Chevrolet announced yesterday that the upcoming diesel-powered 2014 Chevrolet Cruze achieves an EPA-estimated 46 mpg highway with a six-speed automatic transmission, and has a range of up to 700 miles per tank. The fuel economy information is not yet posted on the EPA’s website. The automaker says that the Cruze diesel has a starting price of $24,885 plus a $810 destination charge.
The Cruze diesel’s engine produces 148 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Chevy says that the Cruze diesel is equipped with an overboost function that can boost maximum torque to 280 pound-feet for short durations, such as accelerating onto a highway.
The gas powered 2013 Cruze Eco achieves 26/39 mpg city/highway with an automatic transmission or 28/42 mpg with a manual, according to the EPA. Maximum range per tank for the gas-powered Cruze Eco is 435 miles. A Cruze Eco with an automatic transmission starts at $20,875 before destination, which is $4,010 less than the Cruze diesel.
Car and Driver says that, on the surface, the Cruze diesel’s 46 mpg highway “is a laudable achievement,” but, upon closer inspection, they aren’t as impressed. They report that the Cruze diesel also achieves 26 mpg in the city, which isn’t as good as the Cruze Eco’s rating of 28 mpg with a manual transmission.
One of the Cruze diesel’s primary competitors is the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The diesel-powered Jetta starts at $23,055 and achieves an EPA-estimated 42 mpg on the highway. Its diesel engine produces 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. While the Cruze diesel costs more than the Jetta TDI, Chevrolet says that the Cruze diesel comes with a greater array of standard features, including leather seats and a MyLink infotainment system, in addition to getting better fuel economy.
Kicking Tires points out that over the past 12 months, diesel fuel has cost, on average, 10 percent more than gasoline, or an extra 38 cents per gallon, which somewhat erodes the benefit of higher fuel economy. According to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, diesel fuel currently costs an average of $3.93 per gallon nationally, while regular gasoline costs $3.51. Looking strictly at highway fuel economy estimates for the Cruze diesel and gas-powered Eco with an automatic transmission, you would have to drive about 802,000 miles to recoup the added cost of the diesel model over the gas model. Keep in mind that throwing city driving into the mix would likely change this math, as would a fluctuation in current fuel prices.
While most publications only make comparisons with other diesel and conventional gas-powered rivals, it is worthwhile to draw a comparison with similarly-priced hybrid models as well. The 2013 Toyota Prius, for example, starts at $24,200, excluding destination fees, and achieves an EPA highway estimate of 48 mpg. The Prius makes a better value proposition, given its lower price and the added cost of diesel fuel over gasoline.
The 2014 Cruze diesel goes on sale in select cities this spring, and hits dealers nationwide this fall.
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