Enough has been said about saving the atmosphere and the ecosystem and it is time that one actually started to act upon it. With the amount of fuel that each and every car consumes, it is but natural that the North American car buying populace gets attracted to ones sipping less on the premium oil. With this in mind, we have got the 3 best entry level sedans and ones which are hybrid in nature. They are the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Tdi and the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid. The reason we have selected these three sedans is because we wanted to settle the debate once and for all that let it any fuel or a mix of both, there would be only one winner in this competition. We have a conventional hybrid in the Civic, a lean burn diesel in the Jetta and a pure gasoline turbocharged to provide more efficiency in the Cruze. So the battle begins but not for the mileage poopers but also on the overall driving dynamics and to checkout which car provides the bang for the buck in this segment. Others like the Elantra and the Focus weren’t included since they didn’t fill in the required mileage requirements as the mileage certified for them is just the beginning point of the sedans listed here.
The outright winner a years before would have being either the Jetta or the Civic, however time has brought around some lard in them or either they have got the liposuction thing done. Well silicone implants are the order of the day and both the Jetta and Civic have got this done. The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid actually looks like its smaller brother, the Honda City. The next generation Honda City would also very much look the same. However, why Honda have done it to themselves is another mystery? Seems that they also want to go the corporate way. However the very shape of this car is full of aerodynamic improvements and that is what Honda has projected at. Needless to say, the Civic loses out in the beauty pageant war. Next up is the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Tdi. Wonder why it feels like a smaller Passat? Is it the shape or what else. For familiarities sake, its very difficult to distinguish between the Jetta and the Passat. Needless to say, all the three cars here have low rolling resistance tires and much of the aerodynamic ghost within them. Next comes the Cruze. It is proof enough of American muscle and something which all the other cars in this comparison lack. Though it would feel a bit compact in the face of competition, it also feels the most aggressive of this lot. To say the least, the Cruze doesn’t look one inch a eco navigator while the Honda and Veedub make it amply clear about their eco consciousness.
For outright looks, it would be the Cruze followed by the Honda Civic and then the Jetta.
Though the Jetta boasts of having the longest dimensions of this trio, it is not necessarily the spaciest of this lot. It infact has got space but almost as the same as the Civic. The Cruze clearly lags behind in the space quotient. It is meant to be a sporty car and the red and black stitching seems to highlight its sporty trends. Sigh! Some days back, it was the Civic which had sporty pretensions and now those are put onto the backseat where the Civic feels the best. Of all the cars here, the Civic is the most comfortable one while the Jetta does itself a good case of acquitting with enough leg room for three at the back. The General has also got the most volume out of the trio for its interior space and more goodies at a lesser price. The Cruze has got all soft touch materials going for it and this is so unlikely GM. Moreover, VW which prided itself on having all the premium goodies in its kitty, not so long ago, is no in a jiffy coz in the process of bringing the Jetta’s price tag a bit lower, they have also managed to give the quality of the interior a lower rent thing than what VW is known for. Front seats of all the three Eco brigade here are wonderful and provide for ample support. The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid sits a tad lower than the others in here and getting in and out would be somewhat a flash of the knickers to onlookers. Underthigh support for the vertically blessed is also a tad lower. The Cruze is more like a crossover and hence the ingress and egress part isn’t much compromised here. What however takes a bow is the lack of leg room at the rear. The Jetta in the meanwhile offers a wee bit more leg room than the Cruze and so in the process makes for a good chauffer driven car. Boot space is more or less the same in all the three cars out here. The Cruze is the one which feels the better built of all the three models here. VW, you finally got some competition here. However, as discussed earlier, the VW build quality has gone down. Uneven panel gaps can be noticed and stuff. The Honda is still a safe bet but feels tinny as compared with the Cruze.
The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Tdi feels the best bet and seeing its sales figures, no one has really taken an aversion to the interiors. The Cruze follows with the Civic towing behind.
