In America, November is a month of thanks- and I have a lot to be thankful for this year. One of those things is the fact that GM decided to let me drive a 2014 Chevy Cruze Diesel from Oak Park, Illinois to Wellington, Ohio to visit friends and family over the Thanksgiving weekend. All I had to do in return is let you, dear readers, know what I thought of the thing. SO, sit back and get ready, because this is going to be a weird one.
1. the Chevy Cruze Diesel is a Quality Car
More than anything else, what struck me most about this latest Chevy
Cavalier Cobalt Cruze was how well-built everything is compared to Chevy compacts of yore. Even compared to my 2009 Malibu mild-hybrid, the doors shut with the same sturdy “whoomp” you’d only get from Mercedes’ doors a generation ago. Beyond that, everything feels over-built- from the full-opening rubber door seals to the heavy hood to the beefy door-handles. I loved all of it, and it definitely gave me the impression that I could expect to get 200,000 plus miles of loyal service from the little sedan.
On top of the “quality feel” of the components, the 2014 Chevy Cruze Diesel had instruments that were easy to read and almost everything was, generally, easy to set and adjust. I say “almost” everything, though, because of this …
.. that’s Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system, and I hate it.
Did I say I hated it? I don’t hate the Chevy MyLink’s bizarre mix of touch-screen and button-driven menus, I loathe it. I despise it. I am against everything the people who made it stand for, sure- but I don’t hate it. What I hate is everyone at GM who decided that MyLink should be a thing in the first place. Surrounded by quality sheet metal, soft leather, and legitimately slick gear head tech (more on that, in a moment), the MyLink system seemed cheap and out-dated, leading me to ask, for the thousandth time, why automakers don’t just build a quality iPad dock into their dashboard and work with Apple (or HTC, or whoever) to get the drivers right. There is simply no reason for GM (or Ford, or any other car-maker) to be in the OS/GUI space, and MyLink is a vivid example of why that’s a fact.
If I’m being 100% honest, however- I did find a way to make the MyLink system do exactly what I wanted: I used OnStar.
OnStar continues to be the biggest and best selling point for GM vehicles. GM were mad- MAD, I tell you!- to ever let that slip into the hands of their competitors. When I pressed the button, I was greeted at 4AM, on Thanksgiving morning, by a cheerful OnStar agent who set my GPS, found me an XM station, and popped the trunk for me while I was fumbling around looking for an in-car trunk release (which I never did find, by the way).
2. the Chevy Cruze Diesel is Full of Racy Tech
The 2014 Cruze I drove was packed with racy, gear head tech. From active aerodynamic shutters that closed at speed to reduce the car’s drag to the 2.0 L Ecotec diesel that, once I figured out where to shift, gave back more than adequate performance and acceleration. All that tech, including the traction control and anti-lock brakes, was nearly invisible from the driver’s seat. Perfect, in other words.
3. the Chevy Cruze Diesel’s MPG is Amazing
I’ve made the drive from Oak Park, IL to Oberlin, OH more times than I can count by now, and I know just about every exit on the 335-ish mile trip. Let me tell you that, despite doing the math, I wasn’t mentally prepared to make the entire trip on half a tank of gas. I was, in fact, blown away by the idea that I could drive from Chicago to Cleveland and back on a single tank of gas.
That kind of range, combined with solid build quality, is what EVs are up against. It’s not about whether or not electric cars are going to displace gasoline-powered cars, it’s about what EVs can offer over cars like the Chevy Cruze diesel. This is the future of middle America, guys: diesel.
4. the Chevy Cruze Diesel Should be a Buick
Besides the hateful MyLink system, there was something else about the Cruze that upset me. In fact, for the entirety of the five days I was in the car, I kept finding myself staring at it …
… the passenger door panel didn’t seem to line up with the dashboard. It’s a problem, sure, but it’s one that I was willing to forgive. After all, the 2014 Chevy Cruze diesel was fast, relatively comfortable, packed with features- did I mention the doors shut like my dad’s old Mercedes SL?
I was willing to let it go, is what I’m saying. That is, until I had the following conversation about 100 miles into Indiana:
Me: Doesn’t that bother you?
Wife: Doesn’t what bother me?
Me: Your door. It doesn’t fit right.
Wife: It’s fine.
Me: No. No, it’s not. You don’t see that in the little Voklswagen wagons, and that’s what this car is supposed to be competing against.
Wife: I could see it competing with the Volkswagens.
Wife: I like the big screen. I like the OnStar. I like the Nav. I feel like it’s safe.
Me: I thought you hated diesels?
Wife: I can’t really tell it’s a diesel. It’s fine. I could see you buying one of these, if it was a wagon. (Are you listening, GM!?)
Me: They make a wagon.
Wife: How much is it?
Me: I don’t know. The GM guy left me a folder that has the window sticker in it. It’s on your side. What does it say?
That’s right, kids. GM is asking twenty and eight thousand US American dollars for its 2014 Chevy Cruze diesel sedan – and that seems utterly unbelievable to me. That price, by the way, is $1000 more than the Volkswagen Jetta TDi with all the same goodies, plus a 6-way power driver’s seat, a sunroof, push-button starter (it’s a thing), and the all-important VW badge on the front of the car.
It seems to me that GM has a problem with the Cruze diesel. They’ve built a car that’s capable of going toe-to-toe with a premium competitor, but they’ve stuck the wrong badge on the nose. The truth is that this engine placed in Buick’s baby Verano (which is based on the same platform as the Cruze) could demand a $30K OTD price without anyone batting an eyelash.
Granted, you could make a case that Buick doesn’t appeal to millenials and that Chevy is trying to re-establish itself as a brand that young professionals would consider shopping, but that would be a ridiculous, crap argument. There is no reason to believe that putting the 2.0 L Ecotec turbodiesel engine in a Verano would hurt Chevy’s Cruze sales, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that a diesel offering in a compact Buick would give that brand an edge in the entry-luxe Acura/Lexus/Volvo field that Buick plays in.
So, would I buy a $28,000 Chevy Cruze? If it was a wagon, maybe. As a sedan? Not a chance- but I would recommend the car to, say, my in-laws. It’s a great little car, then, but not for me.
I’ll be a player when it’s a Buick.
Original content from Gas 2.