Six-speed manual available with the diesel
Alan Batey, president of GM North America, confirmed the addition of a diesel for the U.S. and Canadian markets. He confirmed it in Detroit as part of a drive of the 2017 Cruze hatch that is currently available with a 1.4-liter turbocharged I-4 gasoline engine and a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
The announcement was not a huge surprise given that the Cruze sedan will be sold with a diesel option in the first quarter of 2017. The hatch will follow mid-year. Pricing has not been set but the 2017 Cruze hatchback starts at $22,190 USD.
The hatchback will get the same 1.6-liter turbodiesel that will go into the Chevrolet Equinox next year, but calibrated for the smaller Cruze. The engine has been available for a number of years in Europe in the Opel Zafira, Astra, and Insignia. The engine is built in Hungary and had to be homolagated for the U.S. to meet emissions and also to adapt to the varying climates in North America, said Mike Siegrist, assistant chief engineer for diesel cars in North America
Chevy officials think options such as a manual and a diesel will attract a younger, male, more affluent buyer for the hatchback. Hatches account for about 15 percent of the compact car segment in the U.S., and are even more popular in Canada.
Batey said the diesel light-passenger vehicle market is about 400,000 in the U.S. and the torquey engine is especially popular in the compact vehicle segment. “People who drive diesels love diesels,” he said. As a result, the Volkswagen diesel scandal creates an opportunity for GM. “We will do everything we can to seize the opportunity.” Fuel prices may be low now, but GM wants to be ready with a line of diesel-powered options when gas prices inevitably go up and diesel becomes more attractive. “We have to be prepared because things change quickly.” And GM can add diesels across the lineup relatively easily because its brands are global in reach and scale, he said.
The diesel has not yet been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency but Siegrist said they are going through the process now and he is not concerned the launch will need to be delayed. He would not say what mileage it will get but it is expected to be “spectacular” and better than the 40 mg highway expected in the larger and heavier Equinox.