unexciting, service for 9 years. I bought it for economy and reliability, and it delivered both in spades. Kinda pissed that Ford decided to equip them with easy-rot rocker panels, since at 142k, there was probably twice that amount of life left in the drivetrain. I felt a twinge of sadness as it drove away.

    I have also taken a job a further 25km away. Going to 3.6 v6 was perhaps not the greatest idea, but its almost all highway, so hopefully it won’t be too bad. One of my coworkers said his TDI mileage in the winter was nothing to write home about, and combined with the higher price of fuel, higher maintenance costs and lack of cabin heat, it was basically not worth the trouble. Ironically, he currently has a 1.4t Cruze. He says he has to fill up every 3 days. His commute is 80k one way.

  • avatar
    Jason Bright

    I wasn’t even aware of the existence of an oil-powered Cruze until a few weeks ago when I saw one fueling up. Still, a 5 year old Chevrolet? Probably juuust out of warranty so that means big servicing bills are probably a-headin’ your way should you choose to buy one. Probably make for a nice torquey ride though. I’ve only ever owned 2 old diesel VW’s and to echo an earlier sentiment, yeah plenty of low-speed torque but rather lacking on the high end

  • avatar

    I’d steer clear.

    First off that is a 2014, so 1st gen of GMs modern diesel attempts – don’t confuse it with the 2016-2019 Cruze Diesel which is a different engine and revised emission controls.

    Second GM dealers have very little experience with these engines – believe me, I had a Cruze Diesel and getting competent service was impossible.

    Third – modern diesels are not what they used to be, the DPF and DEF systems are extremely finicky – your dealer will blame you for not driving far enough every time your DPF clogs. 30km is a healthy commute, but modern emission systems require you drive 30-40 min continuous at high speed, otherwise they won’t work. I had older Mercedes and VW diesels from the 80s and 90s and this was never an issue – they were rock solid!

    If you still get the diesel, look into a DPF / DEF delete, otherwise it will cost you a fortune in check engine lights.

  • avatar

    I saw ONE Cruze with a clatter-engine in the wild, last year, that’s it.
    Granted we are into anecdote and one data point, but my suggestion is no diesel. Now, I like them…we had two of the old, indestructable VW Diesels…..I loved my various Toyota, BMW and Renault Diesels rented on vacations…but….
    Here in the US, our diesel fuel sucks. Imagine buying a Vette and having to feed it 87 octane all the time-I eventually bought a big tin of Cetane Boost from Amsoil…also, heavy trucks expect you to replace Diesel Particulate Filters, and EGR equipment. The VW (check the GM car) had it all buried between firewall and engine. Replacement was a $3500 day, at 73k miles. You just ate all your fuel savings. BMW Diesels in the US have had massive carbon fouling issues as well…a five figure trip to the dealer.

    The car that replaced it, a Jetta S, with a 1.4 liter turbo, gets 32 mpg vs the 39 mpg of the TDI. Other than the big torque curve, the TDI and S are pretty much equal for performance, if not soundproofing, but that is marketing.

    Kills me to say it, but no diesel in North America….

  • avatar

    Personally if I could get the Cruze diesel for below market I would because nobody is buying these esp if its a stick. But for real money I would steer clear. You won’t find it will be easy to have serviced, parts could be a problem, and no one will want to buy it from you later should you need to dump it.

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