It's as good as official: Chevrolet will build a diesel version of the Cruze for the U.S., to go on sale in 2013. The word comes straight from General Motors CEO Dan Akerson in an interview with USA Today.
Akerson says he "drove it the other day. It is great." That's as much as you'd expect from the CEO, but what about the numbers? Akerson says it'll score somewhere in the low- to mid-40-mpg range, with the automatic transmission, implying the manual-transmission version would be even more efficient. That's into hybrid territory, but about what you might expect if you consider cars like the VW Jetta TDI, which rates 42 mpg on the highway.
Around town the Cruze diesel is likely to rate somewhere in the low- to mid-30-mpg range. It's expected to be a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder.
Those figures are pretty close to Chevy's existing Cruze Eco trim--so why bother with the diesel? The 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine in the Eco offers much of the same driving characteristics, after all, with plenty of low-end torque and the ability to pull taller gears at cruising speed.
The answer probably lies in market penetration--buyers that wouldn't consider Chevy at all, even for the Eco, might look to the brand as a serious option if it brings a diesel to market. One advantage the Cruze diesel will likely hold over the Jetta is price. The Jetta diesel starts at about $25,000, but a Cruze diesel, even with a significant premium for its new engine, should be able to come in below the $20,000 mark.