2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jacob Black

Sport mode, normal mode, eco mode. Oh how I love thee, now. Not because the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel has them. Oh no, no, no. It does not. “But don’t it always seem to go? You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Actually a line from that eco-warrior song is appropriate.

The Cruze is aimed squarely at the fuel-economy and environmentally conscious niche of people who enjoy modern, stylish motoring, but want to do their part to limit the impact of their motoring on the leafy green bits they are driving through.

It is almost perfect for a suburban or semi-urban household. It’s a great size for a small family or a couple, it is quiet and comfortable inside and the Cruze has proven itself a great little platform for stability and driveability out on the highways. With the diesel model you get all of that plus miserly fuel consumption and a heart-warming green badge which proudly displays your credentials.

Sadly, you also get a transmission that rules over your right foot like the meanest of high-school math teachers: ruler in hand, ready to grab you by the earlobe and drag you back to compliance. That’s where my newfound appreciation for driving mode selectors comes from. Oh how I longed to press the Normal button on the Cruze and release myself from the shackles of that transmission. Sluggish to respond when accelerating, it was even worse when I wanted to coast. The Cruze forever felt like someone was squeezing the crankshaft, pulling it down, holding it back. The transmission relies heavily on the 266 lb-ft of torque produced by the 161-hp, 2.0L twin-turbo diesel – making it work hard from early in the rev range to save fuel.

As a result first gear feels too short and too short-lived. Breathe on the gas and suddenly you’re in second, the nuggety little diesel digging in its heels and heaving the car forward like a tight-head prop. [Google tells me this is somebody in a rugby scrum. –Ed.]

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. Click image to enlarge

If you could only park the Cruze in Normal, or Sport mode periodically, this car would be great, but without those options it just falls a tiny bit short. It is not a pleasant car to tootle around the city in. Sure, it’s easy enough to drive, but it is frustratingly sluggish – especially in stop-start traffic.

Ah! But this car is not for the city. It is a highway cruiser, a long-distance personal hauler – and it delivers on that promise superbly.

The steering feels solid and there is plenty of feedback through the wheel, which is welcome in this age of over-assisted electric steering.

My morning commute takes me through one particularly rough corner and up onto a highway on ramp. Thanks to the independent, MacPherson-strut front end the Cruze was unfazed by the large bumps on turn in and aimed itself accurately at the ramp ahead. Chevrolet has opted for z-link torsion beam suspension in the rear with sport tuning. The Z configuration of the watts linkage is supposed to limit bump steer from the rear – mimicking more expensive, fully independent setups.

I did notice similarly sized bumps were far more jarring at low speed than highway speeds but that fits well with this car’s purpose. It is here to devour highway kilometres, not squirt you around the inner city.

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