Hoping to cash in on growing diesel demand in the U.S. market, Chevrolet debuted the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel today in Chicago.
Aimed squarely at the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, Chevrolet will offer the car in its higher end 2LT trim for $25,695 including delivery. That’s $1,845 more than the starting price for a Volkswagen, but Chevrolet says the more premium 2LT trim will still represent a compelling value to customers.
In other words, the diesel Cruze will come with heated leather seats standard along with a seven-inch touch screen display. An available driver convenience package also adds an auto-dimming mirror, power side mirrors, a rear view camera and more.
Roughly the first two months of sales, starting in May, will be restricted to specific markets Chevrolet expects to be more open to a diesel compact passenger sedan. After that, the car will be available in dealers nationwide.
Official fuel mileage is still unreleased, but Chevrolet expects the car to get 42 mpg on the highway. That’s right in line with the gas-burning Cruze Eco model, which accounted for 15 percent of the car’s U.S. sales, according to the brand.
But Chevrolet isn’t forecasting the Eco and diesel models to attract the same buyers despite the common efficiencies. Instead, it expects to attract current diesel drivers. This is GM’s first diesel passenger car since the 1987 Chevette, which means the brand hopes to poach customers from other makers. The U.S. diesel pool is a small one, though, and that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Volkswagen is in the crosshairs.
That raises the question of whether or not Volkswagen drivers would consider switching to a Chevrolet. Base price comparisons make Chevrolet the more expensive option, but that also isn’t a fair comparison because the diesel Cruze is only offered with a six-speed automatic.
Volkswagen, on the other hand, sells the Jetta with a six-speed manual or dual-clutch gearbox. Chevy’s automatic isn’t the same unit as you would find with the gasoline engines — the unit found here is built to deal with the diesel engine’s 148 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. In fact, torque can be temporarily increased via an overboost function for about 10 seconds to 280 lb-ft.
Chevrolet promises that will all add up to an engine that feels closer to a V6, and it’s tough to argue. Despite that, it remains to be seen if the new transmission can really stack up to Volkswagen’s DSG which would seem to be the likely winner.
Look for the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel to roll out nationwide by mid-summer. A fixed date hasn’t been announced, but based on Chevrolet’s announcement that its smaller initial debut will last about two months starting in May, July seems like a safe bet.
GALLERY: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel
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