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Cruze diesel efficient, fun

| Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 9:07 p.m.

The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze diesel hits the highway with a winning combination of power and fuel economy, but the compact sedan's interior is falling behind the leaders, despite a roomy passenger compartment and trunk.

I wrung 616 miles from a single tank of fuel in a highway run from Detroit through the Smoky Mountains into North Carolina. I hit 42.5 miles per gallon at an average speed of 70 mph.

My fuel economy rose to 45.5 mpg in a shorter and slower drive on highways and curving country roads in North and South Carolina.

The Cruze's 2.0-liter turbo diesel is a favorite with General Motors' customers in Europe, where diesels power about half of new cars. American buyers have been slower to adopt diesels, which got a reputation for noisy, smoky and unreliable operation in the 1980s.

Modern diesel engines are vastly cleaner, more reliable and — best of all — fuel-efficient and fun.

This quiet and comfortable sedan excels on the highway.

Prices for the Chevrolet Cruze diesel start at $24,885 for a well-equipped model that's comparable to the high-end LTZ version of the gasoline Cruze.

The Cruze's interior leaves something to be desired. It's very roomy — 95 cubic feet of passenger room, 15 in the trunk — and comfortable, but the gaps and alignments of interior trim pieces are not as even and precise as good competitors offer.

The interior materials look fine, with an attractive two-tone design. The armrests, doors and dash could all use more padding. The gauges are clear and simple.

Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at mmphelan@freepress.com.

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