Beyond excellent fuel economy, another perk of the Cruze Diesel is that it comes standard with a touch-screen LCD in the dashboard, although navigation remains optional. The example I reviewed did not come with navigation, but I was nonetheless very impressed with the other cabin tech features, which Chevy puts under the brand MyLink.
MyLink uses an icon-based main menu, like most smartphones, making it very intuitive to navigate. The only drawback with this type of system is that the menu screens can become crowded as Chevy adds more features. The Cruze Diesel had three screens' worth of icons, mostly audio sources. We saw a later version of Chevy's MyLink in the 2014 Impala that lets you rearrange the icons, again similar to a smartphone interface. That capability makes it easier to organize icons into categories, or by putting your most used on the first screen.
The MyLink touch screen proved very responsive, with features immediately launching as I chose them. If I didn't want to use the touch screen, the radio tuner dial let me select icons on the screen, with a push-button action to launch.
Voice command was also a very reasonable means of controlling some of the cabin electronics. For example, the phone screen showed the contact list from my Bluetooth-paired phone, but I rarely looked at it because I could merely hit voice command and tell it the name of the person I wanted to call.
Likewise, for USB audio sources and iOS devices, I could use voice command to request a particular artist or album.
For the audio screens, MyLink showed the same type of music library interface for my iPhone 5 and a USB drive I plugged into the car, with categories for song, album, artist, and genre. One feature I found really nice was a smart playlist built into the stereo. While listening to a song from a USB drive, I selected the "Play more like this" option, and the car built a playlist from similar songs. It worked very well, and freed me from having to select a new album every 40 minutes.
For online audio, this MyLink implementation offered Pandora and Stitcher. My iPhone was a little finicky with Pandora, as I had to have the phone cabled to the car with the screen unlocked. Android users should be able to run Pandora over Bluetooth. The Pandora interface not only let me see my preprogrammed station list, but also allowed me to give songs a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.
Other audio sources included Bluetooth streaming audio and satellite radio.
Chevy makes a nine-speaker Pioneer audio system available in the Cruze Diesel as an upgrade, but this model only had the stock six-speaker system. This stereo was weak on power but had good definition. It was one of the better six-speaker systems I have heard, but it didn't give that extra oomph, which would have really made music enjoyable.
Weather and fuel price apps sit among the audio icons on the MyLink screen, both powered by the satellite radio connection into the car. Weather shows current conditions and five-day forecast for specific regions. The fuel prices app lists the per-gallon price for stations near the car's location, and can be set to show regular, premium, or, most useful in the Cruze Diesel, diesel.
However, without the navigation option in the car, I was left having to manually enter a fuel station's address into my phone's nav app.
Like other GM cars, the Cruze Diesel comes equipped with OnStar, which includes a turn-by-turn navigation service. Using the blue button on the rearview mirror frame, you could get an OnStar operator to send directions to the car for any of the fuel stations that come up.
Of course, OnStar offers many other functions, such as roadside emergency services and stolen-vehicle recovery. It is one of the oldest telematics services in the business, with many subscribers.
With the Cruze Diesel, owners can use the OnStar Remote Link smartphone app to see the maintenance information, remotely unlock the doors, and even look up destinations and send turn-by-turn directions to the car.
The green pump
The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel obviously stands out for its excellent fuel economy, but is mitigated somewhat by the fact that diesel tends to cost about the same as premium gasoline, and that it is the most expensive model in the Cruze lineup. The clatter of the diesel engine might also throw off some potential buyers who prefer the quiet idling of the gasoline engine alternatives.
For comfort, the Cruze Diesel is about equivalent to other small sedans, such as the Honda Civic. Although bland in styling, it has a certain discreet practicality.
The MyLink system stands out as one of the better-performing cabin tech interfaces available right now. The various functions available on its touch screen come up without delay, and the icon format is easy to use. Ford can lay claim to having similar voice command functionality years before with Sync, but MyLink works equally well, showing that Chevy has caught up. OnStar, with its Remote Link app, will be the tech icing on the cake for Cruze Diesel drivers.
|Model||2014 Chevrolet Cruze|
|Power train||Turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder diesel engine, six-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||27 mpg city/46 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||39.2 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional flash-memory-based system|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Digital audio sources||Pandora, Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Optional Pioneer 250-watt nine-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Optional blind-spot monitor, backup camera|
|Price as tested||$27,505|