Face-Off: Chevy Cruze Diesel vs. VW Jetta TDI

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

Up until now, VW Group – to include Audi and Volkswagen, among others – have had a near monopoly on consumer-level clean diesel cars. That is, anything they put the “TDI” badge on. Diesel hasn’t been a big thing in the States for a long time, unlike Europe, mainly because in the past, diesel-powered cars and trucks spit out smelly black smoke and was more expensive at the pump.

But now that clean diesel (that’s the “Ultra-low sulfur diesel” option you see at gas stations) is widely available and required in all vehicles made after 2007, we have good reason to start looking at diesel engines as an option again.

After all, they get great fuel economy compared to gasoline (even beating out most hybrids on highway MPGs) and performance doesn’t suffer. In fact diesel cars can be more fun than their gasoline-powered counterparts since they have more low-end torque.

Until now though, only the German brands offered diesel engines in the States, and most of us can’t afford a Mercedes, Audi, or BMW. Most of those choices were limited to high-end models anyway. Luckily, VW gave us a diesel-powered option across nearly their entire lineup; we’ve previously reviewed the Golf TDI, Audi A3 TDI, Jetta TDI, and Jetta SportWagen TDI – and loved all of them. I’m a huge proponent of clean diesel, especially over gas-electric hybrids.

And now that diesel is starting to gain some steam again, we have an American company jumping in -

Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

Chevy’s been talking about the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel for a while now, and now they’ve announced it’s going on sale in “certain cities” (nondescript) in May, then rolling out nationwide and in Canada in early Fall.

The numbers are pretty impressive:

Cruze Diesel MPG

But of course they’d have to be, considering they’re competing directly with a car that’s essentially defined its own class in the US for years – the VW Jetta TDI:

2013 VW Jetta TDI

But really, how do they compare? The Jetta’s been around for years and has established itself as the mid-sized clean diesel sedan to buy. The Cruze has been around for a few years now of course, and in fact I was very impressed with the Chevy Cruze Eco when I drove it a while back.

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

  Chevy Cruze Diesel VW Jetta TDI
  Chevy Cruze Diesel thumb 2013 VW Jetta TDI thumb
Starting Price: $25,695 $23,055
     
Economy: 46 mpg hwy
700 miles/tank
42 mpg hwy
609 miles/tank
     
Power: 148 hp
258 lb-ft
140 hp
236 lb-ft
     
0-60 8.6 sec 9.1 sec
     

The Cruze has slightly better numbers overall, and that’s worth noting. Chevy also says, defending the higher starting price, the car comes standard with more than the Jetta: MyLink infotainment system, larger 17-inch alloy wheels (16-inch alloys on the Jetta,) leather-appointed seating, a longer 5-year 100,000-mile powertrain warranty (Jetta: 5-year/60,000-mile,) and a two-year maintenance plan (Jetta: 3-year/36,000-mile.) Also. while the Jetta comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission (which I prefer,) Chevy only touts the automatic gearbox, and doesn’t mention a manual trans at all – so if you’re looking for a stick shift, you might only have the Jetta as a choice anyway (but again, that’s not confirmed, only implied.)

Those are the very basic numbers and don’t really tell that much. The two cars are very close in what they offer, and are in direct competition. What it comes down to, as usual, is driving both and deciding which one you like more.

So will VW’s 2014 or 2015 Jetta have better numbers than the Cruze? It’s possible, but interestingly, VW just released the $24,995 Jetta Hybrid, which gets a turbocharged 48/42 hwy/city mpg (that’s damn good) all from 170 hp and 184 lb-ft. I’m still a diesel over hybrid guy, but that’s definitely a good option.

What do you think about the Chevy Cruze Diesel, and does it give a good fight against the Jetta TDI?

Chris Burdick

Chris Burdick

Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Hi! I founded Automoblog.net in May of 2006. I'm an avid sports car and supercar enthusiast. My favorite cars include the Audi R8, Lamborghini Diablo 6.0 VT, and Koenigsegg CCX. I think the Ferrari 360 Spider is still one of the most beautiful cars in existence. For “normal” cars, I tend to lean towards imports - Nissan, Audi, and of course the Italians. I'm in love with my Pearl Yellow (don't judge) 1990 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo and plan to get around 550 HP to the rear wheels one day. I'm also a world traveler and have been backpacking Europe since March 2012, writing about cars along the way
Chris Burdick

@Automoblog

The car blog where auto enthusiasts mouth off to one another
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Filed Under: Car NewsCar ReviewsChevyComparisonDieselVW


  • test

    by the way you forget to mention Chevy Diesel city mpg is only 27 mpg while the Jetta’s is 30 mpg. So that should even things out between the cars.

    • http://www.automoblog.net/author/csburdick/ Chris Burdick

      Great point!

  • David W Holt

    How long has GM been producing diesel compacts in Europe? Hoping to find good track record as VW has established. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-02-07/gm-brings-european-diesel-engine-to-u-dot-s-dot-for-cruze

    • http://www.automoblog.net/author/csburdick/ Chris Burdick

      Hi David, they do have plenty of experience with diesel engines in Europe, but interestingly, the engines that come over the the States are a bit different.

      For example, the EU Cruze diesel and US Cruze diesel are two slightly different versions of the engine; the one for the US has been detuned to reduce emissions by quite a lot, so the US version is cleaner than the EU model. BUt as a result, the US Cruze’s 148 hp lags behind the Euro Cruze’s 163.

      And despite the EU’s Cruze being more powerful, it manages to get 49 mpg vs our 46.

  • Amanda

    I’m surprised by the low mpg listing for the TDI, mine is an 06′ and I have never gotten as low as 30mpg, I think in the worst conditions I’ve hit as low as 34 or 36mpg.

    • http://www.automoblog.net Christopher Burdick

      I agree Amanda, any of the Jetta TDIs I’ve driven I’ve been able to get much better efficiency out of it if driven lightly.