Nobody brags about entry-level compact cars, but there sure are a lot of people who own them. The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze is one of those cars, and with the hatchback option now available with a fuel-efficient diesel engine, Chevy may have come up with a near-perfect formula.

The Chevrolet Cruze was redesigned about two years ago for the US market, with the hatchback version debuting last year. Also coming last year was the promised diesel powerplant for the Cruze. Now the two elements have been combined for 2018 with a hatch and diesel combination for the 2018 Cruze. After a week driving it, we came away impressed by its versatility and extremely good fuel economy.

Most automakers aim in one of two ways with their compacts: towards fuel economy or towards sportiness. Ford, for example, definitely leans into the sporty side while Hyundai, on the other, leans into fuel economy. The gasoline model of the Chevrolet Cruze is sportier than it is economical, in terms of its bent, but the diesel model combines the two ideals really well.

The sedan version of the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze gets 52 mpg (4.5 l/100km) on the highway in its diesel option. Add the extra weight of the hatchback and that drops to 47 mpg (5.0 l/100km). That is nothing to shake a stick at, though, and goes well with the 30 mpg (7.8 l/100km) city rating for the hatch. During a week of driving the 2018 Chevy Cruze diesel with the hatch, we saw 40 mpg (5.9 l/100km) overall as our average, even with varied passenger loads and high altitudes. Diesel is funny like that, generally ignoring loads and just kind of getting the job done regardless.

Our only complaint about the new-generation Cruze is sluggishness off the line, but compared to the tiny 1.4-liter gasoline version, the diesel virtually leaps into action with its higher torque. That's relative, of course, as nearly every sporty option in the compact segment will probably outrun the Cruze into the quarter mile quite easily. We didn't bother trying to get any 0-60 mph (0-92 km/h) times out of the 2018 Cruze and its 137 horsepower (102 kW) diesel, as it seemed kind of silly. This isn't a race car, it's a budget hatchback.

Yet we credit the Cruze for its get-up when it's really needed, such as getting up onto the freeway or turning in to make the pass. The 2018 Cruze diesel is not going to win checkered flags for speed and sportsmanship, but it will get you there without too much complaint.

Having the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze in winter weather meant that we had the opportunity to put it through some winter driving paces. As with any front-wheel drive vehicle, the front-heavy bias of the Cruze diesel meant good grip and solid handling in wintry driving conditions. The Cruze isn't a snow plow or a snowmobile, of course, but on ice-covered roads when inclement weather comes, it'll get you there if you're prudent. We also noted that the new Cruze is far quieter to ride in and much more upscale in its design than many in the entry level segments can boast.

The interior of the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze is nicely designed with an airy feeling and big, accommodating front seating. The driver and front passenger will have plenty of room all around, and materials quality is good throughout. We like the dashboard design, the center focal point of which kind of looks like BB-9E's head. The large infotainment screen and lifted European-style dashboard creates a nice feel in the front of the Cruze.

The back seats, even in the hatchback, though, are something else. Like most compacts, roominess at any point comes at a price. Some eschew cargo space, others sacrifice the patrons of the back seat. Chevrolet went the latter route, cramping both headroom and legroom in the back and pinching the doors to allow a wider front entry. If the plan is to haul small adults or kids, then the cramped back seat is no big deal. Adults, though, are going to need some flexibility.

Behind those rear seats, the 2018 Cruze offers ample cargo space for most needs, with the hatchback obviously offering much more loading room than the sedan. For hauling the family, we found the Cruze to be a bit cramped for five (three of whom were kids in boosters), but most buyers in this category probably aren't toting around that many people regularly.

Infotainment in the 2018 Chevy Cruze is Chevrolet's new MyLink interface on a crisp, well-placed touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. These might be needed relatively often if you're in the habit of using voice controls, however, as Chevy still hasn't quite mastered voice recognition software. The glitchy responses are better avoided by holding down the voice control button (on the steering wheel) an extra second and speaking via your phone's interface (Siri or Google) instead. We otherwise found nothing to complain about with MyLink and really like the faster responses and ease of use that this new-generation infotainment offers.

Overall, we are fans of the little 2018 Chevrolet Cruze in its versatile hatchback format with the fuel efficient diesel engine option. It's a solid little everyday car with plenty of good reasons to own it.

The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze is available as a sedan in four trim levels or a hatchback with two trims. The diesel engine is available in either body style. The sedan starts at US$16,795 and the hatchback with diesel at $23,895. Our test model of the latter rang in at $25,865 delivered.

Product Page: 2018 Chevrolet Cruze

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