Are there still advantages to diesel cars? Toyota’s new Corolla Hatchback makes finding them harder.
Toyota’s new five-door Corolla Hatchback impressed us when it was first released. We tested one of the first U.S.-spec versions and found a lot to like. One thing that we found of particular interest was the Corolla Hatchback’s fuel economy. At the time of our test, the EPA had not yet made formal the fuel economy data for the new model. It’s now been officially released and the gasoline-powered Corolla Hatchback has higher fuel economy than the Chevy Cruze Hatchback diesel. It also tops the last VW Golf diesel hatchback sold in America before the diesel emissions cheating scandal broke and ruined all the fun for VW diesel lovers.
The Corolla Hatchback doesn’t just beat the EPA Combined fuel efficiency of the Cruze and Golf, it also beats them by $200 per year in fuel costs. Over the 15 year life of a Corolla Hatchback that will put three grand back in the kitty for the next car. We should point out that the Chevy Cruze Hatchback is slightly larger than the Toyota Corolla Hatch. It has 95 cubic feet of passenger volume and the Corolla Hatchback has 85. It also has a 19 cubic foot cargo area and the Corolla Hatchback has 18. We’d pick a different diesel car to compare the Toyota Corolla Hatchback to, but Chevy is the last company making an affordable diesel car in America these days. We also need to be fair and point out that there are three sets of fuel economy numbers for the Corolla Hatch. Our example highlights the lower-cost SE with the base wheels. Add the larger wheels of the XSE and the fuel economy drops from 36 MPG Combined to 33 MPG Combined. Despite this, the XSE still has a $100 per year lower fuel cost than the Cruze because diesel costs more on average in the U.S. The third set of numbers are for the manual stick shift. Sticks get lower fuel economy in many cases these days. Even with its lower MPG rating the manual Corolla Hatch still matches the cost per year for fuel of the Cruze hatchback diesel. In our week of Boston Metro area summertime testing, the Toyota Corolla Hatchback SE returned 43 MPG (measured at the pump).
In the distant past, diesel fans tolerated poor acceleration numbers because all the affordable cars in the class had ho-hum acceleration anyway. That has changed. The 2019 Corolla Hatchback automatic can accelerate from 0-60 MPH in 8.5 seconds according to Motortrend. The stick shift does it in 7.5 seconds. These are not sports car levels of acceleration, but the Chevy Cruze Hatch diesel takes 8.4 seconds. A virtual draw. The 2015 Golf TDI took nine seconds to get to 60 MPH when tested new.
In our road testing, the Corolla Hatchback Automatic didn’t feel slow. Every automaker has been focusing on low-end torque and the new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine from Toyota is no exception. What is unusual is that Toyota opted to use a gear in combination with its CVT. The gear helps to reduce rubber-banding and offers a more direct feel when accelerating.
The long-held myth that diesel produces less CO2 is again debunked by actual testing. As the chart from FuelEconomy.Gov above shows, the gasoline vehicle in this matchup produces the least CO2 per mile. And it’s not even close. The gas-powered Corolla Hatchback SE automatic produces 20% less CO2 than the Cruze diesel hatchback automatic. It also has cleaner emissions with regard to smog (a higher score is better in the EPA’s methodology here). Notice also how the graph shows the annual barrels of oil consumed. It takes more crude oil to create a gallon of diesel in the U.S. than it does to create a gallon of gasoline.
Automakers have been moving away from diesel-powered cars. The myths about diesel’s advantages don’t hold up well when the results of testing are compiled. Gasoline powered cars in the same segment, with equal performance, have lower fuel costs, produce less CO2, fewer smog pollutants, and consume less crude oil.