DETROIT -- Chevrolet’s diesel-powered Cruze hatchback -- the brand’s first compact hatchback available in North America -- could be the first nonhybrid car this century to achieve 50 mpg on the highway.
GM officials said Tuesday the Cruze hatchback will get an optional 1.6-liter turbodiesel in the 2018 model year. The fuel-efficient engine will be paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual.
The nearly identical Vauxhall Astra diesel, which is on sale in Britain, carries a European Union rating of 85 mpg on the highway. But the British imperial gallon is 20 percent larger than the U.S. gallon and EU testing procedures have been criticized for not being representative of real-world results.
Diesel engines, on average, can improve fuel economy by 20 percent over gasoline engines. The EPA has not rated the fuel economy of the Cruze diesel hatchback.
Several European magazines have tested the Astra diesel and achieved 55 mpg with a six-speed manual transmission. The coming nine-speed automatic might be enough to push the car to 50 mpg, giving GM the title of most fuel efficient nonhybrid car and helping the company in its quest to win over VW’s former diesel customers.
AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan thinks GM would be happy with 47 or 48 mpg.
“If the Cruze diesel can hit 47 or 48 mpg, it should be a success in closing the gap with hybrids for highway driving efficiency,” Sullivan said. “Keep in mind that the Malibu Hybrid gets 46 mpg on the highway.”