Handling and ride quality
First up is the Civic. Earlier, we and we are sure that many others would have lauded its steering feel however, for the new model, it is an entirely feel devoid unit that has been accorded. The Eco tyres never felt the same way and the regular tyres for the regular Civic felt much more better. Gone is the earlier Civic’s demeanor and this new one certainly doesn’t like being pushed around corners. Its ride quality, however, is quite good. Its NVH is also better than one of the cars here. For the Cruze, it is more about having a direct steering wheel which has spades to offer by the way of feel. Moreover, the car doesn’t feel out of sync with a turn or corner. Belying its size, the car is very easy to maneuver around in town. NVH is the best here with the engine betraying little road noise into the cabin. As for the Jetta, its steering wheel is even a grade lower than that of the Civic. It is totally devoid of feel and its ultra light nature would make one believe that this is a small hatchback. NVH is slightly more than the others here but then the fact that this is an oil burner does stop wagging tongues. Ride quality is more or less the same in all the cars here.
It would be the Chevy Cruze followed by the Civic and the Jetta.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The best part of all these cars here. The Jetta runs a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder turbo diesel engine. This oil burner produces 140 Hp of power and 236 pound feet of torque. It is mated to a 6 speed manual cog shifter. The engine is just fine for the operation and sometimes even stellar while the gearbox occasionally lets its down. It loses some of the sheen from the earlier gearbox. An unlikely tendency of the gearbox was to stall the engine at low revs. However, once on the highway, the torque from the engine overwhelms the transmission and there is no problem whatsoever. Well, we aren’t talking about who would out accelerate whom since we are talking about eco machines here, but then the Jetta is best suited for the highway runs. The Civic with its hybrid powertrain does indeed acquit itself well in the city areas with a 5 speed CVT and 1.5 liter engine aligned to the patented IMA. Of course power figures are nowhere near that of the Jetta and infact, they are the lowest in this competition. For reference sake, the Civic in its hybrid form makes 110 Hp of power and 127 Pound feet of torque. This is including the thrust provided by the electric motor. Needless to say, the Civic quite feels out of breath in the comparison and just about manages to keep its cool on the highways. Its power plant however is a refined unit but then the transmission is a slight laggard and displays the typical rubber band effect that one gets from a CVT unit. As for the Cruze, it has got a 1.4 liter 4 cylinder turbocharged unit which puts out a Jetta TDI rivaling 138 Hp of power and 148 pound feet of torque. Though the torque figure is nowhere close to that of the Jetta, this car has enough drivability in it, even in the Eco mode. Moreover the 6 speed manual transmission is the best in this comparison, if a slightly notchy unit. The Cruze has the go to match the show. We half expected the Civic’s brakes to have a good feel to them given the hybrid nature of the engine wherein even the brakes would be brimming with all those brake energy recuperation thing. But then the Civic had a good brake feel while the Cruze and Jetta also matched to this feel. As for the fuel efficiency, here comes the real bummer. EPA rates the Civic over the Jetta and the Cruze, however, the real world figures show that the Jetta is the most fuel efficient of the three. The Civic returned an overall figure of 44.7 mpg while the Jetta returned slightly more at 45.3 mpg. The Cruze forms the tail of this pack with 41.8 mpg. Clearly the Cruze hates highways while the Jetta with its diesel powerplant loves the highways.
Inspite of scoring better fuel efficiency, we would still heartily pick the Cruze over the Jetta. After all, who would want their car to stall whilst navigating the traffic? The Civic is more of a leftover thing and anyone who wants to have just a hybrid “Civic” would be more interested in this. Now the prices. The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Tdi price starts from $22k while the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco price starts from a low $18k. The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid price is more than the others and inspite of stacking up options on the other two, the Civic flatly gets beaten in the value for money proposition with a $27k asking price. Now, isn’t that too much. Well, our pick for the day is the Chevy Cruze.
Image Courtesy autoblog.com