How 2 Chevrolets — the Malibu and the Cruze — approach fuel efficiency

2017-chevrolet-malibu-hybrid

Getting 49 mpg isn’t the end of the technology for the Malibu, above, just the beginning.

 

CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer
autocasey@aol.com

If Chevrolet is not among the auto brands that come immediately to mind when thinking of fuel-efficient hybrids and diesels, adjust your brainwaves. Recent romps in the Malibu Hybrid and Cruze Diesel were convincing.

Chevy Malibu Hybrid

One of the most fuel-efficient cars you can buy is the Malibu Hybrid. While not a plug-in, it leverages battery and motor technology developed for the Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle and Bolt EV.

It’s powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that can ease the car up to 55 miles per hour on electricity alone (for short distances). As the battery depletes and speed increases, the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine automatically starts to continue your journey. All in, the powertrain delivers 182 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque for smooth spirited performance. Regenerative brakes recover energy, enabling 49/43-MPG city/hwy.

That’s not where the technology show ends, either. The car also comes with a standard rear vision camera and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility make connecting smartphones easy. It can be optioned with Bose audio, heated leather seats, automatic climate control and wireless phone charging, too.

While some hybrids look like ugly blobs, the Malibu Hybrid projects elegance with its split Chevy grille, 17-in. alloy wheels, creasing of bodysides that hint at classic-era fenders and fastback roofline. Interiors are graced with stitched dash materials, large touchscreen, and ample space for five.

Safety was not forgotten; the Driver Confidence Package adds city-speed front automatic braking, front pedestrian detection/braking, side blind zone alert, and lane keeping assist. Forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert and following distance indicator are also part of the safety suite.

Whether creeping through city traffic or fast-footing it on the freeway, the Malibu Hybrid is a fly ride. A base price of $28,750 makes it relatively affordable, but if you prefer your efficiency with a side of diesel, keep reading.

Chevy Cruze Diesel

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The Cruze offers surprising smoothness for a Diesel.

To get hybrid fuel economy without batteries and motors, go diesel — as in the Cruze TD (for Turbo Diesel, of course). It’s a satisfying car to pilot.

The heart and soul of the Cruze TD is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel engine generating 137 horsepower and 240 lb.-ft. of torque – all routed through a 9-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy for our car is rated 31/47-MPG city/hwy, but achieves up to 52-MPG hwy with a manual transmission. And it’s not just about power. A turbo diesel is enjoyable to drive because it offers low-end torque for dep muscles and smooth turbo boost under throttle. It’s like feeling your mama’s heart beating while sailing by the wind. The suspension offers the right balance of comfort during cruising and firmness when shoved through corners.

It’s also chic with brown heated leather seats, brown stitched coverings on the dash and doors, and chrome detailing around every vent.

A heated leather-wrapped steering wheel adds comfort. It’s also loaded with technology that includes a 7-in. touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth, rear USB for charging and 4G Wi-Fi hotspot. Bring all of your gear, connect and go.
Styling is handsome. The fender crease in front is a little odd, but 16-in. alloys and arching roof work well together. Deep bodylines add character. For those who want a car that looks “green,” the Cruze shares themes with the plug-in Chevy Volt.

Diesels can be noisy, but the Cruze TD is smooth, quiet and outfitted more like a small luxury sedan than a basic fuel miser. Passengers are pampered like they bought a $35,000 Audi, but will only pay $27,395 for a car like ours.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 12, 2017.