Chevy to offer diesel version of Cruze hatchback

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co.’s new Chevrolet Cruze hatchback will be available with a diesel engine — including a six-speed manual option — that the company says will deliver “spectacular” fuel economy.

GM North America President Alan Batey said Chevy will offer a diesel version of its new hatchback, likely to arrive in the third quarter of next year as a 2018 model. The Cruze Hatch diesel will be available with a six-speed manual transmission or a nine-speed automatic transmission, Batey told journalists this week in Detroit.

“The torque that you get out of this type of diesel with this type of vehicle, particularly being equipped with a manual transmission, that’s what you really call fun to drive,” Batey said.

A diesel version of the Cruze sedan will be available in the spring as a 2017 model, Batey said. It also gets a manual option.

Diesel sales have fallen in the U.S. since Volkswagen AG’s emissions cheating scandal erupted in September 2015 and Volkswagen currently is banned from selling diesels here. Chevy sees a chance to win some VW customers with its new diesel offerings, Batey said.

“Clearly what’s happened at VW creates an opportunity for us,” he said. “So we’ll do everything we can to seize the opportunity.”

The Cruze and Cruze Hatch diesel versions will be powered by a 1.6-liter turbodiesel. The 2018 Chevy Equinox crossover also will be offered next year with the same turbodiesel that GM said would get an estimated 40 miles per gallon highway.

GM and Chevy aren’t talking yet about fuel economy for the Cruze sedan or hatchback diesels, but Mike Siegrist, GM’s assistant chief engineer for diesel passenger cars, said “it’s going to be spectacular.” The previous-generation Cruze diesel sedan was rated at 46 mpg highway.

Siegrist said the engine is undergoing certification testing now with the Environmental Protection Agency and he was not concerned about any delay in getting it approved for sale in a timely manner.

Pricing for diesel versions of the Cruze and Cruze Hatch were not available. The 2017 Cruze Hatchback, hitting dealerships now, starts at $22,190 including destination for its base LT trim with a manual transmission.

An automatic version of the gasoline model gets 29 mpg in the city and 38 mpg highway, while a manual version of the Cruze Hatch gets 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.

GM in January debuted the five-door hatchback at the North American International Auto Show and the brand is hoping to reach new and younger buyers with it.

It’s powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine making 153 horsepower and features a quiet ride and up to 47.2 cubic feet of cargo space.

Christian J. Biggs, Cruze product manager, said hatchback buyers overall tend to be a bit older, more male and have active lifestyles. Biggs said he would not be surprised if Cruze Hatch sales exceed internal forecasts, though he would not disclose figures.

He noted that Mazda with its Mazda3 and Ford Motor Co. with its Focus hatch sell about 40,000 to 50,000 hatches a year. The Cruze hatch is hitting the market at the same time as the new 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback. The vehicles also will compete with the Hyundai Elantra GT and Volkswagen Golf.

“For us this really represents a new opportunity in this market with this different type of product that we didn’t have on the prior generation,” Biggs said.

The Cruze Hatch is built at GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico .

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