2014 Winner: General Motors 2.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I-4

2014 Winner: General Motors 2.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I-4

There is a myth that Americans never will accept diesels, yet Volkswagen has found fans in the U.S. for decades. GM is aiming to attract this audience with the Cruze turbodiesel. We think it will succeed.

If there is one thing we’ve learned in 20 years of Ward’s 10 Best Engines testing, it’s that diesels usually meet or exceed their official fuel-economy ratings while hybrid-electric vehicles typically do not.

That was the case last August when we drove the Chevy Cruze turbodiesel 253 miles (407 km) and averaged 46.7 mpg (50 L/100 km) in mostly highway driving. The car’s official highway rating is 46 mpg (5.1 L/100 km).  

The theory was confirmed when seven editors saw an average of 36.5 mpg (6.4 L/100 km) in mixed driving over 446 miles (718 km) during our official testing. Combined fuel economy is rated at 33 mpg (7.1 L/100 km), and even our biggest leadfoot never got below the EPA city rating of 27 mpg (8.7 L/100 km).

And, with 264 lb.-ft. (358 Nm) of torque available at 1,750 rpm and an overboost feature providing 280 lb.-ft. (380 Nm) for short 10-second bursts when needed, the turbodiesel adds an important fun-to-drive factor to the car’s overall likeability. A range of more than 700 miles (1,127 km) per tank is icing on the cake.

No one disputed the engine’s ability to deliver power and economy under all kinds of driving conditions, but some judges were critical of the engine’s inherent vibration and diesel grunt during low-speed driving. However, after experiencing similar noise, vibration and harshness issues with several diesel-powered luxury vehicles costing twice as much as the Cruze, they reevaluated their scores.

The fact is, if you want to enjoy the benefits of diesels, including efficiency and long range coupled with unparalleled low-end torque, you have to accept a bit of vibration and diesel rumble at low speeds, whether you are driving a Chevy Cruze or top-of-the-line German luxury car.

Hundreds of millions of Europeans have grown to prefer diesels over gasoline engines. They can’t all be wrong. GM engineers in Germany led development of this engine, which is shared with Opel vehicles, but it was modified substantially for the U.S.

Besides being fun to drive and offering the best highway fuel economy of any non-hybrid vehicle in the U.S., the Cruze turbodiesel also features the most advanced emissions control system of any diesel in its competitive set.

That includes exhaust gas recirculation, selective catalytic reduction and a particulate filter that enables it to generate at least 90% less smog-causing oxides of nitrogen than previous-generation diesels and minimal particulate emissions. The use of an SCR system also positions it for applications on other, larger platforms.     

“This is an excellent diesel engine and it stands toe-to-toe with the best from Germany,” says one editor on his score sheet. And that is true whether you are stomping on the accelerator, cruising on the expressway or sniffing the tailpipe.

There is a myth in the U.S. that Americans never will accept diesels in light vehicles, yet Volkswagen has found diesel fans in the U.S. for decades. GM is aiming to attract this audience with the Cruze turbodiesel. We think it will succeed.

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