This article is part of the GM Authority Mailbag series, where the GM Authority Crew features and replies to your questions, comments, and observations.
The following comes to us from Ricardo P.
I’ve been a fan of Volkswagen my whole life and have owned three Jetta TDIs… so you can imagine my surprise when I found out about the Cruze Diesel. I was skeptical. An American company challenging the undisputed king of passenger cars with diesel engines? Yeah, right. I remembered my ex’s horrid Cavalier all too well.
Since I’ve never even seen a Cruze before, I did as any car guy would do: jumped into my 2012 Jetta TDI and headed straight to my local Chevy store (a place I have never looked up on the map, let alone been to, in my entire life). Since the Cruze Diesel won’t be here for a few more months and it was a slow day at the dealer, I took the 1.4T for a 30-minute drive and really hit some corners. As I returned to the dealership, I had a smile on my face. I liked the Cruze.
I was surprised, because the Cruze isn’t some piece of garbage compact car that American brands have been known to put out. This thing has all the qualities of my Jetta and is even better in some areas. And all that got me thinking: now that VW has some competition from a real global company like Chevy, it will probably need to step up its game.
I can point out at least five things that I like better on the Cruze than on my Jetta TDI… the car I’ve been praising to my friends, neighbors and anyone else who would listen. For example…
- The Cruze Diesel has an excellent rear suspension that any driving enthusiast will appreciate right away. The only thing I can compare it to is a GTI/GLI… meanwhile, the Jetta TDI’s inferior solid rear axle (in North American models) cuts costs at every corner.
- The Cruze also has automatic on/off headlights. The Jetta doesn’t even offer it on any U.S. models. Not sure why I am forced to keep flipping on/off switches in 2013.
- The Cruze has an awesome steering wheel… the Jetta does too, but it’s plagued by more VW cost-cutting. The right side of the wheel on the Jetta is “blanked” and doesn’t have any buttons whatsoever. This makes my car look cheap, as if I didn’t opt for some feature (even though I have the top model). Meanwhile, the Cruze has buttons galore on the wheel (on both sides of it). It’s a more balanced solution.
- And then there’s the power. The Cruze Diesel gets the same fuel economy as my Jetta, runs cleaner thanks to the fluid system (still learning about that one) and even makes more power. Granted, it doesn’t have the TDI’s DSG…
- And don’t even get me started on the cheapened cabin in the new Jetta. Talk about corner-cutting! It sucks!
The only downside of the Cruze that I’ve been able to find is the center armrest — which is pretty much pointless. The one in my 2012 Jetta is slightly better, but VW stepped up its game for 2013 with a unit that can slide forward and then adjust/tilt upward and downward, making long highway trips very comfortable.
All in all, this VW fan whose parents swear by Chevy is happy to see the Cruze Diesel. For one, it gives me an alternative outside the VW family… and it will probably result in VW seriously stepping up its game. At least I hope that’s what will happen. Competition is good… and I am thankful for the Cruze.
PS: and now I’ve got a favorite site to follow in GM Authority.
Ricardo — thank you for the letter, and for your support of GMA.
Your analysis is spot on, and I couldn’t agree more. The only weaknesses of the Cruze TD are the items that are inherent in every single Cruze trim level on the market: the finicky center armrest and the inefficient (non direct-driving) six-speed auto; one could include the fact that the TD’s 2.0 Ecotec is belt-driven as a weakness, as well.
What we hope for is that the increased competition in the compact turbo-diesel segment will spur more competition between all involved, while attracting new contestants — resulting in a better product from GM (and others) for consumers.